Have you found your soul place yet? It’s that one dreamy destination you feel an inexplicably deep and indestructible connection with. A place that instantly uplifts your mood and recharges your soul’s batteries effortlessly.
Scattered pieces of the heart
I like to think we can have more than one soul place; after all, different places conjure different emotions. The more we travel, the more we open our hearts and minds to the unknown and, slowly but surely, little pieces of our heart get left behind, scattered amongst our beloved soul places, eagerly awaiting our return.
A large part of my heart will forever remain in the Namib Desert. My first visit was a fleeting yet magical 12-hour immersion in what — unbeknown to me then — would (much) later become one of my soul places. Not everyone has heard of Sossusvlei, but this spellbinding landscape in Namibia’s achingly beautiful Namib Desert is soul territory.
And, not surprisingly, each time I go back, this dramatic desertscape, with its deeply satisfying silence and ever-changing colour palette, manages to steal an even bigger chunk of my travel-addicted heart.
Blissfully remote. That’s the best way to describe it. The ultimate in desert luxury and sought-after seclusion, &Beyond Sossusvlei Desert Lodge is delightfully situated, quite literally, in the middle of nowhere. With the nearest town 145 km (90 miles) away, it is a soul-uplifting desert oasis and the perfect place for nature lovers and romantics seeking to escape everything and truly get back to nature.
Originally built in 1999, this grand old desert dame recently reopened after an extensive nine-month, USD 4.3 million makeover (with just over USD 600 000 spent on state-of-the-art solar and water treatment systems).
Let’s just say, if the design and architecture world were to produce a power couple so to speak, then the collaboration of brilliantly gifted architect, Jack Alexander, for the award-winning interior design and hospitality mavens, Fox Browne Creative, would definitely be it. They make a formidable team and — spoiler alert — they just completed a second project for us in South Africa too (watch this space for our next exciting launch).
Although this ‘refurb’ was more of a rebuild and complete design overhaul, the Fox Browne/Alexander vision was simple: chic, desert-inspired minimalism with careful attention paid to fundamental guest comfort and leaving a much lighter and more sustainable footprint on the sensitive desert environment.
The bold, you-have-to-see-it-in-person new look pays particular homage to the emotive landscape and the infinite celestial tapestry above. It was inspired entirely by the jaw-dropping beauty that surrounds the lodge. The use of rock, sand, stone, steel and floor-to-ceiling glass was two-fold: to enhance and blend into the natural surroundings, as well as to withstand the severity of the desert climate.
A scene-stealing panorama
Sossusvlei Desert Lodge is situated within &Beyond Sossusvlei Private Desert Reserve, a vast 12 715-hectare (31 419-acre) expanse of mind-blowingly scenic and untouched wilderness. The lodge’s ten stone and glass desert suites (and the two-bedroomed Star Dune family suite) follow the natural contours of the landscape. Sweeping curves, organic shapes and dramatic perforated steel shades mimic not only Mother Nature’s desert palette, but also the peaks, valleys, sun and stars of the ancient Namib Desert.
No matter where you stand, the picture perfect view is masterfully framed and begs to be admired. It is alarmingly distracting, in the best possible way. Gazing out at the seemingly desolate, almost post-apocalyptic surrounds, it’s as if you’re peering through a kaleidoscope in delayed slow motion. All day, every day, the rays of the sun and shadows from the clouds dance over the dusty terrain and undulating sand dunes causing them to continually change colour as the day progresses. Losing yourself to the expansive view is addictive; it’s like watching an impressionist painting come to life.
13 ‘you’ll-want-to-try-them-all’ desert adventures
A common question: what is there to actually do in the desert?! I’ve heard travellers confess that the desert isn’t on their ‘wanderlist’ and to me, these people are missing out on one of the most inspiring and enchanting places on the planet.
There’s no denying the heat, dust and harsh terrain. Some days the ‘breeze’ feels like a hairdryer on the hottest setting and other days there’s not even a hint of a breeze. On rare occurrences, it might even rain (yes, in the second driest desert on earth – click here to read about the unbelievable storm I witnessed there last month [Dec 2019]).
The magnificent &Beyond Sossusvlei Desert Lodge sits in the middle of a larger-than-life sandbox. It is a veritable playground that will arrest you with its beauty and entice you outdoors to explore with the giddy exuberance of youth. This desert if full of life, you’ll be surprised.
You can do as much, or as little, as you please. Many of the adventures kick off early to avoid the midday heat, so your mornings can be energetic and your afternoons unapologetically idle. And the best part? This is the only lodge in our African portfolio where you can get out and explore on your own.
Upon arrival, once you’ve taken in every angle of that arresting view, Vernon Swanepoel (Head Guide and Experiences Manager) will sit with you to discuss the 13 choose your own (desert) adventures and help you plan your days accordingly. These adventures are led by specialist guides (and some of them you can do on your own), so you won’t have one ranger for the duration of your stay, you’ll get to meet, and learn from, a variety of enthusiastic experts.