When we visited Namibia’s Desert Rhino Camp in Damaraland (now part of Kunene), we naturally thought desert rhino would be the unmatched stars of the show. And I’m not saying that watching a free-roaming desert rhino browsing quietly wasn’t special. It was – big time. It’s just that something else unexpectedly outshone the rhino experience.
I could imagine Ernest Hemingway here, whisky in hand, or Karen Blixen looking out on the ‘immensely wide’ view and dreaming up one of her stories.
The major draw card at Desert Rhino Camp is the chance to set out behind trackers from Save the Rhino Trust, who monitor and protect Africa’s largest population of free-roaming desert rhino in the Palmwag Concession. Wilderness Safaris, which owns and operates the camp, helps to support their work. In exchange, their trackers find rhinos for the guests at Desert Rhino Camp to watch.
The communities of the Big Three conservancies in the area share in the fruits of this conservation effort by way of lease fees, and a percentage of the price each guest pays to stay at the camp. ‘They benefit from job opportunities and we’ve provided them with access to clean drinking water too,’ said Desert Rhino Camp’s Simon Swenyeho.
On our second evening the staff treated us to a surprise dinner under the stars in the bush. Candles glowed in paper bags weighted with sand, paraffin lamps shone out of the darkness to light our way. Chairs draped with blankets stood around a central fire burning hot orange to keep off the chill of the desert night. The setting was so romantic that even the gruffest guests were enchanted.
About 15 people from waiters to chefs and managers burst into song to welcome us to the feast. Their faces were radiant in the firelight as they shared their culture through song.
Guide Tamité //Oaseb gave a short presentation about some of the planets and constellations crowding the darkened skies, Scorpio among them. Then some of us went looking for real live scorpions with an ultraviolet light while others sat at the fire with their drinks.
The nature drives with our guide Bons Roman were fabulous, his knowledge and sense of humour sustaining us for two days. The rhino tracking experience was extraordinary. But the true treasure we found here were the people. Every member of staff was so warm, welcoming and helpful it felt as if we were part of their cherished family.
Note: I was a guest of Desert Rhino Camp for two nights, but had free rein to write what I chose. I paid for all travel costs.
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