Etosha’s opulent new camp

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iol travel april 14 cw Dolomite Camp . COOL SETTING: Etosha's hills provide a stunning backdrop for the swimming pool at Dolomite. PICTURES: SUPPLIED

Windhoek - Hot. Dry. Dusty. Namibia’s Etosha National Park is not for the faint-hearted. Out on these vast shimmering plains, it’s a constant battle for survival.

And that’s just the tourists. Well, us, anyway.

We must be the only ones out at midday in a car with no air conditioning in an isolated area where few people have ever set foot.

Etosha can get busy in season. As far as camps go, the big three – Namutoni, Halali and Okaukuejo – are frequently overrun with families and 4x4s.

Easing the pressure slightly, Onkoshi camp was opened in the east of the park three years ago.

Now there’s a fourth camp that, for me, is by far the pick of the bunch. Located in the pristine west, Dolomite camp opens up a huge area that, until recently, had been off-limits to the public.

iol travel april 14 17 Dolomite Camp A PLACE TO CHILL AND BE CHILLED: Unwind around the campfire. .

After visiting the area while it was still restricted, one of Africa’s leading wildlife photographers, Daryl Balfour, said: “This far western section of the park is physically and spiritually different from anything else Etosha has to offer.”

Like pioneers, we enter the park from the Damaraland/Kaokoland side. There is talk that the Galton gate will be open to the general public some time this year, but for now it’s accessible only to the fortunate few who are overnighting at Dolomite. Given that the camp is a four-hour drive (180km) from Okaukuejo, this means no day-trippers, nobody stopping off for lunch. With good timing and a little luck, it may even be possible to have the entire camp to yourself.

Nestled among the rocky outcrops from which the camp takes its name, Dolomite has the most spectacular views across the plains and off towards the hills where much of the game can be found during the wet season. It’s almost worth going there for the swimming pool alone, so stunning is its setting.

Compared to camps like Halali, which are looking a little frayed at the edges, Dolomite almost rates as opulent. One might even be forgiven for thinking it’s a privately run resort, were it not for the somewhat somnolent staff in their government uniforms. To be fair, who wouldn’t be a bit lethargic and slow-moving in that heat? Anyway, their friendliness more than made up for it.

Parking a fair distance from the reception, we were relieved to find a driver with a golf cart waiting to take us up a steep incline to the eco-friendly African bush-themed reception.

A couple of cold beers in the bar and we were escorted along a winding wooden walkway to one of the 20 thatched chalets, two of which are de luxe units with their own plunge pools. All of the chalets are elevated and have dramatic views of the sweeping karstveldt and mopane shrubland plains.

iol travel april 14 12 Dolomite Camp Settling in to your room which is stylishly furnished. .

Our room was beautifully decorated and, best of all, set far from the main lodge. Privacy is the one thing you’re guaranteed at Dolomite. The other is a blanket of stars in the night sky that will almost literally blow your mind.

Among the more unusual aspects of this camp is that it’s unfenced. There is something so special about sleeping in a wild, isolated place where nothing stands between you and the wandering rhino and prowling lions. Having said that, I should point out that the only wildlife we heard at night were Hartmann’s Mountain Zebra calling to one another in the savannah down below.

The only possible negative was the food, R120 for a small plate of spaghetti Bolognese, off a lunch menu that offers a Greek salad or fish and chips as alternatives, seemed excessive. The waiters could also do with some training.

Book before the crowds roll in.

- Weekend Argus

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