Desert Rhino Camp

Desert Rhino Camp: Our full report

Rooms
8 tents
Traveller's rating
Excellent (95%) From 39 reviews
Open
All year

Remote, exclusive and specialised, Desert Rhino Camp takes a maximum of 16 guests – and for many years was known as 'Palmwag Rhino Camp'. The camp is a joint venture between Namibia's Save the Rhino Trust and Wilderness Safaris and has been running now for over 20 years. Run by a reliably superb and committed team, activities, as you'd expect, centre on tracking black rhino.

Desert Rhino Camp has eight tents, built Meru-style which all have simple en suite facilities. These large walk-in Meru tents are raised up on wooden decks and have a veranda at the front where you can relax in one of the directors' chairs. The beds are made up with crisp, white linen and have two dark wood bedside tables with wicker reading lamps.

Each room has an electronic combination safe, a loud 'hooter' for emergencies, an insect spray and some mosquito repellent. Tent flaps open to reveal mesh on doors and windows, which lets the breeze through – but not the insects. At night it can get very cold here, and there are extra duvets available.

At the back of each tent, through a tented doorway, the en suite bathroom is open from shoulder-height to the roof. There is a dark wood dresser upon which you will find a basin with flasks of hot and cold water for washing. A bucket shower (hot water is brought when requested) stands in the middle of the room and a flush toilet to the side. Local wood is used throughout the bathroom, for the slatted wooden floor, the towel rails and the shower upright. Complementary shampoo, soap and tissues are provided.

There is a central tented area for a dining-room and lounge, which offers sweeping views across the surrounding plain, scattered with Welwitschia plants against a stunning mountain backdrop. Raised up on a wooden deck, the construction is open plan with partially open sides. In one half are a large leather sofa and two soft, comfortable cream chairs with a big wooden chest supporting an array of interesting books on Namibia. The other half boasts a generously sized wooden table and directors' chairs: appropriate for the sociable group meal. In the evenings whilst we were there, everyone tended to gather around the firepit, in front of the 'lapa' (the open-sided dining area), to relax and discuss the day's events and activities.

The Desert Rhino Camp is situated in the Palmwag Concession area (also known as the Palmwag Reserve), which covers about 5,000km² between Etosha and the Skeleton Coast. Few camps are so remote, and have such a large area that they can call their own. This semi-desert reserve has a number of tree-lined, fresh water springs that support good populations of the rare Hartmann's mountain zebra, giraffe, oryx, springbok and kudu. This is also one of the best places to see desert-dwelling black rhino and elephants, as well preditors including lions, cheetah, leopard, brown and spotted hyena.

On our last visit we stayed for only two nights, and were lucky enough not only to track two black rhino at close (but safe) quarters, but also had the added bonus of seeing six lions with a fresh zebra kill, and three cheetah later on – a truly wonderful experience!

This Palmwag Reserve is a particularly rich area for wildlife, despite its relatively low rainfall, and sightings of general game here have improved steadily over recent years. Our sightings were remarkable; really far better than we'd expected, but perhaps they were simply a reflection of very real improvements in the game densities.

The Save The Rhino Trust has been soley responsible for helping to protect the rare, desert-adapted black rhino. There are now reported to be about 120 individuals; up from about 40 in the early 80's and the Palmwag Concession boasts the largest concentration of black rhino anywhere outside of a national park. The Trust trained local people to patrol and monitor the rhino and it is with these trackers, some of whom are seconded to the camp, that you go out. A portion of every guest's revenue goes to the Trust. (Read more about the Save the Rhino Trust…)

Activities at the Rhino Camp concentrate on rhino tracking. You start out early in the morning in a 4x4 vehicle, driving around enjoying whatever wildlife you see. Meanwhile, trackers are out and about, looking for rhino. When the trackers find an animal, they radio over to your vehicle, which approaches to a point which doesn't disturb the rhino. This may be a kilometer or more away.

You then go in closer on foot, with your guide, at a slow and steady pace. The trackers will always ensure that you stay a safe distance away, but the sheer exhileration of being within a couple of hundred metres of a rhino whilst on foot more than makes up for the fact that you do not get right up to it – this isn't a safari park! Note that given the open terraine and rarity of the rhinos, the trackers are not armed – but they are well-trained!

Although the walking isn't very strenuous, the terrain is can be uneven as the landscape is strewn with small rocks and boulders. Sure-footedness and sturdy walking shoes are therefore recommended.

If you're staying for three nights or more, then you might want to think about requesting a full-day game-drive, with a picnic lunch, to explore the further reaches of this beautiful reserve.

Our view

Desert Rhino Camp is one of our favourite camps in Namibia. It's very remote, and feels it; it's got tremendous character, as have the managers here when we visited; and it offers the chance to track black rhinos – which is something that's possible in very few places indeed. Rhino Camp does work as a two-night stop. However, to really make the most of it, you need three nights here. This may appear to be a big chunk of time, and it's not an inexpensive camp – but we think that the Rhino Camp is well worth it.

Geographics

Location: Damaraland, Namibia

Ideal length of stay: Ideal length of stay is 3 nights

Directions: For fly-in safaris the camp is a 15-minute transfer from the nearest Airstrip. If you are arriving by road, perhaps on a self-drive trip, then you need to arrive before about 2.30pm, and you then park your car at Palmwag Lodge. It is then a further three-hour 4WD nature drive from the lodge to the Rhino Camp.

Accessible by: Self-drive or Fly-and-Transfer

Key personnel

Owner: Lodge Management Company in conjunction with The Save The Rhino Trust

Food & drink

Usual board basis: Full Board

Food quality: On our last visit, the food at Palmwag Rhino Camp was very good.

Breakfast is served early morning, before you set our for the rhino tracking. A small buffet serving cereal, yoghurt, bread etc plus eggs and bacon for those who want something a bit more substantial to keep them going for the mornings activities, are available.

Lunch is invariably taken as a picnic out in the bush. When we were there we had a good selection of dishes, including a great bean salad, a green salad, breaded chicken pieces, quiche and pasta salad.

Back in camp, homemade cake or cookies are available at around 4pm, with tea and coffee.

Evening meals are sociable affairs taken around one large table and consisting of three set courses. It would be hard to pick out anything as memorable, as all of the dishes were wonderful! On different evenings we had butternut squash soup/camembert toast, followed by venison with roast potatoes and vegetables/beef steak with spicy rice and veggies, finishing with a desert of chocolate and orange tart/coconut and lemon tart.

Vegetarian meals were always available for those who had requested it.

Dining style: Group Meals

Dining locations: Indoor and Outdoor Dining

Drinks included: All drinks are included, except for imported and premium brand wines and spirits.

Special interests

Birdwatching: Highlights for those on a Namibia birdwatching holiday at Desert Rhino Camp would be the Benguela long-billed lark, Ludwig’s bustard, African hawk-eagle and tractrac chat – all of which we saw on our last visit!

See more ideas for Birdwatching in Namibia

Photographic: Desert Rhino Camp not only offers the opportunity to photograph black rhino that wander this semi desert region, but also great landscape photography. The ancient Etendeka lava flows of northern Damaraland make for dramatic scenery, with photogenic game which includes desert-adapted elephant and lion.

See more ideas for Photographic in Namibia

Walking safaris: Desert Rhino Camp's guided walking safaris concentrate on tracking desert-dwelling black rhino. They start in a vehicle, and after finding the animals, well-trained (and unarmed!) guides will lead you on foot as close as possible to these giants – it's a thrilling experience!

See more ideas for Walking safaris in Namibia

Wildlife safaris: Desert Rhino Camp is one of the best places in Africa to see black rhino roaming free, and to track them on foot. There are also good populations of desert elephant, Hartmann's mountain zebra, giraffe and plains game. Lion, cheetah, leopard, brown and spotted hyena are also sighted here.

See more ideas for Wildlife safaris in Namibia

Children

Attitude towards children: Desert Rhino Camp do not take children under the age of 12. Please note though that children must be 16 yours of age or older to track rhino on foot.

Property’s age restrictions: Children need to be over 12 years of age.

Notes: Children are very much the responsibility of the parents. The Rhino Camp also have a policy that if children older than 12 misbehave on activities, then they reserve the right to ask them to remain back in camp. Parents should also be aware that this camp is not fenced and wildlife can pass through, and there is obviously is an inherent risk whilst tracking rhino on foot!

Infrastructure

Power supply: Generator

Communications: They have a central radio-telephone and internet connection with email.

Health & safety

Malarial protection recommended: Yes

Medical care: They have a medical kit on site. The nearest good doctor is in Outjo. Medi-rescue is available.

Dangerous animals: High Risk

Fire safety: There are fire extinguishers in each room and in central areas.

Extras

Disabled access: Not Possible

Laundry facilities: Included

Money: They do not offer a currency exchange here.

Accepted payment on location: They accept payment with Visa, Mastercard or in cash (N$, ZAR, US$, €, £)