The Namibian Experience:Soulful
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About / Journeys Under Canvas

Ultimate Safaris has, from the outset, been synonymous with pioneering safaris in Namibia. Driven by an explorer-type enthusiasm and determination to provide a great service, we started by operating relatively lightweight mobile camps in impossibly remote corners of the country. However, we have now moved on to committing to help preserve some of these wild places that have captured our hearts and our imagination. This commitment means that we have now become seasonal semi-permanent guests rather than temporary visitors to these areas, and that we also pay our fair share to ensure the preservation of these exclusive wild places in which we have the privilege of operating.

As a result, we are delighted to introduce Ultimate Safaris’ Journeys Under Canvas. Not so long ago, almost all our luxury safaris included at least some time where guests were accommodated “under canvas”, simply because this provided the best accommodation in the wild where no fixed infrastructure existed. Sadly, in some ways, the advancement of the safari era means that we no longer need to be quite so intrepid, but there are still plenty of places where guests can enjoy a quality camping experience when ‘roughing-it in style’ as part of a Journey Under Canvas. This is particularly appealing to those who want to connect with the earth, culture and wildlife in a very up-close and personal manner.

We are, in a way, trying to redefine luxury, focusing on what the crux of a Namibian safari should be. Our own definition encompasses privacy, exclusivity, experiential focus and total flexibility, all whilst being perfectly comfortable. We are able to provide all of this at a relatively moderate cost as we attempt to move away from the opulence and consequent high pricing that is today generally associated with a luxury African safari. Our guests are taken care of by some extraordinary people whose only desire is to ensure that each moment spent with us is as perfect as possible. Guests are pampered in camp, have their days filled with thrilling encounters, and enjoy nights entranced with exclusivity beyond most people’s wildest dreams. They are looked after by a tribe of magicians who aim to leave lasting impressions, and every stay is arranged on an exclusive basis regardless of the number of guests in order to provide the true ‘Journeys Under Canvas’ experience.

Our belief is that the investment into our camps should be moderate from both a financial and environmental perspective, ensuring sustainability on all levels without the pressure of having to recoup large financial investments and keeping the focus on re-investing revenue into conservation and the provision of Life Enriching Journeys through offering truly unique experiences. We believe this is an example of Conservation Travel at its best!

Under Canvas camps are designed to offer a true “back to nature” experience with the emphasis being on the experiential aspect of safaris. We have identified a strong desire in many guests to go back to the roots of safari, to touch, to smell, to feel and to experience the wild, with one’s feet firmly in the dust that covers Africa. This is an experience that is exclusive in the real sense of the word, as well as being very much away from the pressures of ‘normal’ life!

Since these camps are semi-permanent and seasonal, there is a degree of compromise required concerning some of the frills and other ‘add-ons’ that you might expect in a permanent tented camp or lodge, but there is still a strong focus on ensuring guests’ comfort. Those prepared to forego some conventional ‘necessities’, so that they are unencumbered by buildings and all the paraphernalia that goes with them, will be able to go to sleep hearing only the noisy silence of the desert and to wake up to a chorus that announces the start of a new day. It is the kind of intimacy that can only be achieved by taking guests to the most wild, remote and private places, and giving them access to exclusive areas away from the beaten path.

//HUAB UNDER CANVAS

In line with our commitment to help preserve wild places, the //Huab Conservancy is the first of our exclusive use areas from which we operate Under Canvas Camps. Our exclusive area is situated in a core area for desert adapted black rhino in the //Huab Conservancy in Damaraland, approximately 90 km north west of Khorixas. As we were, again, pioneering both community development and conservation, we entered into an agreement with the local conservancy which secured an area for the exclusive use of Under Canvas. This agreement is new-age and forward thinking, providing a model that we are hoping to replicate in other areas of Namibia in time to come, and one from which we also hope other safari operators and conservancies in Namibia will benefit. It has already been hailed as a remarkable achievement and one that has highlighted that small scale tourism can have big conservation impact.

Our first and foremost involvement and investment was in conservation, employing two Rhino Rangers to safeguard the local rhino population and to assist us with tracking them. We equipped the Rangers with solar powered mountain bikes to traverse this area in an environmentally conscious way and installed VHF radio communication for patrols to use, as well as investing in the supply of open water for wildlife. The area is home to Hartmann’s mountain zebra, oryx, springbok, steenbok, klipspringer, elephant, rhino, spotted and brown hyena, jackal, leopard, cape fox and African wild cat in addition to several others, and our presence in the area has already seen a change in the frequency of wildlife sightings.

This camp is nestled in a grove of Mopane trees on the banks of a tributary of the //Huab River. Protected from all the prevailing winds and sun, the camp is virtually invisible from anywhere around and it carries arguably the lowest environmental footprint of any camp in Namibia. Tents are raised on mobile platforms and have basic infrastructure that allows for important comforts such as en suite flush toilets and bucket showers, but the essence of the camp remains Under Canvas, semi-permanent, seasonal and experiential.  With provision for up to eight tents, two of which are family units, this camp is only booked on an exclusive basis (tiered pricing for varying pax numbers) for each group we take there, and it can currently only be used as part of one of our privately guided or fly-in safaris. The camp is open seasonally between April and November.

A minimum of a two night stay is required to get a true feel of what is on offer, although we believe that a three night stay would be even better in order to do real justice to the area. The camp is a fantastic alternative to any traditional lodge stay in Damaraland, and it offers exclusivity in terms of access which is beyond compare.

Activities include tracking desert adapted rhino, noting that this is completely private and in an area that has the highest tracking success rate in north western Namibia; exploring the upper and less crowded //Huab River in search of desert adapted elephants; nature walks and drives; as well as the possibility to visit some nearby prehistoric rock engravings. //Huab Under Canvas was also the pioneer of our STELLAR ESCAPE, our very own sleep out product, as well as our TRAILS CAMP, a multi-day walking safari.

Access to the camp is either from the north (Etosha) via a Himba village near Erwee (where a visit is already included in many of our safaris), or from the south via Khorixas and along the //Huab River. The last stretch into the camp involves travelling on tracks which are well off the beaten path tracks, and many of these are completely unknown to most travelers.

Quick facts:

STELLAR ESCAPES

Known in other parts of Africa as a sleep out or sky bed, the STELLAR ESCAPE is Ultimate Safaris’ Namibian version of this. Synonymous with all our current and future Under Canvas camps, we are currently offering this out of //Huab Under Canvas. Set in an ancient dry riverbed on our private concession in the //Huab Conservancy, offering crystal clear skies with nothing between you and the brilliant stars of the Namibian night sky, where satellites, galaxies, shooting stars and the occasional significant meteor can all be seen with the naked eye. Guests are escorted on their Stellar Escape by their guide, normally starting with a leisurely late afternoon walk, arriving in time for a cocktail or two while enjoying the sunset. A sumptuous bush dinner is prepared on an open fire by one of our camp magicians, and this can be enjoyed whilst the night sky comes into full splendor. After an astronomy tutorial by your guide, and once you are ready to retire for the night, your crew will leave you with a radio (for communication in case of an emergency), and allow you to enjoy an enchanting night under a billion stars, in complete privacy. If required, your guide can spend the night a discreet distance away in order to be on call if so desired. You will be woken in the morning by a spectacular sunrise and your favourite hot beverage, and you can then return to the main camp to freshen up and have breakfast.

Quick facts:

TRAILS CAMPS

As part of the experience at all our current and future Under Canvas camps, our TRAILS CAMPS offer a wonderful multiday walking adventure. This adventure has been designed around a three night stay at one of our Under Canvas camps, with the first and third night in the actual camp, and the middle night at our Trails Camp sleeping out under the stars. Walks vary between 8 – 12 km per day with regular surprise refreshment stops, typically departing the Under Canvas camp in the morning of Day 2, spending most of the day walking to the Trails Camp, and walking back to the Under Canvas camp on Day 3 for most of the day to enjoy your final night back in the comfort of the Under Canvas camp. Designed for the more active traveller, these interpretive walks are led by our guides and filled with many memorable occasions which are bound to be memorable and suitably life enriching.

Quick facts:

MOBILE CAMPS

These camps are not permanent in any way and they are designed to be set up in some of the most impossibly remote corners of the country in a very short period of time and normally for just two or three nights at a time, and they will be operated in areas where we are yet to set up semi-permanent Under Canvas camps. There is something of a compromise required when staying in one of our mobile camps as these cannot have all the comforts you might expect in our semi-permanent Under Canvas camps. The mobile camps are designed for the more hardy, adventurous and intrepid type of guest, and those prepared to forego some comforts are rewarded by having access to areas where there is little to no other fixed infrastructure, thus allowing a real pioneering sensation. The camps are set up in areas such as the Khaudum, Caprivi, Kaokoland, Damaraland and the NamibRand, and generally set up in just one area when part of a general Namibia safari, and they not intended to be completely mobile and moved from one day to the next.

Our mobile camps are non-participatory and are serviced and equipped to ensure that guests can stay in considerable comfort and to be allowed to relax and revel in the feeling of space and solitude that makes Namibia so special. Added to that, we consider good food and wine to be an important part of the overall experience so our catering in camp is of a suitably high standard - even in dry, desolate areas where this can be hard to maintain. Delicious, wholesome meals with local delicacies are prepared for each meal time using fresh local produce wherever possible. All our camp chefs have their own unique specialties and guests are cared for by a caring warm tribe, who absolutely love what they do.

Our mobile camps offer two varieties of infrastructure with a maximum of 4 tents per group:

THE COMFORT VERSION

Rectangular Meru tents (4m x 3m and 2.5 m high) with built in groundsheets and mosquito screens on all doors and windows. Each tent is equipped with solar lighting, bedside table, comfortable standard height camp beds and mattresses with normal bedding as well as an additional blanket and a hot water bottle for those chilly nights, and a cabinet in which to store clothing and other belongings that need to be accessible. Towels and toiletries are also provided in the bathroom which has its own field toilet, bucket shower and washbasin. A small table, mirror and solar lighting are provided in the bathroom, and chairs on the patio allow guests to relax and enjoy the surrounding view.

THE ADVENTURE VERSION

Dome tents (3m x 3m and 2.1 m high) with built in groundsheets and mosquito screens on all doors and windows. Each tent is equipped with solar lighting, bedside table, comfortable standard height camp beds and mattresses with normal bedding as well as an additional blanket and a hot water bottle for those chilly nights. Towels and toiletries are also provided in the en suite bathroom which also has its own field toilet, bucket shower and washbasin. A small table, mirror and solar lighting are also provided in the bathroom, and chairs on the patio allow guests to relax and enjoy the surrounding view.

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