Zannier Hotels Omaanda Rhino Rangers safari: Bush patrol
Celebrated Zannier Hotels Omaanda, a five-star luxury lodge set within Namibia’s sprawling Zannier Reserve, tops our post-pandemic bucket list with its pioneering Rhino Rangers safari programme.
Namibia – among the world’s most sparsely populated countries, the ‘land of many faces’ (yes, we’re aware of the irony) is perhaps Africa’s last real retreat for intrepid travellers. But as much as we love the idea of getting away from hordes of tourists, we’re even more enthralled by the prospect of getting closer to the territory’s majestic wildlife. To do just that, and to help us stick to our resolution to travel better post-pandemic, Zannier Hotels Omaanda have just the treat up their experiential sleeves.
At first glance, the hotel’s Rhino Rangers programme sounds like an adventure, and an unforgettable one at that: guests are invited to volunteer on a one- or two-week basis, learning all about how to survive and thrive in the bush; from studying navigation skills and wildlife tracking methods to identifying nocturnal animal sounds under the savannah’s starry skies. Though upon taking a closer look, the experience goes far beyond your average safari. Travellers effectively get to support the 9000-hectare reserve’s anti-poaching efforts by patrolling, building observation points and more, a move we hope will help to herald a new age of wildlife tourism across the region.
It’s something we’ve been anticipating for quite some time (in fact, our 2021 trends report showed transformative travel and adventures are gaining steam among OutThere travellers). While we’re avid safari-goers, we’re not the type that likes to be chaperoned across the plains of heavily-touristed national parks, traipsing from one waterhole to the next, a selfie stick in one hand and a glass of bubbly in the other (we’ll save the latter for a poolside siesta back at the lodge!). Instead, we believe safaris should be immersive, educational and, crucially, beneficial to local wildlife. When done right, they’re the single most effective strategy against poaching, and much to our sorrow, a global slump in travel throughout the past year has led to a drastic rise in the practise across Namibia and its neighbouring nations.
The Omaanda is perhaps the perfect hotel to combat the trend, for in many ways, the Zannier property understands itself as a conservation project first and foremost. It’s managed by a local NGO, the Naankuse Foundation (also: N/a’an ku sê), itself backed by none other than Angelina Jolie, who has opened the Shiloh Wildlife Sanctuary with Naankuse in 2017. But beyond star power, Zannier Reserve and its 12-rangers strong anti-poaching unit can demonstrate a solid track record of preservation, including the impressive feat of having thwarted three severe attempts at poaching in 2020, a year that put a hold to many similar conservation efforts globally.
If, like us, you’re eager to elope on an extended trip when travel fully resumes, with the premise to learn, contribute and be inspired by the natural world, a stay at Nambia’s leading five-star getaway (and, might we suggest, a successive trip to its awe-inspiring sister property, the tented suite lodge Zannier Hotels Sonop) should be high up on your list. And if you’re lucky, your visit might just coincide with a once-in-a-lifetime experience: just last year, the reserve celebrated reintroducing a near-threatened baby white rhino into the wild. The team gave it a name heavy with symbolism: Hope.