Little Kulala: Our full report
The stylish Little Kulala is the most luxurious of the accommodation options on the 210km2 private Kulala ...... Wilderness Reserve, with its own access gate to the Namib-Naukluft National Park – and Sossusvlei. Gravel plains and low rolling sand dunes stretch out in front of the lodge, with the iconic dunes of the Namib Desert in the distance and the Naukluft Mountains to the rear providing a dramatic backdrop.
The red clay exterior of Little Kulala fits in suprisingly well with its environment, yet belies the stylish and somewhat modern interior. Built over three levels, its main central area has a high thatched roof with four peaks. Neutral earthy tones dominate the spacious interior, whose whitewashed wooden floors were apparently designed to mimic the white clay surface at Dead Vlei. While the lodge didn’t look as smart when we visited in October 2016 as it did when it was built 14 years ago, we understand plans are in place to refresh it early on in 2017.
Through the reception area, curved stone walls open up to reveal an open- plan dining area, bar and lounge. The lack of sharp angles lends a rather organic feel and full-length mirrors add to the feeling of space. Large glass doors open out onto a partly thatched deck, where camelthorn trees are incorporated into the overall design. Meals are often served out here, although during the colder winter months (about July to August) dinner is usually taken inside, where a crackling fire is lit in a large stone fireplace. Little Kulala's well-stocked wine cellar, with a good selection of fine wines, is also used on occasion for private dining.
The top level of the main building is devoted to a library. Clay pots, sculptures and hand-woven baskets of various shapes and sizes sit amongst scatter cushions, bean bags and a rather unusual shaggy-wool chaise longue. Here guests can take their pick from a selection of reference books, board games and a couple of computers with internet access. This is usually the area of the lodge with the strongest WiFi signal.
Round the side of the main building is a small pool and pool deck, where comfortable cushions under thatch provide a welcome retreat from the harsh sun. It's also a romantic spot for dinner, on request, when the weather is fine.
Sandy pathways lead from either side of the main area to Little Kulala's 11 well-appointed chalets, or 'kulalas' (meaning 'to sleep'). One of these is a family unit, with two separate en-suite bedrooms linked by a shared deck. All are raised on whitewashed wooden decks, and each is bounded by a bamboo-stick fence with a gate, making them very private.
Each chalet has a private deck with a thatched open-air lounge area, a table with chairs for private outdoor dining, a couple of sunloungers and a very small plunge pool. Steps lead up onto a rooftop terrace where, if you wish, it's possible to sleep out under the stars.
Inside, the colours are all pale-earth tones, in harmony with the desert landscape. In the spacious, air-conditioned bedroom, double or twin beds stand on a small raised wooden platform, with views through large glass doors of the surrounding desert. To the front, a lounge area has a comfortable sofa and a writing desk for when inspiration strikes.
A tall cement bed-head, with small pebbles 'cascading' down strings, doubles as a room divider, discreetly hiding a tea and coffee station, and a stocked minibar/fridge. This leads to the en-suite bathroom with twin shower heads and handbasins, and a separate toilet. A private courtyard at the back incorporates an outdoor shower. Bathrobes, a hairdryer and lotions and potions are thoughtfully provided.
Most activities are included at Little Kulala, and there is a choice. Top among these is an early-morning excursion to Sossusvlei. The lodge shares a private entrance gate to the Namib-Naukluft National Park with its less opulent sibiling, Kulala Desert Lodge. This bypasses the main gate at Sesriem, allowing early access to the park so that Kulala's guests can make the most of the early-morning light on the dunes. This excursion can be extended to incorporate Sesriem Canyon, a trip of up to eight hours that includes a picnic lunch.
Much shorter afternoon nature drives are offered on the Kulala Reserve itself, and the guides know some spectacular spots to watch the sunset with a drink. If you'd like to stretch your legs, guided walking trails are possible as long as a walking guide is available. (NB: It's essential that you read the Quadbike warning in the 'Health & Safety' section below for our comments on insurance issues regarding this activity.)
For a touch of relaxation, a small range of spa treatments are also available in the comfort and privacy of your own room.
Weather permitting, and at extra cost, early-morning balloon excursions over the dunes are a further possibility and while some might not agree, we think they're worthwhile. These can be pre-arranged or organised while at the lodge.
While Little Kulala isn’t looking as smart as it did when it was built, we’re pleased to note that plans are in place to update it during 2017. That said, its design is still original and interesting, and its stylish interiors are pleasing to the eye. It's a very comfortable lodge and, with a private entrance into the Namib-Naukluft, a very convenient base from which to explore the area – if you can tear yourself away from the creature comforts, that is!
- Namib-Naukluft National Park, Namibia
- Ideal length of stay
- We recommend at least two nights at Little Kulala to visit the dunes at Sossusvlei and Sesriem Canyon. Three nights is recommended if you want to fit in a hot-air balloon flight.
- The entrance to the Kulala Wilderness Reserve is approximately 17km south of Sesriem off the C27. It is then a further 8km along a well-signposted route to the lodge. There is shaded parking near reception.
- Accessible by
- Self-drive or Fly-and-Transfer
Food & drink
- Usual board basis
- Full Board & Activities
- Food quality
- On our last visit to Little Kulala, in October 2016, the food was really delicious and there was plenty of choice.
We had a substantial early breakfast before departing on our morning activity that included cereals, fruits, yoghurts, juice, toast, muffins, cold meats, and a cheese platter, as well as cooked options.
Although we didn’t have lunch during our stay, if the other meals are anything to go by then we'd expect it to be of a high standard.
At dinner we were offered a choice of curried carrot soup or a smoked venison carpaccio salad for starters. For our main course there three options: a tasty chicken casserole with couscous, grilled beef fillet with a red wine sauce and potato gratin, or a vegetarian mushroom and aubergine tagine. This was followed by a selection of cheeses and a scrumptious sticky date and ginger pudding.
- Little Kulala can be a very romantic destination on your Namibian honeymoon. Each chalet has its own plunge pool, and sleep-out platform. Stay here and enjoy romantic dinners on your private deck with stunning views of the surrounding desert.
- See ideas for Honeymoons
- Photography holidays
- The Namib Desert and Sossusvlei are a dream for photographers in Namibia: huge apricot dunes with knife-edge ridges beneath blue sky. Little Kulala stands in the desert with breathtaking views: camelthorn trees in front of its main area, and mountains and dunes in the distance.
- See ideas for Photography holidays
- The remote, unspoilt wilderness of the Namib Desert is the perfect place for self-reflections and relaxation but to really unwind why not enjoy a treatment or two from the Little Kulala Spa.
- See ideas for Wellbeing
- A comfortable rooftop terrace with a daybed is not only perfect to soak up the sun during the day but also a great option to sleep under the stars. Little Kulala is a smart and luxurious lodge offering delicious dining and a range of fine wines from their own wine cellar.
- See ideas for Luxury
- Attitude towards children
- Well-behaved children over the age of six are welcome.
- Property’s age restrictions
- Little Kulala has a minimum age of six years old for children to stay. Families with children between six and 12 years will need to pre-book and pay for private activities.
- Special activities & services
- None. However, the camp does have a family unit, which is two en-suite bedrooms separated by a deck. A limited number of triple rooms can be made up.
- Generally recommended for children
- While children over six years old are welcome, we feel that Little Kulala has a very adult atmosphere where solitude is encouraged. Thus we think that families with older children are likely to enjoy the camp more, and that those with younger children might be more at home at the exceptionally family- friendly Kulala Desert Lodge.
- Neither the pool at the main area nor the plunge pools are fenced in. Children must be under the supervision of their parents at all times.
Our travellers’ wildlife sightings from Little Kulala
Since mid-2018, many of our travellers who stayed at Little Kulala have kindly recorded their wildlife sightings and shared them with us. The results are below. Click an animal to see more, and here to see more on our methodology.
- Power supply notes
- There are plug points in each chalet for charging camera batteries, phones etc. Hairdryers are supplied.
- There is usually cellphone reception at Little Kulala, but it is often patchy. The camp has guest computers and WiFi, which guests are welcome to use in the upstairs library. However, guests are requested not to use any phones, iPads or computers elsewhere in the main area.
- TV & radio
- There are no radios for TVs for guest to use.
- Water supply
- Water supply notes
- All the chalets have showers and handbasins that are plumbed in, as well as flushing toilets.
Rehabilitation of Kulala Wilderness Reserve
Little Kulala and Wilderness Safaris have played an important role in the creation of Kulala Wilderness Reserve. As the location of Little Kulala had previously been used for subsistence goat farming, wildlife was very scarce. In the mid-90s, when Wilderness Safaris started operating in the local area, a significant program was launched to remove internal fences in order to recover the health of the ecosystem which brought wildlife back. Then, while fences between Kulala Wilderness Reserve (KWR) and the Namib-Naukluft National Park were kept, the ones dividing the KWR and the Namib Rand Nature Reserve were abandoned, thus facilitating migration of wildlife, and expanding biodiversity. A series of plans were also implemented such as anti-poaching, fence patrols, snare sweeps and water provisioning.
Logistics and research activities have been undertaken to assess the rehabilitation of this 37,000-hectare area after years of intensive subsistence farming. Almost 20 years ago, the Small Carnivore Research Project studied bat-eared foxes on the reserve as an indicator species for land rehabilitation, followed by studies on aardwolf, black-backed jackal, Cape fox and African wildcat.
Nowadays, Little Kulala can arrange private tours to the dunes of Sossusvlei to explore the dramatic Kulala Wilderness Reserve. This provided a rewarding opportunity for guests to encounter hidden gems and valuable species such as gemsbok, black-backed jackal, ostrich and springbok. Other activities include nature drives, walking trails, guided quad-biking and scorpion night walks.
See more great sustainability projects in Namibia
Health & safety
- Malarial protection recommended
- Medical care
- The camp management is trained in first aid and a doctor is on call (on the phone) 24 hours. There is currently a small clinic in Sesriem, staffed by a nurse. In a medical emergency, a traveller would be flown during daylight hours to Windhoek.
Quadbike warning: Quadbiking is sometimes available as an activity in this area. As with any potentially dangerous activity, it’s vital that you take responsibility for ensuring that you have adequate travel insurance prior to getting involved. Be aware that some insurances cover quad-bike activities only for bikes with lower engine ratings: check such clauses particularly carefully before you get on a bike.
- Dangerous animals
- Moderate Risk
- Security measures
- Little Kulala is in an isolated location on a private reserve in the desert; there is no additional security here.
- Fire safety
- Each of the chalets has a fire extinguisher and there are fire extinguishers in the main area.
Hot air ballooning
Sleeping under the stars
- Disabled access
- Not Possible
- Laundry facilities
- Laundry is included. If collected in the morning it is usually returned the same day, weather permitting. A small mesh bag is supplied for underwear, which will be washed and returned in the bag. Occasionally laundry services may be limited by the availability of water in this desert environment.
- There are no currency-exchange facilities at Little Kulala. There is a safe in each of the chalets.
- Accepted payment on location
- Mastercard and Visa debit and credit cards are accepted by the camp. Cash payments may be made in Namibian dollars, South African rand, pounds sterling, US dollars and euros.
Other lodges in Namib-Naukluft National Park
Alternative places to stay in this same area.