Solitaire is one of Namibia’s most enigmatic destinations and has a unique claim to fame. It’s the home of world-famous Moose’s apple pie. This tiny stop has little more than a diner, church, petrol station and small shop as well as an arrangement of rusted vintage vehicles.
You’ll come across Solitaire about 80km north of Namib-Naukluft’s Sesriem Gate. It is the last petrol stop between Swakopmund and Sossusvlei and is about two and a half hours’ drive from Windhoek.
Originally, Solitaire was just another part of the vast Namib landscape in an area known as Areb. In 1848, Willem Christoff van Coller bought 30 000 ha from the government with the intention to farm karakul sheep there.
His first order of business was to build a tiny 2 room cottage to live in while he built his farm house. He also constructed a dam across the Tsondab river and a stone kraal for his sheep.
His wife, Elsie Sophia van Coller, named the farm Solitaire. It is not known whether the name was inspired by a single diamond setting, or by the solitude of this unique place.
During the late 1840’s van Coller built a little shop, which doubled as a post office for this desolate part of the world.
In 1851, the church was built and, apart from the addition of an organ in 1879, no further development happened in Solitaire until the advent of the petrol engine. At this time, a single hand-operated fuel pump was installed at the town. Both the shop and the church are still in operation.
In 1968, a Mr Maritz bought the farm Solitaire and it has changed hands several times since then and is currently owned by the Solitaire Land Trust.
Thanks to its popularity as a pit stop, there are quite a few accommodation options around Solitaire. Many of these are lodges and guest houses featuring stunning views of the surrounding barren environment.
There are also camp sites for those who prefer to rough-it. Alternatively, you can continue on to Sesriem gate where you will find both luxury and rustic accommodation.
Children love to look at the many rustic cars dotted around Solitaire and find fascination in watching the antics of the squirrels too.
Group bookings and conferences are catered for at Taleni Sossusvlei Lodge near Sesriem.
Sundowner drives from Solitaire offer a chance to see the desert at its best, and stargazing trips into the wild will dazzle you with their brilliance.
The Namib Naukluft National Park with its many attractions is nearby and you can take guided tours from Sesriem gate to explore Sesriem Canyon as well as the attractions that the park has to offer.
Self-drive and walking tours are also popular options within Namib-Naukluft National Park, as well as hot air balloon trips to see the sunrise over the dunes of Sossusvlei.
Some of the top attractions in this area include:
- Big Moose’s Apple Pie
- Sesriem Canyon
- The Dunes of Sossusvlei
- Petrified Dunes
The late 1990s saw the arrival of a Scottish adventurer in Solitaire. His name was Percy Cross McGregor, or ‘Moose’ for short. Apart from being a larger than life character and the self-proclaimed mayor of Solitaire, Moose was an incredible baker.
He set about baking Apfelstrudel, a German apple pie. After a long drive through the hot desert, this pastry proved to be a welcome treat and it soon became a favourite among travellers to the area. It’s not the only attraction here though. The meat pies and other pastries are just as delectable.
Today, tourists flock here to enjoy a bite to eat around the outside tables of Big Moose’s bakery while squirrels and weaver birds scuttle through the surrounding trees.
Fauna and Flora
The Solitaire Land Trust is committed to preserving the fragile gravel plains, grasslands and rivers in the area which extend from the Great African escarpment to the edge of the Namib Desert.
This semi-arid region is the home of Hartmann’s mountain zebra, brown and spotted hyena, springbok, kudu, oryx, cheetah, leopard, aardwolf and, of course, squirrels.
The area is dominated by vast expanses of grassland and dotted with camel-thorn trees and aloes as well as the occasional ilala palm.
Birdlife is rich around Solitaire with a variety of larks, spotted thick-knee, Namaqua sandgrouse, secretary birds, Rosy-faced Lovebirds Cape and Great Sparrows, Cape Starlings, Greater kestrels, ostriches, Rüppell’s Korhaan and Mountain Wheatear being the most common species.
You may also get to see a Lappet-faced Vulture, Ludwig’s Bustard or a spotted eagle-owl if you’re lucky.
Drinking water is a must when you are travelling around Solitaire, as is sun protection, along with comfortable walking shoes, a camera and binoculars.
Solitaire is easy to find along the way from Swakopmund to Sesriem Gate, it’s pretty much the only thing on the way there. Travel for 83 km from Swakopmund along the B2 and then take the C14 through the Namib Naukluft National Park to Solitaire.
From Windhoek, you will travel along the B1 and C24 and turn left at the C14 to reach Solitaire.
There is a well-maintained air strip right outside town, and charter flights also operate from Eros Airport in Windhoek to the surrounding airstrips at Sossusvlei Lodge, Sesriem, Geluk Kuala Lodge or Sossusvlei Moun Airport.
Transfers are available through private companies from Windhoek or any of the above airstrips to your accommodation in Solitaire.
For more information or to book your trip to Sossusvlei in Namibia, pop us a message via our contact us page, and we will gladly assist you.
Please Note: The details shared herein were correct at the time of publishing. However, with time some of this information may change. We recommend confirming information with suppliers prior to making final travel arrangements. If you do happen to find an issue with any information we’ve shared here, please feel free to contact us so that we can make the relevant changes.