Doro !Nawas – home of the desert elephants

One thing about Damaraland – it’s dry as old boots.  Every time I go there I forget my chapstick and moisturiser and believe me, you need it in this part of Namibia.  Even in late May when we were there, at the very end of the ‘wet’ season, there’s no mistaking this is a desert, receiving bugger all rainfall every year. And you get a sense of that as soon as you drive  into the camp, which is situated on a high kopje (rocky outcrop), and take in the incredible vast vista of Damaraland and the red and purple Etendeka mountains.  The view takes your breath away.

The thing I’ve always loved about Doro !Nawas is the people.  Wilderness Safaris’ Safari & Adventure Co. camps are supposed to be not quite as posh as their ‘Classic’ and ‘Premier’ camps, but from what I saw on this trip, they’re just as much fun.  Actually Doro !Nawas Camp, which is run by the local community (mostly fantastic Damara women) is a wonderful place and the staff went right out their way to look after us.  With a 6 month old baby, we needed a little more help than most guests, and they were all too willing to help us heat up baby food (despite no microwave, it was done the old fashioned way with a pan of boiling water!) and even gave ma and pa a break by hanging out with little Solo during meals.

Doro !Nawas, which is part of the communal conservancy of the same name, has always been a favourite camp of mine because you really get the sense that it’s owned by the community, run by them and appreciated by them.  This is real conservation in action, a business empowering local people to manage their own natural resources and make money and jobs out of them.  Because the local community gets a large cut of the profits from the camp, the vibe is really positive, the kind of feeling that I reckon only comes through local ownership.

The other highlight for us was the desert elephants.  At this time of year you have to drive up to the Huab River, about half an hour in an open vehicle (requiring a lot of rugging up in the pre-winter morning) and hope you find them… but our illustrious guide found them straight away, just off the main road, a breeding herd he knew well.  We spent hours watching them as they ambled slowly along the dry riverbed, pulling down leaves and branches to eat, rumbling to each other in elephantine words I wish I could understand, completely unworried about our vehicle.  The cool thing about these desert elephants is that they roam freely outside national parks in Damaraland, moving in and around the communal conservancies.  They obviously feel very protected there now, a far cry from the heavy poaching days pre Namibian independence (1990).  And that’s something very special to see.

If you get the chance to go to Namibia, don’t miss Doro !Nawas camp (the ‘!’ is a click – the San Bushmen and Damara people share a common linguistic ancestry).  It’s something really special to breath in and truly wilder than most places you’re ever likely to see.  Just don’t forget your chapstick.  If you’re interested in visiting Namibia, drop me a line for tips, advice and contacts.

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