In a long-ranging roundup – in this month’s Conde Nast Traveller – of some of Namibia’s finest new properties, Stanley Stewart’s Catch-a-fire makes much space for the art of the tracker and what it brings out in the traveller. Anyone, he says, ‘can sip sundowners and peer at zebra through binoculars. Put in a couple of hours tracking, however, poking the poop, checking the scent marks, scanning the dry river bed, and you are no longer a spectator. You are a participant.’
I love this. Blown away by Namibia, by its very ancientness, its emptiness, its ‘geographical theatre’, its cathedral-high dunes, its ‘mineral streaked mountains’, its savannahs, and by ‘one of the bleakest and loneliest shorelines in existence’, the last thing Stewart wants is to be closeted in a lodge or camp, however luxurious that lodge or camp made be. Rather, for Stewart, it is the access the accommodations provide that matter. ‘The land,’ he says, is pure melodrama: fairy circles no one can explain, rivers that never reach the sea.’
Which is not to say Stewart doesn’t enjoy fine beds, meals and all the trimmings that come with the stays. On the contrary, he’s big fan of super-remote Hoanib Valley Camp, of sea-and-dune hemmed-in Shipwreck Lodge, of back-to-basics Huab Under Canvas, of sister property Sossus Under Canvas, of ‘freshly refurbished’ Boulders Safari Camp, and especially of Omaanda, ‘one of the most incredible stays in Africa – as individual and confounding as the landscape.’
However, all of this is the mighty pleasant facilitator of an experience that takes Stewart into the world of the tracker, of what it is to thrive on land that looks and feels virtually inhospitable. Here, in the right hands (so to speak), that aforementioned poop is a treasure trove of information. Here, the desert is a living pharmacy, capable of making provision for treating everything from tuberculosis to open wounds to loss of libido. And here, as Stewart might say, the spectator is now something else, as is the notion of safari. It’s a special experience.
Journeys by Design organised Stanley Stewart’s trip to Namibia. If you would like to learn more, or go yourself, please do get in contact.