DESERT RHINO CAMP – DAMARALAND – NORTH WEST NAMIBIA

In a wide valley sometimes flush with grass, Desert Rhino Camp lies in the enormous Palmwag Concession, where trackers patrol and protect one of Africa’s largest free-ranging populations of Critically Endangered desert-adapted black rhino. Rhino tracking on foot and by vehicle with these dedicated conservationists is a unique and exclusive wilderness experience.

The camp has just 8 canvas Meru style guest tents and main area of the camp overlooks a sweeping plain dotted with Namibia’s national plant – the welwitschia. Enjoy campfire storytelling under Namibia’s star-studded skies and learn more about the beautiful and fragile environment around you.

Desert Rhino Camp is run in conjunction with the local community and Save the Rhino Trust (SRT), so, in addition to guests gaining amazing insight into the ecology and conservation of this area, a portion of their revenue goes to the Trust and its conservation operations. Other activities include exploring the area on full day outings with a picnic lunch, game drives, guided nature walks, birding and stargazing.

LOCATION

Desert Rhino Camp is set in the Palmwag Concession in Damaraland in north west Namibia.

Access is either by road transfer, self-drive or light aircraft flight to Desert Rhino Airstrip which is around 10 minutes’ drive from camp.

CAMP

Desert Rhino Camp has just 8 canvas Meru style tents on raised decking and sandy and rocky pathways on the ground link the tents to the main area.

The tents have comfortable beds with mosquito netting, and ensuite facilities with an indoor shower, double vanity basin and separate toilet. Bath robes, liquid soap, body wash, shampoo and conditioner, body lotion, room spray, insect repellents, washing powder (for smalls), sewing kit, shower caps, cotton-tip swabs, cotton balls, tissues dispensers, umbrella and laundry basket are supplied in each tent.

The tents have an indoor lounge area and are furnished with a writing desk and chair, an easy chair, luggage rack, electronic safe, tea and coffee making facilities and during winter months hot water bottles and extra blankets are provided. The tents are not air conditioned – however a pedestal fan is provided. Outside the tent is a private viewing deck with shaded outdoor lounge area.

Electricity is provided using a combination of solar and generator power 220V multi-plug adaptor charging facilities for mobile devices and there is complementary intent WIFI. Additional charging facilities are available for the use of sleep apnoea machines

The main area has a canvas tented lounge with dining and bar areas raised on a wooden deck which overlook a floodlit waterhole. Canvas blinds roll up and down to allow a breeze through the camp. The lounge has a reading area with a selection of reference books and curio cupboard and during winter months a gas heater is stationed in the main area and chenile blankets are provided during dinner.

The camp has a swimming pool with partially shaded deck and loungers and a campfire for pre-dinner drinks and a spot of stargazing.

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ACTIVITIES AND WILDLIFE

The Palmwag Concession is a conservancy in Damaraland in the Kaokoveld (Kunene) region of north-west Namibia. Considering the proximity of the concession to the Skeleton Coast National Park and true Namib Desert, this area is home to a rich diversity of wildlife.

Early morning fog, which is generated by the icy Benguela Current in the Atlantic Ocean meeting the warm desert air of the Skeleton Coast, drifts inland over the Namib Desert, and is a reliable source of water for the flora and fauna in this incredibly harsh environment.

The Etendeka Mountains dominate the scenery: impressive flat-topped outcrops coloured ochre-brown. Dry river-courses like the Uniab River cut through the landscape and occasionally fill with water. The terrain is rocky but often covered with fine golden grasses and interspersed with large Euphorbia damarana bushes, which are endemic to the area. Other fascinating plants in the Palmwag Concession include the odd-shaped bottle tree, shepherd’s tree, ancient leadwoods, salvadora bushes and the unique welwitschia, a bizarre plant with two large leaves that grow along the ground over hundreds of years.

Palmwag Concession’s freshwater springs support healthy populations of arid-adapted wildlife. Good numbers of Hartmann’s mountain zebra, southern giraffe, gemsbok (oryx), springbok, kudu, dwarf antelope (such as steenbok and klipspringer), scrub hare, comical meerkats (suricates), inquisitive ground squirrels, black-backed jackal and small spotted genet can be seen. This concession is also rich in reptiles including Kaokoveld sand lizard, Ovambo tree skink and Anchieta’s agama.

A major drawcard for the region is the presence of the largest free-roaming population of desert-adapted black rhino in Africa, as well as a healthy number of desert-adapted elephant. The Palmwag Concession also holds the core of the rarely-seen desert-adapted lion population of north-west Namibia. Cheetah and leopard are sometimes sighted roaming through this vast, unspoilt area.

Birding enthusiasts will enjoy the diverse avifauna found in the Palmwag Concession. Raptors include greater kestrel, lanner falcon and booted eagles, spotted in the sky or perching on a lonely shepherd’s tree. Out on drives it is possible to see Namaqua sandgrouse, Burchell’s courser, the colourful bokmakierie, grey-backed sparrowlark, Monteiro’s hornbill and white-backed mousebird.

Other regular endemics include Rüppell’s korhaan, Benguela long-billed lark and possibly Herero chat with some focused searching. Verreauxs’ eagle is often sighted around rocky hillsides.

Tracking on foot and by vehicle – we typically set out in the morning on game drive vehicles, behind the Save the Rhino trackers, who keep records on where and when previous rhino were seen. This enables them to track the rhino, although due to the vast terrain we sometimes drive long distances to view them. Once we have located an animal, tracking by foot can take place depending on the position or location of the rhino.

Game Drives – game drives showcase the magnitude of the landscape and offer the best possibilities of seeing desert-adapted wildlife including rhino, elephant, giraffe, antelope, zebra and maybe even the area’s predators.

Guided nature walks – learn more about the smaller flora and fauna that live in this incredibly harsh environment. Adaptation to the desert environment is the miracle of all that survives here.

Full day outings with picnic lunch – travel amongst rolling, rocky hills with scattered euphorbia, ancient welwitschia plants, scrubby vegetation and isolated clumps of trees through the 450 000-hectare Palmwag Concession and search out the fascinating desert-adapted wildlife of the region.

Birding – birding enthusiasts are sure to enjoy the diverse avifauna found in the Palmwag Concession. Key species to look out for include Rüppell’s korhaan, Benguela long-billed lark and possibly Herero chat with some focused searching. Verreauxs’ eagle is often sighted around rocky hillsides.

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GIVING BACK

In the Palmwag Concession, Wilderness Safaris works closely with Save the Rhino Trust Namibia (SRTN), a highly-respected NGO almost single-handedly responsible for the preservation of Critically Endangered desert-adapted black rhino in the area. SRTN focuses on the protection, monitoring and understanding of the local black rhino population and is funded through donations and partnerships. Thanks to its work, rhino population numbers have quintupled over the past 30 years. The challenge they now face is increased poaching in the sub-region.

In what is known as a public-private-community partnership, Wilderness Safaris has partnered with the three communities that administer the Palmwag Concession, where a percentage of turnover from Desert Rhino Camp, as well as a minimum annual fee, is paid to the conservancies. The conservancies involved, known as the Big Three, are Torra, Anabeb and Sesfontein.

This camp is powered by a hybrid system, combining a diesel-powered generator that charges a bank of batteries, which in turn supplies part of the camp with electricity through an inverter. Thanks to this, the generator only needs to operate for eight hours a day. In addition, each guest tent has its own small solar panel and inverter as well as a solar-powered geyser to provide hot water.

Every effort to conserve water has been made by using water-efficient devices in the camp for both guests and staff. Energy-efficient lights and appliances are used so as to reduce our power expenditure. In order to reduce our use of bottled water, reverse osmosis filtration is done on site to provide guests with high-quality drinking water. Like all Wilderness camps, Desert Rhino Camp is managed and monitored against very strict in-house environmental standards, so only approved eco-friendly detergents and chemicals are used.

DESERT RHINO CAMP IS OPEN ALL YEAR ROUND

THE CAMP WELCOMES FAMILIES WITH CHILDREN AGED 6 YEARS AND OLDER

FAMILIES WITH CHILDREN 6 – 12 YEARS ARE REQUIRED TO BOOK AND PAY FOR PRIVATE ACTIVITIES

THE MINIMUM AGE FOR WALKING ACTIVITIES IS 13 YEARS AND 16 YEARS FOR RHINO APPROACHING ON FOOT (12 – 16 UNDER CERTAIN CIRCUMSTANCES – PLEASE ASK)

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