Reviews of Damaraland Camp
They do not necessarily represent the views of Expert Africa.
The Damaraland Camp is really in the middle of nowhere which is just perfect! It's a little jewel in amongst the harsh ruggedness that is the Huab River Valley. Star gazing is phenomenal here given the clear night skies.
The staff were great - a fantastic team who had fun togethe and with their guests (especially Desert Rose and Ghandi). James the manager on duty is a lovely man who is passionate about his job and has a great rapport with his staff and his guests.
The food was good - communal dining for all meals (unless you'd prefer otherwise) is a fun way to meet and interact with other guests. The early morning surprise breakfast - fantastic, in a stunning location!
We were lucky enough to see the Desert Elephants which was the reason we chose to stay at this camp.
The rooms were lovely but would have been perfect had they have had double beds and not twin beds - I would assume that most guests are couples...
We stayed here as much for the ever-changing, starkly beautiful scenery as for the animal life. We were not disappointed. The harsh desert environment limits the number and variety of animals present for viewing, as they move around in search of food and water, but we saw a large family of desert adapted elephants, a solitary bull elephant, baboons, and assorted antelope.
The lodge went out of its way to offer interesting experiences. Dinner in the candle lit boma, a short walk from the camp, was one example, with African songs and dancing by the staff. A sunrise breakfast for everyone on a hilltop a short drive away was another moment to remember. We enjoyed the family style dinners, which offered a chance to relax and chat with other guests. Overall, we thought the ambiance of the camp and friendliness of the staff was perhaps the best we enjoyed in Botswana and Namibia.
We opted for the chance to visit a local village, with only seven families, but it was Saturday and most of the residents had gone to town for the day. The contrast between traditional and modern was remarkable, out in the distant boonies. People still lived by subsistence farming and grazing, in mud daubed reed houses, but they also enjoyed clean water from wells with solar powered pumps, and several clean toilet blocks were lined up in the center of the village. A brightly painted kindergarten prepared students for elementary school, in another village. Excess solar power from the pumps was used to charge cell phones. Some residents worked at the lodge, providing them with cash income from the lodge, jointly owned by Wilderness Safaris and the local people. We were disappointed that hardly anybody was at home in the village, but were still glad we visited it. A more expansive visit, with the chance to speak with local people and learn more about them and their culture, would have been appreciated.
In hindsight, we thought that a third night here could be worthwhile, with the chance to see prehistoric rock art and/or take a guided hike. However, it was unclear from Expert Africa’s review precisely what these options offered and how worthwhile they might be. The village visit wasn’t mentioned at all.
Wonderful location and experience
Fantastic location. Lovely Lodge. The drive was quite long but necessary in order to find elephant.
We loved the meal served outside in the evening and the breakfast on the drive overlooking the mointains. Loved the outside toilet!! The staff singing was a lovely touch that we enjoyed everywhere.
The staff were very good, but very disorganised when we came to pay our bill at the end.
Dessert Elephants in Damaraland
Beautiful setting of the this camp, lovely comfortable rooms.
Really enjoyed eating around a big table with other guests sharing experiences and exchanging tips.
Highlight was seeing desert elephants, even though it was a long drive to find them!
Lovely staff, lovely location
There was a happy atmosphere and staff took very good care of the guests. The situation is beautiful, and the Boma dinner and the singing and dancing were nice surprises. The location is fantastic.
It's a pity there aren't any waymarked self-guided trails or maps: in fact we were discouraged by one guide from going walking by ourselves, even though we are experienced walkers and walked from most of the other places we stayed, and there didn't seem to be any specific danger.
The trip to track the desert elephants was excellent. It would be helpful to have more information about the activities on offer ....maybe a daily blackboard with options and prices.
A waste of vacation time and money.
We visited Damaraland Camp for three nights in June when we met up with friends who chose it. We knew going in that this camp wouldn't offer as much wildlife as other safari camps; however, even with lowered expectations we were disappointed. The only wildlife to see are the desert adapted elephants (which you can see at several other camps as well) and that's only if they happen to be in the vicinity. In our case, we had to drive almost three hours (over 50 kms) over very rough roads to see the elephants for about 15 minutes. Then, our friends drove almost three hours back to camp, only to repeat the same drive the next day to visit Twyfelfontein - which was about 9 km from where we had seen the elephants. I had to sit out that second day's activity because the previous day's long, bumpy ride had so exacerbated an injury that I had to spend the day in bed.
Disappointed that I missed seeing Twyfelfontein, I asked why they didn't combine the outings in order to save almost 6 hours of driving time and after many excuses, the explanation boiled down to the fact that if they combined the outings, there wouldn't be anything else for guests to do on the second day. The only other activities offered are walks and visits to a local village, which is really nothing more than one man's farm. Interesting - for a few minutes - but not a village.
The scenery is beautiful, but that can be viewed from other camps such as Doro Nawas, which is much closer both to Twyfelfontein and to where the elephants usually are. Also, staying at Doro Nawas saves you both an extra flight from Doro Nawas to the Damaraland Camp airstrip and a very bumpy drive from the Damaraland Camp airstrip to their camp.
The food at this camp was awful. Two guests got food poisoning while we were there and the staff seemed to have great difficulty coping with my food allergy. I constantly had to ask the servers if my food was free of MSG and they pretty much had to check with Vanessa, the food and beverage manager, each time. I often had to eat differently than my companions because much of the food served at this camp is cooked using packaged seasonings and sauces. In most other camps, my allergy was a non-issue as their food was prepared fresh.
Another problem I had at this camp was the outrageously contrived "African singing" and menu presentation. Other camps often present their menu in both English and the local language but they manage to do it without making me cringe. Here, the servers seemed to be reading from a script and combined their menu description with sound effects and a sing-song "Yummy, yummy!" Even the guides seemed embarrassed.
The camp itself is adequately comfortable, but certainly not luxurious. According to Wilderness Safaris, this camp is in the same category as Hoanib Skeleton Coast Camp (a Classic Camp) but the differences are extreme. Hoanib is what it advertises itself to be - a luxury camp in beautifully remote wilderness. Damaraland Camp is absolutely not "luxury in the desert." It is at best a two star establishment and, in my opinion, a waste of vacation time and money. There are many, many other places that offer everything Damaraland Camp offers as well as other wildlife, other activities, and much better accommodations, food, and service.
The camp staff were enthusiastic and welcoming and several - including Desert Rose and Corbelia - deserve special recognition for their friendliness and extra efforts, especially during the day I was confined to bed. Overall, however, the staff - and especially the management staff - need more training and finesse for this camp to be comparable to its competitors/alternatives. In fact, given how poorly this camp compares to other Wildness properties, our group came to the conclusion that this might be a training ground for Wilderness management staff. Given the many options, I can't think of any reason whatsoever to visit this camp.
Not Worth the Effort
Damaraland Camp is a reasonably attractive Wilderness Safari establishment and the staff work hard to make it work. However on balance there is a lack of "real" wildlife opportunities and quite limited alternatives as well as some other less attractive features of this Camp which really lead to a conclusion that there are better alternatives to do more. I would not go here again.
The Camp itself is actually well positioned high on a hill overlooking a dry, rocky valley which is panoramic and attractive and certainly reflects the harsh environment that is Damaraland. The individual lodges and central guest facilities are "standard" Wilderness quality and are all quite comfortable albeit the majority of lodges are more than a "reasonable" walk from the central area and while all are well equipped and have electricity they lack a facility to re-charge batteries and technology, which has to be done in the "office". Given the distances involved this becomes a real pain if you happen to forget your camera battery and have to trudge back up the very steep hill to get it!!!!!
This Camp provided the least attractive staff, food and beverage experience of my safari. The "bar" staff seemed to lack confidence and primarily resided behind the bar service area, the food was generally of poor to modest standard and the "family"" type seating around a single long table where one is forced to share with other guests is not, to my mind, what you pay for at expensive venues of this type. Especially if you are unfortunate enough to draw the seat next to the almost predictable fellow traveller from the USA - it seems every trip must have at least one!!!! Also, the presence of starlings flying and landing all over the food areas did not engender confidence. I certainly did not fancy the sharing the cornflakes after a dozen or so starlings had been pecking their way through it.
To be fair, the Camp does promote other activities beyond just "wildlife". You can walk, visit a "village" as well as see rock carvings and desert adapted elephants. However, the walks are really only for "enthusiasts' as the going is quite hot and rough, the village turned out to be a single "farm" which frankly was mildly interesting and really not worthy of being called an "activity". The elephants were well worth seeing. But they seem to always congregate in an area roughly 2 to 3 hours drive over very rough tracks each way from the Camp. You could stay a lot closer and achieve the same viewing. Also, the way the activities are presented you are confronted with a repeat return journey to view the rock carvings. It is all a lot of bouncy travelling when the whole lot could be combined into a single day's activities with a take out lunch!
Also, the information about the carvings is simply not up to standard. After enduring the long trip to get there the unsuspecting punter is confronted by a mountain goat standard rock climb to get to the various viewing points. There was no advance warning about the potential difficulties about this trip and it was a long way to go if you were a bit unsteady on your feet - frankly it was bloody dangerous!
My guide Chris worked really hard to make everything work and to be fair did a good quality job. He also turned out to be a successful astronomer by giving a really good presentation on the southern stars. Excellent. However, other aspects of the staff were not as encouraging as this Camp persists with the unfortunate habit of a "singing/dancing" presentation at dinner which was, to be truly honest, cringeworthy. Another unfortunate experience was the "no choice" option for dinner in the Boma which resulted in, frankly, mostly inedible food, I heard on the grapevine of a couple of cases of tummy troubles immediately afterwards and a long an modestly lit trek down hill from the main lodge area. I did not enjoy this experience and was lucky enough to hitch a ride back up the substantial hill with a passing vehicle - I did not fancy the walk in the dark!
In reading the various literature it appears that this Camp is rated the same as Hoanib! This is simply a joke. There is no comparision. Frankly, I think for all it tries, Damaraland is perhaps for the first timer who does not understand or appreciate the extent of quality safaries elsewhere. I don't think Expert Africa should direct people here.
Damaraland Camp Review
The camp itself very good. albeit quite isolated. The rooms and food were fine.
It was, however, extremely difficult to travel to anything of interest, which was limited. The roads (!) are almost impassable and. consequently, every drive was uncomfortable. We did see the desert adapted elephant but had to drive for 2 hours there and back. Then the following day, we did the same drive to see the paintings on the rocks.
We do understand that this is not the fault of the camp, but feel clients should be aware of the limitations of this area. Incidentally, before viewing the paintings, we feel we should have been warned that the climb up to them was extremely hard work and a long way in very hot weather. I think that people of a certain age (us!) should have been told this, so an informed decision could have been made to take part or not.
Stunning desert location!!!
Breathtaking location and superb welcome and staff. Nothing too much trouble.
Super 'room'. Star-gazing session, tribal songs at dinner, good food and wines.
Bush-breakfast, desert elephant safari, mountain-top sundowners and Boma dinner memorable highlights.
Excellent and knowledgeable safari guide.
Traditional tribal song farewell - quite moving.
A really rewarding experience.
This was to become our best experience to date.
We were met by Teek who was to become our guide for the duration of our stay. We arrived at the lodge to be greetly by drinks, cool towels, and a welcome song from the staff. This was to become a trend during our stay here. The staff would sing and dance after every evening meal. And also sing a goodbye song on our departure.
The elephant drive and outdoor breakfast led by Teek was an unforgettable experience. The evening meals which are communal, and themed, so that they are different every evening. They were truly an unforgettable.
The lodges were marvellous, and I would recommend this camp to anyone.