“A hauntingly beautiful eco-lodge sculpted atop a rocky outcrop with soaring views across the Abu Haub valley”
Mowani's 12 guest tents and 2 suites fan out around the thatched lodge amidst the hilltop's massive boulders and commiphora trees. Each is positioned at a good distance from the next: there's no issue with privacy when you shower or chill out on your deck.
These are the best East African-style tents, hoisted atop a stilted deck with low-slung fly sheets: they provide protection from the heavy winter rains and piercing summer sun whilst their terracotta colour ensures they sit perfectly within the mineral landscapes of Mowani. The same sensitivity to context is mirrored in the tents' furnishing, which is Afro-ethnic without any superfluous details. Each has a kingsize double bed, campaign-style furniture, hanging kuba cloth flanking hide-backed bed walls, simple gourd lampshades and woven reed mats atop decked floors. On arrival you'll find the tents' canvas flaps rolled up above their mozzie-netted window and door openings: we left ours open to the night, the morning sunrise and the breezes that blow in across the Abu Huab valley.
Bathrooms, which double as small dressing rooms, feel just as 'bush' and are perfect in their pristine simplicity: handmade ceramic sinks with brass taps sit atop a zinc surface top, there's a single big mirror, a wrought iron rack for your towels, a simple cotton-sided wardrobe and a rack for your suitcase. You'll find a range of natural bath products in chunky bottles - hand and body lotion, handwash, shampoo and conditioner - as well as mozzie spray and repellent, a safe, and a thermos of chilled water atop the small butler's table to one side of your bed. Out on the deck the twin directors chairs are all you need to gaze at that other-worldly vista of rock, savannah and distant mountain.
If you've got a special event to celebrate you might consider booking a suite, a thatched banda secreted away beneath the lodge. You get an outside tub, private dining area, sat TV and DVD player, your own butler and design-mag-memorable decor. But personally I'd go for one of the tents. Of these, 1-4 have the very best views (out west), 5-7 are also amongst the most elevated with a northeasterly aspect whilst 8-12 look east and are plenty large enough to take an additional single bed. Number 9 is set aside for honeymooners: it has the added luxury of an outside tub-with-a-view in addition to the extra space.
We had some of the best food of our Namibian odyssey at Mowani. A big part of the pleasure in dining in the camp's high-ceilinged, pole and thatch lodge was the interaction with the waiting staff who were attentive, never fawning and seemed to take tangible pleasure in looking after us. And it was a relief not to be subjected to the background music that is becoming such a feature of lodges in southern Africa: who needs it with the sounds of the African veld all around you?
Your Damaraland day gets off to later start than at some lodges: experiencing landscape, rather than early morning game drives, is Mowani's raison-d'être. Breakfast is a big buffet with homemade breads, a selection of fresh fruit salads, a big choice of cereals, yoghurts, cold meats and cheeses as well as the cooked breakfast of your choice.
Lunches tend to be served back at the lodge - the most popular excursion to Twyfelfontein tends to be an afternoon event. They stick to a simple 3-course structure of soup, a main course of fish or white meat with salad, and a homemade desert. You're also treated to tea and homemade cake at 4pm.
But what you'll most remember most will be the dinners magicked up by Mowani's trained team of chefs. These begin with drinks and delicious snacks served at the camp's high, rock-top view point: watching the sunset dipping behind the Brandberg mountains whilst a rainbow fell down to meet the horizon is a sight that will always stay with me. After the generous range of snacks a 3-course dinner felt just right. Ours began with a seafood parcel as starter, then a choice between 2 mains: grilled fillet of oryx served in a merlot sauce or pan-fried fillet of pork with honey and mustard sauce, both served with rice and a choice of seasonal vegetables. A dessert of banoffee pie ended our meal on an indulgent note.
The lodge's small wine list highlights bottles from the Fair View Estate in South Africa. We loved having our waiter talk us through the listings and followed his advice when it came to making our choice. Another nice touch was an appearance by the chef to talk us through that night's menu. All in all it was an evening to remember.
Children of all ages are welcome at Mowani but parents of toddlers should bear in mind that there are a lot of steps and steep access down to some of the tents. Tents 8-12 are all big enough for extra single beds to be added. 0-3 stay free of charge.
Babies (0-1 years), Children (4-12 years)
Extra Beds Available