Kulala Desert Lodge is a stylish spot, deep in the desert - with a thatched main area.
Kulala Desert Lodge: Our full report
Situated on the 210 km2 private Kulala Wilderness Reserve south of Sesriem, Kulala Desert Lodge is the only lodge in the Sossusvlei area that offers such a close and spectacular view over the Namib-Naukluft Dune Sea. In fact, the lodge's defining feature and main reason for its popularity are the incredible views of the red desert dunes located literally on your doorstep. The camps main area and each of its 23 'kulalas' (chalets) have been built to make the most of this magnificent vista.
Kulala Desert Lodge's central area comprises of a main area under two adjoining thatched roofs each climbing to a peak mimicking the shape of the dunes. Under this you will find the main reception area, the manager's office, curio shop, kitchen and restaurant which spills over to the verandah on one side and the bar and lounge on the other. An open fireplace on one side of the lounge is often lit during the cold winter months (mid June – August) when night-time in the desert can be particularly chilly. During the rest of the year the high thatched ceiling and stone floors keep the main areas cool, which is balanced out by warm shades of browns, reds and burnt oranges used for the soft furnishings.
On the south side of the main building is a swimming pool which you may share with birds as they often swoop in for a quick drink whilst in flight. You can relax here during the heat of the day on the comfortable loungers.
In keeping with the natural feel of thatch and stone, a clay wall encompasses two sides of the central building which would help keep out any adverse weather.
The rooms here are known as 'kulalas' – a term derived from a local Oshiwambo word meaning to sleep. Each of the well-appointed kulalas is spacious and cool, with polished wooden floors and two queen-sized or one large double bed. Made of canvas and wood with a thatched roof, the kulalas are all raised slightly off the ground allowing for maximised air flow to keep the rooms cool during the hot summer months. Built onto the back of your tent is a clay and brick en-suite bathroom.
A step ladder leads up to a private roof terrace above each bathroom where guests have the option of sleeping out under the stars in comfortable bedrolls. On our last visit here we particularly enjoyed this experience, made extra special by a full moon! (Note that you won't get a lie-in here, as other guests getting up early will probably wake you up!)
The interior décor is made up of large bold designs in natural colours giving an African feel whilst complimenting the surrounding environment. In each room there is a small writing desk, luggage rack, laundry basket, stand-alone fan and closet covered with a colourful hand-made African print cloth. The stylish bathroom contains a full length mirror, flush toilet, open shower and amenities such as shampoo, body lotion and soaps. Outside, on a private covered verandah is a small wooden table and two canvas directors chairs to sit whilst you enjoy the views of the surrounding desert.
Four of these kulalas are joined together in pairs on one large wooden deck; these are designed for families or a small group of friends traveling together.
During our last visit to Kulala we were impressed by the particularly warm welcome and friendly staff. We found the camp to have a lovely, relaxed atmosphere.
The most popular activities offered at Kulala Desert Lodge are guided 4WD morning drives into the dunes, which include visits to Sossusvlei and Dead Vlei. The private Kulala Wilderness Reserve has its own private entrance to the Namib-Naukluft National Park which means that it isn't necessary to travel via the gate at Sesriem to reach the dunes provided you join this excursion organised by the lodge. Other possible activities include walking trails, both guided and unguided, and sundowner drives on the nature reserve.
It is possible to take an early morning balloon flight from Kulala Desert Lodge. This experience includes approximately a 50 minute flight over the desert followed by a delicious champagne breakfast amongst the dunes. This is not an inexpensive option but we highly recommend it.
Note that if you are arriving on a self-drive trip, the it is possible to book Kulala Desert Lodge with us in two different ways:
Book on a Dinner, Bed & Breakfast basis, and your activities are not included. You then have the choice of driving yourself around the area, or paying to join onto one or more of the activities organized by the lodge. Your drinks are not included in this economic rate; you settle the bar bill on departure.
Several travellers have commented that the cost of add-on activities here, purchased directly when at the lodge, is high. So we suggest that you check the latest charges before booking yourself any excursions here.
Book on a Full Board and activities basis and this also includes lunch, as well as both of the daily activities organized by the lodge. The cost of drinks is included with this rate; see below for details. If booked on a DBB basis, the activities must be paid for separately, which can be expensive (although no more so than when they are included on FBA).
Not to be confused with Kulala Desert Lodge, but in the same area and also run by Wilderness Safaris, are two other lodges: Kulala Wilderness Camp (formerly known as Kulala Tented Camp) and Little Kulala.
Ideal length of stay: 2 nights
Directions: Fly-in or self drive
Owner: Wilderness Safaris
Food & drink
Usual board basis: Half Board
Food quality: For guests participating in an early morning activity such as an excursion to the Sossusvlei or the balloon trip, tea, coffee and cakes are served at the lodge before departing. For guests who aren't joining an early morning excursion breakfast is available from 08:00. A breakfast buffet is laid out in the lodge's dining area and offers a selection of dishes to whet your appetite from freshly baked scones to hard boiled eggs, cold meats to a variety of cheeses and cereals to yoghurts. When breakfasting at the lodge you also have the option requesting a cooked breakfast made to order.
When on the morning 4WD excursion to Sossusvlei, a simple brunch is served consisting of cakes, cookies and fruit.
A buffet selection of cold dishes is offered for travellers requiring lunch at the lodge. These might include quiche, a selection of salads, fresh bread and finger foods such as chicken wings or spicy meatballs.
Dinner is a 3-course affair served either outside on the verandah by candle light or indoors depending on the time of the year. Meals usually begin with a tasty starter, we had potato and leek soup with freshly baked bread. This is followed by a main course which is served at your table, in our case this was game sirloin with onion marmalade, roast potatoes and fresh steamed vegetables including spinach, mushrooms and cauliflower. Our meal was rounded off nicely with a light desert – apple crumble with custard – before tea and coffee were served.
We last visited Kulala Desert Lodge in April 2010, and we found the food to be of a good standard in a homecooked style. Dishes such as barbecued meats, fish, soup and apple crumble were on offer, as well as delicious freshly cooked muffins for breakfast.
Dining style: Individual Tables
Dining locations: Indoor and Outdoor Dining
Drinks included: Drinks are not included if staying at Kulala Desert Lodge on a DBB basis. However, if you book into the lodge on a Full Board basis then house wine, beers, and soft drinks are included in this rate. Note that premium spirits, champagne, imported wines or premium brands like top whiskies are never included, and are always paid for separately at the lodge.
Attitude towards children: Children of all ages are welcome at Kulala Desert Lodge.
Equipment: Kulala Desert Lodge has one sleeping cot available on request for young children.
Generally recommended for children: Yes
Notes: Children are solely the responsibility of the parents.
Power supply: Generator
Communications: The camp sells flexi-call cards which are prepaid phone cards. There is mobile reception around lodge, but the use of mobile phones in the lodge's public areas is discouraged.
TV & radio: No
Health & safety
Malarial area: No
Medical care: The nearest doctor is in Mariental or guests are evacuated during daylight hours in cases of emergency. The airstrip does not have reflectors so no night time evacuations are possible. The camp management is trained in first aid and a doctor is on call (on the phone) 24-hours to advise in necessary situations.
Dangerous animals: Low Risk
Security measures: When we where last there the lodge was busy building a reception area at the main entrance to the Kulala Reserve to monitor the comings and goings. There are locks on the room doors and a small safe in each room.
Fire safety: There is a fire extinguisher outside each room and these are checked regularly.
Disabled access: On Request
Laundry facilities: A full laundry service is included for guests who have booked at the lodge on a fully inclusive basis. This service is available at an additional charge to guests booked at a half board basis. A small pot of washing powder is made available in each room for travelers who wish to do a small amount of hand washing.
Money: Yes travellers cheques can be exchanged