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The story of private conservation in Namibia is a successful one. The national parks make up only some of all the protected areas in the country. Community conservancies make up a huge percentage of total land under protection, while private parks contribute in a big way too.

Superb desert scenery in Gondwana Park
Superb desert scenery in Gondwana Park.

In total, more than 40% of Namibia’s land is under conservation of some sort, one of the highest figures in the world. By contrast, South Africa is only at 10%.

Started in 1995, Gondwana Canyon Park in the south, adjacent to Ai-Ais National Park, is one of the more established private parks in the country and, at almost 1 300 square kilometres, one of the largest. It is in one of the hottest and driest parts of the country and doesn’t have huge numbers of animals. But as part of the transition zone between the hugely diverse Succulent Karoo and Nama Karoo biomes, it is a very important contributor to conservation in the region. Desert-adapted species like Hartmann’s mountain zebra and gemsbok can be easily seen, while of course there are several superb specimens of “kokerbome”, or quiver trees.

Anold car with a spectacular quiver tree.
An old car with a spectacular quiver tree.

I think what makes this private park particularly special though is the accommodation options, and the fact that you can experience the desert scenery without having to “rough” it too much. I acknowledge that most of the time I prefer the simple, basic wilderness experience, but after a few weeks of camping, even I miss a hot shower and a good plate of salad.

Gondwana offers several places to stay, but the best is Canyon Lodge, set among granite boulders in the middle of the vast plain east of Fish River Canyon. There are numerous thatched chalets spread in and among the boulders, a unique setting and a very clever way of maintaining a sense of nature.

The chalets at Gondwana Lodge are set among granite pluton boulders... very impressive setting.
The chalets at Gondwana Lodge are set among granite pluton boulders… very impressive setting.

Canyon Lodge itself is only 21 kms from the Fish River Canyon – or about half an hour drive. This makes Gondwana an excellent alternative to the Hobas campsite at Ai-Ais National Park which, although is closer to the canyon, doesn’t have the same facilities or services as it is a national park camp and is meant to be more spartan.

I only stayed two nights here but Gondwana Park is so big that you need more time, and of course, it borders Ai-Ais National Park, so you could easily spend a week in the area.

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Scott Ramsay

Photojournalist Scott Ramsay focuses on exploring the national parks, nature reserves and community conservancies in Southern Africa, taking photographs and interviewing the experts who work in these protected areas. Through his work, he hopes to inspire others to travel to the continent's wild places, which Scott believes are Africa's greatest long term assets. For more, go to or Partners include Ford Ranger, Goodyear, Cape Union Mart, K-Way, EeziAwn, Frontrunner, Hetzner and Globecomm.