Stylishly rebuilt in 2006, Little Kulala has huge glass-sides rooms
Little Kulala: Our full report
Little Kulala is situated on the 210 km2 private Kulala Wilderness Reserve, which is just south of Sesriem. The entrance to this reserve is just 17km from Sesriem, it is then a further 8km along a well-signposted route to the lodge, which includes a rather fun wooden bridge.
In front of the lodge is a circular drive-way, around a big pile of granite rocks; nearby is shaded parking, enclosed by a clay wall.
The main central area of Little Kulala shares similarities with Kulala Desert Lodge, in that it has a high thatched roof with four peaks, and it also has the same red clay wall around it. However, that is where the similarities end. Built over three levels, the design of the main area gives you a great sense of space.
You are struck by the neutral earth tones, the white washed wooden floors, the different textures – and impressed by the detail that has gone into designing Little Kulala. This was nothing like we had expected to find in the middle of the desert; it's more like the décor you'd imagine at an East-Coast American beach resort, and contrasts quite starkly with the sea of red sand and forest of camelthorn trees.
At the entrance level you are welcomed into the reception by a long cement seat. This snakes along one length of the wall, and is covered in big, stuffed cushions. The lack of any sharp angles combines with well-placed full-length mirrors to create an illusion of space, in what is already an open plan building. Curved stone walls open up to reveal a tea room, a bar and various seating areas, each created with its own unique design and feel. The story is that the designer was inspired to use circles by the mystical 'fairy circles' found throughout the Namib Desert.
From the main lounge, tall glass doors open out onto a large, partly thatched deck. Parts of this have been built around existing camelthorn trees, incorporating them into the overall design. As well as further comfortable sitting areas, including wonderful woven hammock chairs, this area is often used for dining. During the colder winter months (July to August) dinner is usually taken inside, where a crackling fire is lit in a large stone fireplace to keep everyone warm.
For guests who would like a more romantic meal setting, a table for two can be set up in the lodge's underground wine cellar. This is a v-shaped room where clay cubicles have been built along the walls; they hold a large selection of fine wines and champagne, which guests can taste. Despite the candles and romantic atmosphere, do remember that the cellar can be a bit cold, so wrap up warmly.
The top level of the main building is devoted to well-stocked reference library. This is another area where the décor would rival any of the world's best boutique hotels. Clay pots, sculptures and hand-woven baskets of various shapes and sizes sit amongst scatter cushions, bean bags and the most amazing shaggy-wool chaise lounge. In the centre, a collection of pebble cushions are scattered on the floor. It is a wonderful spot to have a quite read in between activities.
To the left of the main building, the outside deck opens up to form the pool area which is fenced off from the desert by bamboo sticks. Beside the small oval-shaped pool, cane loungers with tables made of tree stumps offer a comfortable seating area with great views over the surrounding desert terrain. If requested, guests can take dinner by the pool.
Paths from the main deck navigate past a 'young' sand dune (this is a new dune that's currently growing) and lead to each of Little Kulala's twelve well-appointed and beautifully designed chalets .
Little Kulala is one of the most beautifully designed lodges we have ever visited – modern and innovative; it maintains an air of tranquility and relaxation too.
All of your activities are included at Little Kulala, and there is a choice. The main activity here is an early-morning excursions to Sossusvlei and Sesriem Canyon. There camp shares a private entrance gate to the Namib-Naukluft national park – which is used to enter the park around dawn, bypassing Sesriem, for early-morning trips to Sossusvlei. These trips can last up to eight hours, including a picnic lunch, from dawn to 1-2pm. Guests are also driven to a nearby mountain to watch the sunset with a drink.
Much shorter afternoon nature drives are offered on the reserve, and there's a 'black mountain trail' that you can explore for yourself which is a few hours' walk. If you opt to stay here for 3 nights or more, then full-day excursions to the Naukluft Mountains can be organized. Early-morning balloon excursions over the dunes are an extra cost – but well worthwhile.
We've visited it twice in the last year or two, and whilst the design of Little Kulala always impresses, the service here hasn't always. Don't misconstrue: The service here has never been bad. However, such surroundings imply exemplary standards … yet the service here seems to us to be broadly in line with the other similar lodges in the area. It isn't as effortlessly faultless as you might expect in such a leading 'design hotel in the bush'.
On the same private reserve next to the national park, and also run by Wilderness Safaris, are two other lodges: Kulala Wilderness Camp (formerly known as Kulala Tented Camp), and Kulala Desert Lodge .
Ideal length of stay: 2-3 nights
Directions: Self drive or Fly-in
Owner: Wilderness Safaris
Food & drink
Usual board basis: Full Board
Dining style: Individual Tables
Dining locations: Indoor and Outdoor Dining
Cost of meal e.g. lunch: Included
Drinks included: Except imported and premier wines and drinks
Honeymoons: Little Kulala can be very romantic, with each room having lots of privacy, including it's own private outdoor area, plunge pool, a 'sala' and private terrace above your bathroom. You can easily stay here and yet spent minimal time with other guests, enjoying romantic diners on your private deck area, or down in the cellar.See more ideas for Honeymoons in Namibia
Photographic: The Namib Desert and Sossusvlei are a photographer's dream: huge apricot dunes with knife-edge ridges beneath a blue sky. Little Kulala stands in the desert with breathtaking views: a forest of camelthorn trees in front of its main area, and mountains and dunes in the distance.See more ideas for Photographic in Namibia
Attitude towards children: Yes children are welcome.
Generally recommended for children: Although the camp welcome's children, we wouldn't usually recommended it for younger children!
Notes: Little Kuala is a very stylish, up-market, tranquil lodge – dotted with interesting design features and unusual furnishings. Young children could cause costly damage here, and the environment here isn't very child-friendly.
Power supply: Generator
Communications: There is reception for mobile phones in each of the chalets – but not (apparently) in the lodge's main area.
TV & radio: There are no radios for TVs for guest to use.
Health & safety
Malarial area: No
Medical care: In an emergency, a traveller would be flown out to medical attention in Windhoek – although air evacuations can only happen during daylight hours 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: Little Kulala is in a very isolated location on a private reserve in the desert; there is no additional security here.
Fire safety: Each of the chalets has fire extinguisher.
Disabled access: Not Possible
Laundry facilities: A complementary laundry service is included in the board basis.
Money: Guests can exchange their travellers cheques at the lodge.