We are the first to admit that Robb Report’s travel editors have a penchant for high-design safari lodges. And though we often espouse camps that are breaking the classic, white-canvas-tented mold (think marvels like Rwanda’s Bisate Lodge), when it comes to Shipwreck Lodge, we really mean it. Rising out of the rugged sand dunes off of Namibia’s Skeleton Coast, you won’t find any billowing creamy linens, romantic tea light-illuminated decks, or lush, savannah-lined pools at the Natural Selection property. Instead, the jagged wooden structures have been designed to echo the haunting beauty of its surroundings—and its perilous history.
Opened earlier this summer, the 10-room property is perched above the sweeping sandy planes of Skeleton Coast National Park—a stretch of Atlantic coastline that, as the name suggests, is dotted with the bleached skeletons of whales, lions, and seals. There are also manmade skeletons here, as the foggy conditions and rocky shoreline have proven the downfall of dozens of ships. And while this doesn’t automatically to add up to the next must-hit safari destination, these inhospitable conditions are exactly what make this region so enchanting: there are no snap-happy tourists, just rough, untamed nature.
As the only luxury accommodation in the entire 6,300-square-mile concession, Shipwreck Lodge is in a prime position to let you explore what feels like the end of the earth. Though its exteriors, designed using sustainable materials and construction methods by Namibian architect Nina Maritz, are meant to resemble the skeletons of those ruined ships, inside is a plush reprieve from its raw environment. The freestanding solar-powered rooms are all outfitted in warming purples, blues, and greys, and stocked with faux-fur blankets to cuddle up in by the wood burning stove. The main lodge and restaurant is similarly decorated, with original pieces by local artists lining the walls. Meanwhile, the floors feature plenty of cozy seats that beg guests to sit down and settle in for a night of story-swapping with a cocktail in hand. A wraparound deck offers sweeping views of the rolling dunes outside—making for the perfect place to enjoy an al fresco coffee once the morning fog burns off.
In this otherworldly environment, safari staples become entirely new experiences. While on game drives, expect to watch lions stalk cape fur seals down the beach (the Skeleton Coast is home to one of two viable lion populations in Namibia), encounter desert-adapted Angolan giraffes, and Hartmann’s mountain zebra. Adrenaline-pumping 4×4 rides will take you to visit the rusted-out hulls of the Suiderkus and Karimona shipwrecks and to the crumbling clay castles carved out over millennia by the Hoarisib River. And the truly intrepid can try their hand at surfing the famous waves that break off of the coast.
Day trips to the Hoanib River Delta (Natural selection has also just debuted a camp nestled into its towering granite rock formations) offer a break in the stark scenery, as does the trek out to the Mowe seal colony. But with its dramatic, transfixing vistas, we doubt you’ll want to stay away from Shipwreck Lodge for long.