Reviews of Desert Rhino Camp
They do not necessarily represent the views of Expert Africa.
Desert Rhino Camp review
After a fantastic flight from Sossuvlei over the dunes and then up the coast over shipwrecks, seal colonies and flamingos, then Swarkopmund, we landed in the middle of the rocky desert of Damaraland, with a herd of desert elephants patrolling the airstrip. We were driven to the camp, which is pleasantly designed. The rooms are large and very comfortable, with good mosquito precautions (even though there were no insects during our stay in September).
Dining is communal, but very atmospheric, with staff singing to you and dancing at the end of the meal (this is more fun than it might sound, trust me). Dining outside and drinks at the campfire are both magical, although the indoor dining area is less successful. Johann’s tour of the night-sky is unmissable. Food is adequate without being interesting. Drinks are charged extra, and dining is communal. There is no waterhole at the camp.
The rhino tracking on foot is a bit of a lottery. The park is divided into 4 zones, and no zone is visited on two consecutive days, to avoid any chance of the rhino becoming stressed by too much human contact. While this makes sense, it also means that your chances of seeing rhino are dependent on which zone you get (some are far better than others). The trackers set off ahead of you, and then you drive around looking at what little game there might be, until the call comes that rhino have been found. Then you drive to join them and walk (usually a short way) to view the rhino from 200 metres away or so, for 15-20 minutes.
Try to arrange two morning treks to maximise your chance of seeing rhino in a good zone. We spent six hours on our first trek without sighting rhino, and then the camp messed up our onward flight the next day and couldn’t fit us in for a second trek. Luckily, we had a truly amazing encounter with an adult male rhino on our short sundowner drive, at much closer quarters and for far longer (an hour) than would have happened on foot, so it didn’t matter all that much. We also saw the elephants and a pack of 13 hyena after a kill. This makes the park sound packed with game, but it isn’t).
Staff are lovely, although there was clear evidence of tension between members of the management team, and indeed between guides and the rhino trackers. The camp is now on the New York Times list of The Top 10 Places in the World to Visit, so expect long waiting lists.
Expert Africa comments
We were delighted to ready that overall these travellers had a super stay here and managed to have a close encounter with a rhino.
There were issues with the timing of their onward flight which Expert Africa rectified (at our cost) for these travellers. Flight time changes led to a misunderstanding about their departure time, and the option of rhino-tracking on their final morning was offered but as something of an afterthought. This led to these travellers missing that activity, for which we gave them a refund.
Marvelous Fabulous Desert Rhino Camp
Bons, our guide, and our experience at Desert Rhino Camp 'set-the-bar' so high, it would continue to be unattainable by any other camp. I hope Wilderness Safaris appreciates the gold mine they have in Bons. He is a boundless source of energy, a team player who when not out on safari was helping anyone and everyone in camp. He has great organizational skills, is excellent at prioritizing, a good mechanic (recognizing immediately what was wrong when another vehicle broke down), understands what makes for a good photograph, is sensitive to the wildlife and capable of getting into good photographic positions without causing them to move off, and he listened to what we desired, thought about it, then offered us many outstanding opportunities. Bons could be very patient, but he also knew when to hurry. Bons grew up locally, sharing a great love and respect for his community, with absolutely nothing artificial in his feelings for preserving, promoting, and improving the viability of the ecology in and around Desert Rhino Camp.
We were pleasantly surprised at Desert Rhino Camp with the variety and abundance of wildlife. Remaining on road, at most camps means photographs with little specks of wildlife or the back-ends of wildlife. Despite this restriction (other than for rhinos and lion kills), somehow Bons was not only able to get us close to the animals but also with them well-lit. The rocks, the geology, and the plant life in this harsh environment, make for a dramatic back-drop for wildlife photography. Stunning!
Sunsets were surreal. Temperature inversions caused the oddest phenomena I've ever seen, a step-shaped 'lantern' mirage sun.
The highlight of our stay at Desert Rhino Camp was, of course, tracking rhino. I was totally unprepared for our first encounter, when rather than running away, the curious rhino girls came closer and closer. Orders were given, 'Stop the cameras,'--silence--was followed closely by, 'Lie down!' One woman was overheard to say, 'There are worse ways to die.' Quite an exciting introduction. Our second day wasn't bad, but with a fairly large group, the rhinos startled off without too close or long an experience. We discussed with Bons how difficult it is to keep a large group of people close together, smooth, and quiet.
On our third morning, we knew from the trackers the approximate whereabouts of the day's selected rhino. I saw fresh scrapings and dung-flinging, so I knew a rhino had been near recently. But when Bons said let's go for a little walk, I didn't know we'd be in for an immediate sighting. I thought this was preliminary to the trackers and other guests gathering. Wrong! We were quite near as the rhino, Don't Worry, climbed the river's embankment. He was in shadow, but it was still a good sighting. But, Bons took advantage of a wind-shift and we moved quickly, as quietly as we could, from clump-to-clump of vegetation. We'd take a few photos, before moving forward and around time and again, until we were alongside and looking up to the horizon at one very large male rhino, and then the sun came out from behind the clouds, brilliantly lighting our subject. We were so near--my heart was pounding and palpitating--yet I was feeling relatively safe as a charge down the steep rocky embankment/cliff would be unlikely; the option of fleeing across the open plain would be much easier for the rhino.
After taking our images, with no more than a flicker or two of the rhino's ears, we snuck off until safely out of range, when we could freely converse again. Marvelous. Fabulous. Bons' intuition and ability to think like a rhino, and a photographer, were outstanding.
Very remote but worth the long drive
We loved Desert Rhino camp for its remoteness. We had an unforgettable stay. It is a long drive to the camp but you learn so much about the desert animals and vegetation from fantastic guides. Our guide Bons was a delight to be with over the 2 days. So knowledgable and such fun. We successfully tracked 2 rhinos on foot which was thrilling. The trackers from Save the Rhino were v efficient and lovely people. We thoroughly enjoyed our day with them.
It is worth noting that the pick up point for Desert Rhino camp is not at the Palmwag Lodge entrance, but another 3 Kms further along the road. It has it's own sign. The lodge is very comfortable but very open to the elements so v cold at night. Hot water bottles and rugs were very welcome!
The food was v good and they were excellent in providing alternatives for my son who has food allergies.
Desert Rhino Camp review
We added Desert Rhino Camp to our itinerary at short notice but the camp was very accommodating and welcoming. Our prime reason for coming here was to track black rhino on foot. it is a great experience, exciting and exhilarating but can also be hard work. We traversed a big distance and across a very rocky area which was not a problem for us but would be if you were less fit or able. For us it was worth the effort and we got to within 75m of a rhino and saw 3 others at a greater distance.
The camp is not a premier camp so it is more basic than say Little Kulala or Serra Cafema but is perfectly adequate. Ditto the food and service - wholesome but not haut cuisine.
It is always pot luck in terms of the guide you are allocated. Unfortunately our guide had only a basic grasp of English and was new to the camp. he managed to get lost and had no conversation or rapport with guests - not of the standard you would expect of Wilderness Safari camps.
Desert Rhino Camp review
Another great camp in a brilliant location with spectacular landscapes. Very comfortable - loved the hot water bottles for cold early mornings and evenings out driving as well as for bed warmers.
The rhino tracking was amazing - the briefing before we went was iinstructive and the work being done with the RCT is impressive. We also really enjoyed seeing both desert lions and elephants.
Food was excellent and our evening at the camp fire in the desert was a highlight.
A superb experience in every respect. Very comfortable, good food, well organised with very attentive and caring staff.Read more about the whole safari
Undoubtedly the high spot of our trip
For anyone wanting to see wild Africa this is probably an almost unique location. You leave your vehicle (even a 4x4) at the main road (where it is guarded) and are ferried over sometimes very rough tracks in one of the Camp's open Land Rovers (probably about 15 kilometres from the "outside world) through truly stunning semi-desert scenery with herds of wild animals frequently to be seen.
This is a large concession area set aside by government approval to protect the indigenous black rhino population and the many other animals and birds in the area. It has always been a bit of untouched wild Africa and is being maintained as such. The Save the Rhino Trust shares some of the income from visitors and is actively monitoring and studying the rhino population and they arrange for visitors to get to creep up on some rhinos on foot and to witness how they record the condition of individual animals.
The staff were absolutely delightful - they welcome you when you arrive with a small group of them singing a welcoming song as part of the ritual of offering cold drinks and cold towels. Apart from this they proved extremely professional and capable. The accommodation is again in large canvas sided rigid framed "tents" albeit with ensuite bathrooms (solar heated water) even including twin basins and tasteful décor - as good as any 5 star hotel yet in the middle of a wilderness.
The camp is obviously environmentally conscious and run everything in such a way that water use is optimised and even firewood is imported from areas with sufficient wood. The hospitality was unmatched (which in a country like Namibia is saying something, as catering standards there are generally high) and the food was excellent.
However the most memorable aspect of our stay was the "activities" touring the surrounding concession area covering quite large distances with an absolutely excellent guide, Ali, who apart from being extremely knowledgeable about the wild life, plants, geology (you name it!) was an ace at driving a 4x4 through difficult terrain. We saw a wealth of wild life (in addition to the rhinos of course) in some of the most beautiful scenery we have had the pleasure to view.
If there was a grade above "excellent" then Desert Rhino Camp might deserve that!
Desert Rhino Camp review
We very much enjoyed our stay there. Great staff, good food and interesting other guests.
However, the rhino tracking has its limitations. There aren't many rhinos there so it may take a very long time to find one, The group the day before took 12 hours. We were lucky and the trackers found two less than two hours. It's an interesting experience getting out of the vehicle and following the trackers to get a good view but since you are not allowed with 100-150 meters, you will only see them at some distance. Nevertheless, the country is beautiful and we came across both desert elephants and a lion.
Also it's a very long safari vehicle drive from where you leave your car at the gate to the facility.
Desert Rhino Camp review
Although it's in a remote location, we loved this camp and staying there was one of the highlights of our visit to Namibia. The location, staff and activities were excellent.
The camp staff were welcoming and really made us feel at home. Our guide, Johann, gave us an appreciation of the landscape and wildlife and is obviously knowledgeable and passionate about both. The rhino trackers were amazing! We have no idea how they were able to find the elusive desert rhino in such rugged territory.
Desert Rhino Camp review
Excellent camp with wonderful staff.
We found a Rhino quite quickly and thoroughly enjoyed watching it from the dried river bank. This left the rest of the full day a little anti-climatic. Two nights were enough here we thought although we were looked after royally.