Ever had one of those holidays where the travel stars just seemed to miraculously align? The one where the weather put on its best possible show, you met the most charming people that you immediately clicked with, you witnessed unimaginable and out-of-the-ordinary occurrences, and returned home with a happy heart and recharged soul?
I am currently on one such ‘soul adventure’ at the recently rebuilt and extraordinarily breathtaking &Beyond Sossusvlei Desert Lodge in Namibia’s picture-perfect Sossusvlei Private Desert Reserve. Situated within the world’s oldest living desert — the vast and ethereal Namib Desert — this seemingly desolate private concession boasts 12 715 hectares (31 419 acres) of untouched desert beauty and is, quite surprisingly, teeming with life.
A desert masterpiece
I’ve spent most of my career writing about many of the world’s most scenic, jaw-dropping destinations, but Sossusvlei Desert Lodge is next level (and then some). Mother Nature’s paintbrush made perfect use of every possible inch of this natural canvas, and no matter the vantage point, everywhere you look, the lodge’s sensational backdrop will stop you dead in your tracks. Every time.
Admittedly I keep getting distracted by the ever-changing colours of this soothing desert palate and often catch myself just staring out aimlessly into the dry, dusty, yet captivatingly colourful abyss. And right now, as I tap away at the keyboard, the weather gods and the travel stars are aligning perfectly (and ever-so unexpectedly) and one of those priceless travel moments I just referred to is presently unfolding.
A storm to remember
As I sit blissfully cocooned in desert villa #1, just beyond the immaculate floor-to-ceiling glass windows that perfectly frame Mother Nature’s desert masterpiece, the heavens have officially opened. And boy, what a grand spectacle they’re putting on.
At around 15h00 this afternoon, the impossibly blue and cloudless sky was quickly invaded by dark, ominous clouds. The wind picked up gale force speed and began to howl and soon the sky (and the tranquil view) I had just been photographing was engulfed and deep rumbles of moody thunder lingered loudly in the distance.
One lone, but determined, dust devil swept haphazardly across the open desert plain. This was the final warning bell alerting us that the desert storm was officially upon us. Seconds later, sheets upon horizontal sheets of much-needed rain pelted down on the thirsty desertscape for, not one, but three (!) hours. You could almost feel the desert heave a sigh of grateful relief.
When I landed in the desert last week, I actually chuckled when I saw the rain gauge at the lodge’s private airstrip. It was 42°C, the summer breeze felt like a hairdryer permanently stuck on the hottest setting, and rain was the furthest possible thing from my mind. But that rain gauge got a proper workout today. An astounding 34 mm of glorious rain brought palpable respite to the desert this afternoon.
The Namib Desert is the oldest and second driest desert in the world (after Chile’s Atacama Desert) and it has been seven years since Sossusvlei Private Desert Reserve has experienced a storm of this magnitude and precipitation of this amplitude. It was an experience I’ll never forget and likely something I’ll never witness again.
And although Sossusvlei’s world-famous and impossibly starry night sky will be covered with clouds tonight, today was a day for the memory bank. It does seem rather poetic that my travel stars aligned in one of the most dramatic night sky destinations in the world. So, in honour of today’s truly unforgettable desert display, here is a list of must-see night skies around the world.