Where else can you see such vast distances with no movement?” asks Dave van Smeerdijk, co-founder of Natural Selection, a collection of owner-operated safari camps and lodges. We’re sitting at Hoanib Valley Camp in northern Namibia’s Kaokoveld Desert under the blinking stars that form the Southern Cross. The only other sound above the crackle of the campfire is the croaking of geckos reverberating off the rocks. “As humans, we crave open spaces, we need to be able to look out,” he says.
Looking out is itself one of the main activities at Hoanib Valley Camp. In the morning, it takes place over coffee and oats, and again, in the evening, with the addition of gin and tonics. It’s these endless expanses of desert and the magnitude of its vistas that make the country so magnificent. “The desert is so exciting,” says Simon Swenyego, the camp manager, as he stares out at the amphitheater of mountains, tin mug filled with coffee. Beautiful, yes, but exciting? The view before us is as unmoving as a Pierneef painting. “When the rains come, life bounces back and animals appear, you can’t help but get excited,” he says.