Reviews of Kulala Desert Lodge
They do not necessarily represent the views of Expert Africa.
The place was wonderful but wicked hot. Given the heat, I am amazed that all that running and managing the camp gets done. Kudos to the team! I tried to sleep under the stars the last night but was not possible: too many buzzing mosquitos and it got really cold around 3AM, so I went back to my bed.
This was the only place ever in my life where I have seen such a beautiful star-covered sky. Maybe this activity does not get enough attention or is not promoted by the staff enough. It's a unique asset of the place and it could be better framed. The mattress was not comfortable at all and was too narrow, the cover was not sufficient in the end b/c it became too cold. Everything else was great.
Terrific choice for Sossusvlei
We had a wonderful stay at Kulala Desert Lodge. Had wanted to stay inside the park boundaries but due to late booking, had to make alternate arrangements so we went to Kulala with some reservations. In fact, it turned out to be a great choice (and quite likely as good or better than the onsite facility). The staff was terrific - uniformly pleasant and responsive. Despite the chill, we just loved sleeping on the roof - such a peaceful and beautiful experience.
We had a terrific guide both into the dunes and later to Sesreim. You do have to recognize and accept that, despite the "private gate", you will not get to the dunes (and certainly not the main ones) by sunrise, given the time the gates open and the distance to cover. Also, like most others, our fixation on getting to see Sossusvlei and Dead Vlei made us impatient with a gradual drive with stops along the way.
We had accepted these realities with regret but, in fact, they turned out to be non-issues as far as we were concerned. The drive, in fact, was stunningly beautiful from the beginning, with the gradual light changes taking your breath away. And the guide was very informative and clearly passionate about the geological and living environment. [We spent quite a bit of time finding and watching a "dancing white spider".] As per the Rolling Stones: "you don't always get what you want....but, if you try real hard, you get what you need"!
We also were lucky that there was only one other couple along for both tours, which definitely enhanced the experience. Again, the guide showed a great deal of sensitivity in encouraging and enabling one of the participants to do more than she thought she could do (especially in Sesriem), which kept her from being deprived of an experience she wanted to have.
So off to the desert - what a treat. Atmospheric setting - not quite at the base of the dunes but out in the desert, overlooking a river bed and water hole with shimmering red dunes behind. Sleeping on the roof was a highlight - as was the evening talk on the stars - which have to be seen to be believed.
Into the dunes in the morning - another early start - weird, wonderful, windy! The sand and dust blowing around only added to the mystery. Dead Vlei was amazing - the sand road further in was like driving through fog.
Don't miss the cakes at afternoon tea....
A wonderful lodge in a stunning location
It was 39 degrees in the shade when arrived so be prepared for heat. A superb lodge and very eco friendly.
Petronella and the staff were first class and thanks to the mechanics for changing a tyre for me.
The facilities were excellent and the accommodation stunning but too cold to sleep on the roof.
We did an evening Game Drive and Sundowner, a trip to Sossusvlei and a trip to Sesriem Canyon. Our guide Alfred was superb and extremely knowledgeable.
Kulala Desert Lodge review
We had a great time here and loved the location. We had a very nice tent off at the far end so we could pretend we were all alone with the scenery.
Our guide on the Sossusvlei trip was really good. Otherwise, though, service was friendly but slightly off. We never really understood what the activity options were. Perhaps there should be a schedule posted? Nor could we determine the cost of our drinks (we were on a half board tariff) until we checked out.
Wonderful location.... And even better staff
We had two nights at Kulala. The rooms are great, the food excellent and the pool, view etc all wonderful.
All of this was very well supported by extremely friendly and helpful staff - particularly Petronella who was very supportive over an issue we had with our hire car including taking multiple phone calls and staying up until late one night with us whilst we were waiting for a replacement to be delivered despite the fact that she needed to be up again for 6am managing guest check outs the next morning.
Our evening nature drive and morning drive to the sand dunes were also excellent, with dead vlei and 'big daddy' being everything we had hoped.
Good Lodge for the Namib Desert
The lodge has it's own gate into the Namib Desert National Park, allowing you to enter straight from there at sunrise, which is useful compared to all other lodges that are outside the park (there is only one that is inside the park at the moment).
The little chalet rooms have recently been extended and are very cute, all offering a great view of the dunes in the distance. They also have a flat roof space, where you can request a mattress to be laid out and sleep literally under the stars - of which there are so many visible, it's incredible! This aspect of the lodge is really cool!
We did the Namib Desert tour, but really disappointed at our guide: we left 25minutes and stopped at a non-spectacular point (Dune 1) to view sunrise and a talk about the wildlife, when you should actually make sure to get to the photogenic dunes as quickly as possible to view the amazing color changes there at sunrise. The guide didn't understand this - he didn't even stop at more interesting dunes on the way to Sossusvlei. Given the namib desert and deadvlei were the main reason we went to Namibia, this was quite a disappointment. We even sat down with the tour guide the night before and stated that we wanted to leave as early as possible and he confirmed departure times with us. We then ended up leaving 25 minutes later than we should have - partly because we were waiting for other guests - something I have no understanding for when it's meant to be a sunrise experience.
In addition, there was a school class of 35 staying at the lodge while we were there, which we were surprised the lodge or Expert Afria (if known) didn't tell us in advance as they knew we were celebrating our honeymoon. Knowing this we might have opted to upgrade to Little Kuala - or as a gesture the lodge could have upgraded us when they saw our disappointment.
The staff were friendly, but not that attentive. E.g.-
1) they set out a twin mattress on our honeymoon
2) the same waitresses would need reminding about our dietary requirements even after serving us every meal.
3) needing to repeatedly remind staff to put out the mattresses in the evening.
However, the Food & Beverage Manager Brodwin really made our stay! He went extremely out of his way to cater for our dietary requirements - something none of the other lodges had done to this extent and was really touching!
Having said all this - the own gate really does make a difference (with the right guide) if you don't want to stay in the government run lodge within the park. So staying at one of the two Kuala lodges is definitely recommended - we will probably opt for the more luxurious little kuala next time.
Highlight of our trip - Kulala Desert Lodge
Beautiful situation. A really "well-oiled" establishment with very personal service.
Our guided trip to the dunes with Stephanus was magnificent. He stopped wherever we wanted for photos and took us on a wonderful trek up Big Mama Dune and walking in both Sossusvlei and Dead Vlei. The tour was personalised for the 2 of us and included a stop for refreshments after the main climbing and walking. Steph was well informed and took us also on an evening nature guided tour, with sundowner drinks and snacks.
The staff at Kulala all seem to be happily working as a team and infuse a delightful atmosphere. They put on a 30 minute singing and dancing show at dinner - far removed from usual touristy shows - it seemed to be an expression of THEIR enjoyment.
Steph said that Wilderness Safaris are very good employers and there does seem to be good training and career progression.
Great Eco-Friendly Lodge with Private Access
Kulala Desert Lodge is a comfortable lodge with wonderful amenities for the traveller while remaining environmentally friendly (ie, no air-conditioning). What really makes it great is the level of service, the friendly staff, the delicious food, and the amazing panoramic view of the dunes from the dining room. An added perk is the private entrance to the park - which means a quicker arrival to the dunes before the other tourists.
If we returned during cooler weather, we would stay here again. If not, we may try Little Kulala only because 12pm - 4.30pm resting time was so uncomfortable. The private shaded pool at Little Kulala sounds like a great way to get through the heat of the day!
Tip: ask for your bed to be made up on the rooftop of your chalet, because it is an amazing way to see the stars!
Suggestion: It would be great if there was one cool area to escape to within the lodge during the midday heat. Presumably that would be the pool, but it was under the blazing hot sun so did not feel very tempting in 40 degree weather! This may only be an issue if you travel during the rainy season as we did.
Kulala Desert Lodge review
We missed airconditioning as it is still very warm even during the night. Food was average.
The staff was very friendly and, in particular the guide was very good.