Welcome Desert Grace – jewel of the desert
Gondwana’s newest lodge adds a gentle touch of rose quartz, delicious luxury and a sparkle to the Namib Desert…
It was an auspicious day when I travelled south for the opening of The Desert Grace on 1 November. A recent and unexpected rain shower had left a frosting of green on the land. New grass shoots eagerly poked heads up from the soil, flowers adorned hardy driedoring bushes and the afternoon light shone on a carpet of small white blooms, which covered the ground in delicate beauty, like ice crystals in the desert.
The access road led me to the magnificent swathe of land between Sossusvlei and Solitaire, and the newly built Desert Grace lodge, positioned elegantly and robustly between a belt of apricot dunes and, in the distance, the grand Namib Naukluft mountains. Above, a vast clear sky spoke of freedom, dreams realised and space.
Stepping inside the Desert Grace, I was happy to discover that the lodge reflected the serendipitous delight of the rain–washed desert and the pastel colours of a desert sunset. Dusky pinks and soft luxuriant touches grace the interior with stylish flourishes and artistic finishes. The Grace generously shares the ancient wisdom of the Namib that it keeps (so secretly) to itself – that a wealth of fragile loveliness can be found in its seemingly tough exterior. Shhh…
Wide smiles and warm greetings, raspberry crushed ice and a cool, moist facecloth welcomed me in the reception area, where a ceiling fan sent a refreshing breeze through the room, music tinkled and pink ostrich feather lampshades complemented the gemsbok horns, ceramic and brass ornaments and marble surfaces.
I had made it in time to enjoy the afternoon radiance, when sunlight plays joyfully indoors, before finding my desert home. Well-balanced, the lodge has twelve rooms positioned to the south and twelve to the north, facing the dune landscape. At its heart is a sculptural feature of synergy – a round pool of water with a fire pit in its core, crowned by arches of wood – representing the four elements of water, fire, earth and air. It is flanked by the large airy restaurant on one side and the lounge and bar on the other, where pink pouffes and comfortable sofas elegantly rest on zebra skin mats. Pink neon lights up the wall of the ‘One night in Namibia’ bar, the place to spend that special night in the Namib. It didn’t take much to get into the relaxed spirit of the place amid the chunks of rose quartz, woven baskets and gemsbok–horn light fittings assembled in an innovative version of desert chic. I ordered a pink gin and made my way to my palace of a room, with its glassed doors leading to a veranda with an outdoor shower, plunge pool and spectacular view of the burnished dunes. And there I stopped and sank into a comfy chair.
The sun slinked behind the dunes, barking geckoes called for their mates across the desert expanse and the constellation of Scorpio followed the sun like a faithful dog, setting behind the dunes. Eventually, when the indigo–blue night sky had spread its cloak over the land, I made my way to the restaurant where the avant-garde and scrumptious cuisine kept to the high standard of this diamond in the desert.
Satiated with a belly of good food and peace, it was time for fun – yessirreee – beginning with a scorpion walk with guide Albert Muyoba. The environmental officer, Quintin Hartung, came along, and as we located the thick-tailed venomous Parabuthus scorpions lit up by our ultraviolet lights, he explained how the Gondwana team had been mindful of keeping a small footprint when designing the lodge. Built out of sandbags filled with desert sand, and sporting arrays of solar panels – doubling as car ports – and a water recycling plant, Desert Grace adheres to sound environmental practices.
We watched the scorpions scurrying over the sand, then paused to gaze up at the stars and listen to the sacred silence of the desert. It strummed its deep and profound rhythm of life that reverberated through the night.
Eventually dreamtime called and back in my spacious room, I closed my eyes to the muted booming of an ostrich, sighed contentedly and thought of the promise the next day held. In the morning, birds twittered, Namaqua sandgrouse called merrily on their way to the waterhole and the land lit up with shades of apricot, yellow and green. After a leisurely lie in before breakfast, I thought about my options for the day. I could drive the 60km to Sesriem, gateway to the famed Sossusvlei dunes, take an e-bike on a desert trail, choose a hike through the surroundings or enjoy just being in the here and now. I decided to stay put in the moment, it was too good to leave! I took out a book, submerged in my small private pool and absorbed the beauty of the desert.
In the late afternoon, I joined a nature drive to revel in the golden time of day. Large sociable weaver nests adorned camelthorn trees, gemsbok dotted the dunes, springbok nibbled on the new grass and ostriches raced us over the desert. We careened through the sand sea and stopped on the crest of a dune for sundowners. Albert set out a table with a pink tablecloth and an assortment of snacks, and opened a well-stocked coolbox. We all opted for, take a guess, pink gin! It seemed perfectly apt here at the Grace. We toasted Life, surrounded by the unusual medley of colours and shapes. Only the lodge was visible far below, the dunes with long-stemmed bushman grass around us and the view of the purple mountains. It was a scene that we had entirely to ourselves. Away from the city, it was a privilege that we were all well aware of. And we acknowledged our good luck.
The grass blew, the stars lit up the sky and we chatted until supper called us back to the jewel in the desert that celebrates the softness of the desert – with so much grace and style.