Hip hotel group Habitas made waves when it opened its first permanent property in Mexico’s luxe-hippie beach town of Tulum back in 2017, having previously run pop-up retreats in off-grid locations focusing on wellness, food and music. Soon a raft of hotels was announced in fabulous settings, from San Miguel de Allende to Bhutan, and the first arrival is the group’s take on a safari camp. Habitas Namibia is the latest high-profile hotel to land in the Sub-Saharan country (following the likes of Shipwreck Lodge and Omaanda), which continues to thrill visitors with its otherworldly landscapes and sense of space. Here, we take a look inside the game-changing lodge.
Habitas Namibia is set on 50,000 hectares of private land previously used as a hunting estate but now being rehabilitated as a wildlife reserve. While you won’t find many predators here, there are plenty of elephant, giraffe, antelope and birds to spot and the numbers keep growing with ongoing conservation efforts. Despite the diverse wildlife and fantasic position among seemingly endless plains, don’t expect an unpleasantly long, bumpy drive to the lodge, as it is conveniently situated only 45 minutes from Windhoek airport (the country’s main flight hub).
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The lodge aims to flip the script on the classic safari experience by offering a host of unexpected activities. In addition to game drives and nature walks led by local San Bushmen, guests can enjoy live local music and dance gatherings, cooking and medicinal plant workshops, plus daily yoga and meditation sessions.
Other ways to pass the time will include outdoor cinema screenings of educational films and documentaries, plus lectures on conservation efforts. This experience-led approach aims to connect guests to their surroundings and each other, so it’s probably not one for those who shudder at the word ‘communal’.
Dining looks set to be an upgrade on the usual too, with a restaurant helmed by two-time Namibian chef-of-the-year David Thomas, serving regionally inspired and locally sourced, organic dishes. Committed to being rooted in the community, Habitas has partnered with non-profit Saira Hospitality to source, train and hire local staff.
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While the emphasis may be on experiences, design is no afterthought. The large lobby forms the heart of the hotel and comprises various nooks to relax and lounge in, a library and the restaurant. Outside, you’ll find a fire pit, the outdoor cinema and a natural-look pool that appears to be built into the rocks.
The 15 standalone rooms sit along the ridge of a hillside. Largely constructed from stretch tent material and mesh, they have been designed to have a minimal impact on the surrounding environment. Although pared-back in style and decorated in earthy tones, they don’t scrimp on comfort with king-sized beds, rain showers, wraparound decks and private fire pits. Looking for something a little more sturdy? A previously existing (but totally redecorated) private villa on the property sleeping 10 is available for groups to hire exclusively.
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Habitas is tapping into the trend of re-imagined luxury, where quiet quality is valued over classic five-star trappings and diverse experiences seen as paramount. It remains to be seen whether this disruptor will have a long-lasting impact on the safari world.
Rates at Habitas Namibia from $600 (£547) per person, per night, including all meals, beer and wine, up to two daily safari drives, and all daily programming.