Travel Namibia Autumn 2024

Page 1

Namibia’s fascinating world of SCORPIONS

The wet and wild Zambezi

for the curious ROADTRIPPIN’ NatureNamibia defines namibia travel Autumn 2024 | Vol 32 No 4

By putting nature first at Ongava, we set the scene for a renewed understanding and appreciation of the importance of wildlife conservation.

is published by Venture Media in Windhoek, Namibia

Tel: +264 81 285 7450, 5 Conradie Street, Windhoek PO Box 21593, Windhoek, Namibia

EDITOR Elzanne McCulloch

CONTENT MANAGER Le Roux van Schalkwyk





Le Roux van Schalkwyk, Elzanne McCulloch, Charene Labuschagne, Kirsty Watermeyer, Pompie Burger, Ron Swilling, Dirk Heinrich, Iga Motylska, Linda de Jager, Ocean Conservation Namibia


Le Roux van Schalkwyk, Elzanne McCulloch, Kirsty Watermeyer, Pompie Burger, Katja Wittneben, Jana Kiesewetter, Karin Retief, Dirk Heinrich, Iga Motylska, Tertius Jordaan, Ocean Conservation Namibia, Ondili Lodges

Travel Namibia is published quarterly, distributed worldwide via Zinio digital newsstand and in physical format in southern Africa. The editorial content of TN is contributed by the Venture Media team, freelance writers and journalists. It is the sole property of the publisher and no part of the magazine may be reproduced without written permission from the publisher.

All information and travel details are correct at the time of going to press. Due to uncertain circumstances, this may have changed after the date of publication. Please check businesses' individual websites for up-to-date details.


partners: PADSTALS for the curious ROADTRIPPIN’ NatureNamibia defines namibia travel Autumn 2024 Vol 32 No 4 N$45.00 incl. VAT Namibia’s fascinating world of SCORPIONS The wet and wild Zambezi Autumn 2024 To advertise in Travel Namibia or any of our other publications, contact Elzanne McCulloch +264 81 367 3583 | | ADVERTISE WITH US Take me home! Your free copy In Tribute to His Excellency Hage G. Geingob August 1941 February 2024 PADSTALS for the curious ROADTRIPPIN’ NatureNamibia defines namibia travel Autumn 2024 Vol 32 No 4 N$45.00 incl. VAT Namibia’s fascinating world of SCORPIONS The wet and wild Zambezi THE WORLD’S LARGEST DIGITAL NEWSSTAND Subscribe on 1 TRAVEL NAMIBIA AUTUMN 2024

Venture Media is the pioneer of Namibia tourism promotion. We are the leader in spreading the tourism word around the world. We distribute accurate, credible, up to date and regular tourism-related information on paper, in social media, on the World Wide Web, and on mobile apps. We have reached hundreds of thousands over three decades. Be part of our community and let’s do it together.

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We focus on telling and sharing STORIES THAT MATTER across our various magazines and digital platforms. Join the journey and share your stories with audiences that understand and value why certain things matter.


Why ethical business, conservation, tourism, people and communities matter. How these elements interrelate and how we can bring about change, contribute to the world and support each other. Whether for an entire nation, an industry, a community, or even just an individual.

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PADSTALS for the curious ROADTRIPPIN’ NatureNamibia defines namibia travel Namibia’s fascinating world of SCORPIONS ZAMBIA 3 TRAVEL NAMIBIA AUTUMN 2024



824,268 km²

21 March 1990 INDEPENDENCE:


Multiparty parliament Democratic constitution Division of power between executive, legislature and judiciary

Secular state

freedom of religion



Freedom of



Mining, Manufacturing, Fishing and Agriculture 46%



FASTEST-GROWING SECTOR: Information Communication Industry



NATURE RESERVES: of surface area



Spitzkoppe, Moltkeblick, Gamsberg

PERENNIAL RIVERS: Orange, Kunene, Okavango, Zambezi and Kwando/Linyanti/Chobe


Numerous, including Fish, Kuiseb, Swakop and Ugab


vegetation zones

400 680

ENDEMIC plant species


species of trees

species of lichen

LIVING FOSSIL PLANT: Welwitschia mirabilis Diamonds, uranium, copper, lead, zinc, magnesium, cadmium, arsenic, pyrites, silver, gold, lithium minerals, dimension stones (granite, marble, blue sodalite) and many semiprecious stones



The Namibia Dollar (N$) is fixed to and

Foreign currency, international Visa, MasterCard, American Express and Diners Club credit cards are accepted.


All goods and services are


Elephant, lion, rhino, buffalo, cheetah, leopard, giraffe

20 antelope species

250 mammal species (14 endemic)


Total road network length of 48 537.7 km


Walvis Bay, Lüderitz

46 airstrips


Kutako International Airport, Eros Airport


2,382 km narrow gauge


6.2 telephone lines per 100 inhabitants


Direct-dialling facilities to 221 countries

GSM agreements with 150 countries / 80 networks

0.4182 medical doctor per 1,000 people privately run hospitals in Windhoek with intensive-care units


Medical practitioners (world standard)

24-hour medical emergency services

256 699

reptile species


frog species 15%

ENQUIRIES: Ministry of Finance

Tel (+264 61) 23 0773 in Windhoek


Public transport is NOT available to all tourist destinations in Namibia.

There are bus services from Windhoek to Swakopmund as well as Cape Town/Johannesburg/Vic Falls. Namibia’s main railway line runs from the South African border, connecting Windhoek to Swakopmund in the west and Tsumeb in the north.


bird species

ENDEMIC BIRDS including Herero Chat, Rockrunner, Damara Tern, Monteiro’s Hornbill and Dune Lark

2.6 million DENSITY: 3 per km²

461 000 inhabitants in Windhoek (15% of total)



14 regions

13 ethnic cultures





16 languages and dialects





over 1,900 schools, various vocational and tertiary institutions


More than 50 countries have Namibian consular or embassy representation in Windhoek.

the press/media
8400km bitumen standard | 330km salt roads 26024km gravel | 13774km earth
priced to include value-added tax of 15%. Visitors may
on par
The South
legal tender.
SA Rand.
African Rand
tap water is purified and safe to drink. Visitors should exercise caution in rural areas.
+ 2 hours
volts AC, 50hz, with outlets for round three-pin type plugs
is an extensive network of international and regional flights from Windhoek and domestic charters to all destinations.

A new chapter in our journey to discovery

As summer slowly dwindles, the scent of rain still mingles with the earthy aroma of the garden outside my office window in Windhoek. I love the smell. It recalls childhood memories and evokes a sense of renewal and anticipation. Within the walls of the Venture Media office, amidst the hum of creativity and the rustle of pages turning, we find ourselves at a momentous juncture. For 30 years, Travel News Namibia has been the compass by which adventurers and dreamers alike have navigated the breathtaking landscapes, vibrant cultures and untold stories of Namibia. Today, with a heart full of gratitude and eyes set firmly on the horizon, we are excited to embark on a new chapter: the evolution of Travel News Namibia into Travel Namibia ®

This transformation is not merely a change of name but a rekindling of our founding spirit – a recommitment to the essence of Namibia and the endless stories that weave its fabric. Travel Namibia is a true reflection of our journey, a testament to the paths we have travelled, and a beacon for the roads yet to be discovered. It embodies our mission to ignite the spirit of exploration, to celebrate the beauty of Namibia and to foster a community of travellers conscious of their footprint.

As the world spins ever faster and the way we connect with it and each other transforms, Travel Namibia stands as a testament to adaptability, relevance and the timeless allure of discovery. Our rebranding symbolises a deeper understanding of our readers’ evolving needs, the shifting landscapes of travel and the unchanging beauty of Namibia that calls to be explored.

In the pages of Travel Namibia , we will continue to venture into the heart of the wilderness, wander through bustling marketplaces and soar above the majestic landscapes that make Namibia a haven for those who seek to journey beyond the ordinary. From the whispers of the Namib Desert to the chorus of the Caprivi, our stories will invite you to immerse yourself in the unparalleled beauty of our country.

In the Autumn 2024 issue we venture down south to the ever-wondrous Namib as Kirsty delves into the epitome of what “conscious tourism” and “slow travel” entails. Le Roux explores the wild Zambezi with all its wonders and Charene reminds us of the necessities of road-tripping. As with all our previous issues, we truly travel Namibia and we take you along the journey, hoping to inspire future adventures of your own.

Travel Namibia is not just a new name; it is a promise – a promise to bring you closer to the soul of Namibia, to inspire journeys that tread lightly and respect deeply, and to celebrate the spirit of adventure that resides in us all. We are honoured to carry forward the legacy of storytelling that has been the hallmark of our publication for the past three decades.

With love from Namibia,

ON THE COVER PADSTALS for the curious ROADTRIPPIN’ NatureNamibia defines namibia travel Autumn 2024 Vol 32 No 4 N$45.00 incl. VAT VOLUME 32 No 4 AUTUMN 20 Namibia’s fascinating world of SCORPIONS The wet and wild Zambezi With stretched-out roads and wide open spaces, be sure to stop regularly to take in the splendour of Namibia's landscapes. Image: Le Roux van Schalkwyk FOLLOW US ON INSTAGRAM @thisis_namibia


In this issue


Going against what is recommended


Transforming a community with a desert-based economy


Exploring fascinating creatures in nature


NAMIBIA | Five ways to connect with nature in Namibia


We’ve been creating unrivalled journeys through Africa’s most iconic wild destinations since 1983, and today we operate seven camps in Namibia’s most sought-after wild places.

Marvel at desert-adapted elephant and lion, the last free-roaming black rhino, the rare brown hyena, huge colonies of Cape fur seals, and miles and miles of unexplored and majestic, untouched land.

Seit 1983 bieten wir unvergleichliche Reisen in den herausragendsten Wildnisgebieten Afrikas an. Heute betreiben wir sieben Camps in den begehrtesten unberührten Gegenden Namibias.

Bestaunen Sie die besonderen der Wüste angepassten Elefanten und Löwen, die letzten frei lebenden Spitzmaulnashörner, die seltenen braunen Hyänen, riesige Kolonien von Kap-Pelzrobben und kilometerweites unerforschtes und unberührtes Land.

And with our complete tailor-made DMC services, powerful booking tools, a vast library of associated product, our own airstrips and airline, and a private 24-hour emergency service, we create safe and seamless journeys across, and between, each of these destinations.

Und mit unseren maßgeschneiderten DMC*Leistungen vor Ort, leistungsstarken Buchungstools, einem umfangreichen Portfolio an Partner-Produkten, unserer eigenen Airline und Flugplätzen sowie einem 24-Stunden-Notfallservice schaffen wir sichere und nahtlose Reisen durch und zwischen all diesen Zielgebieten.

Erlebnisse, die Ihre schönsten Träume übertreffen.

Discover Earth’s Ultimate Untamed Places Erleben Sie Namibia hautnah.
Earth’s Ultimate Untamed Places
Discover Namibia’s beating heart.
NAMIBIA DISCOVER 1. Popa Falls Resort 2. Onkoshi Resort 3. Namutoni Resort 4. Halali Resort 5. Okaukuejo Resort 6. Olifantsrus Camp 7. Dolomite Resort 8. Terrace Bay 9. Torra Bay 10. Khorixas Camp 11. Waterberg Resort 12. Gross-Barmen Resort 13. Mile 4 Campsite 14. Sun Karros Daan Viljoen 15. Sossus Dune Lodge 16. Sesriem Campsite 17. Naukluft Camp 18. Hardap Resort 19. Duwisib Castle 20. Shark Island Resort 21. Fish River Canyon & Hobas Camp 22. /Ai-/Ais Hotsprings Spa 23. Mile 72 24. Mile 108 25. Jakkalsputz 2 7 5 3 4 6 1 14 12 8 9 10 11 18 16 15 17 13 2423 25 20 22 19 21 +264 61 285 7200 / +264 64 402 172

Also in this issue

10 BUSH TELEGRAPH News from the tourism industry

18 FROM AFRICA WITH LOVE Handmade, wild-harvested from rich Namibian botanicals & environmentally-sound

22 ROAD TRIP RULES the scenic and spectacular during the journey

28 NAMIBGRENS A sanctuary for the soul

32 BIRDING WITH POMPIE Practice makes Perfect

52 THE ODYSSEY discovering special stops alongside the road

57 EDUCATION AND COMMUNITY WELL-BEING Local agricultural initiative


68 DESERT BLISS Ondili Namib Outpost

70 DWARF LIONS Chameleons of the desert

76 LOVE STORY GONE WRONG Diederick Cuckoo

52 12 70 46


News from the tourism industry


On 2 February, the Ministry of Environment, Forestry and Tourism (MEFT) announced the inclusion of the Bushmanland Pans as a Ramsar site. This means the Bushmanland Pans, which include the Nyae Nyae Pan, are now officially Namibia’s sixth Ramsar site. A Ramsar site is deemed a wetland of international importance under the Ramsar Convention, an international treaty which was established with the support of UNESCO on 2 February 1971 in Ramsar, Iran. This treaty aims to promote the conservation and wise use of wetlands through national actions and international collaboration.

Before the announcement, Namibia was already home to five internationally recognised wetlands, or Ramsar sites, with three on the coast (Walvis Bay Lagoon, Sandwich Harbour and the Orange River Estuary), and two inland sites (Etosha Pan and the BwabwataOkavango Wetland). Wetlands are crucial for biodiversity, supporting a wide array of flora and fauna, and play a significant role in climate regulation.

The MEFT underscored the mutual benefits shared by humans and wetlands, emphasising the importance of conserving and restoring these ecosystems for our wellbeing. An event to celebrate this achievement is scheduled for March – coinciding with World Water Day – to highlight the country’s ongoing commitment to wetland conservation.

Le Roux van Schalkwyk


Representing Silver Spoon Hospitality Academy, Namibian chef Benita Ishekwa secured two prestigious awards at the 10th Young Chef Olympiad in Kolkata, India, on 4 February. She received accolades for Best Hygiene and Kitchen Practices as well as the Rising Star Award, demonstrating her aptitude for future success. Benita’s triumph in the face of tough global competition not only enhances Namibia’s culinary standing but also showcases the quality of education provided by Silver Spoon Hospitality Academy. Her success serves as inspiration for aspiring chefs and underscores Namibia’s rising prominence in the culinary world.


The Skeleton Coast-Etosha conservation bridge has secured a significant annual grant of US$1 million (N$18 million) for 50 years from the Legacy Landscapes Fund (LLF), facilitated by a partnership between the World Wildlife Fund (WWF), Namibia’s Integrated Rural Development and Nature Conservation (IRDNC), and the Ministry of Environment, Forestry and Tourism. This perpetual grant aims to enhance connectivity among species populations, improve climate resilience and protect vulnerable fauna like the black rhino, lion and giraffe in the Kunene Region. The initiative supports sustainable resource use, wildlife corridor protection and economic opportunities for local communities, marking a milestone in Namibia’s conservation efforts with strong collaboration among various stakeholders and additional funding from the Rob Walton Foundation.


FlyNamibia’s newest addition to their ever-expanding route network is a flight connection between Windhoek and Victoria Falls, Zimbabwe, starting on 4 April. FlyNamibia’s introduction of a direct flight route to Victoria Falls is set to significantly boost the tourism industry, providing a pivotal link to enhance the accessibility of one of Africa’s most iconic landmarks. This development opens up new avenues for tourists planning their Southern African holidays, offering them a seamless travel experience. By connecting Namibia with its neighbouring countries more efficiently, the route not only promotes regional tourism but also enriches the travel options available to visitors. This expansion is anticipated to foster increased tourism flow, contributing to the economic growth of the regions involved and presenting tourists with a broader spectrum of experiences as they explore the diverse landscapes and cultures of Southern Africa.


Any Namibian traveller or industry member worth their salt is well familiar with the iconic Solitaire in Namibia’s vast south. Situated en route to Sossusvlei, this gem has been a key stopover for travellers along the region’s dusty roads for decades. With three different accommodation options to choose from, all visitors will find something to their preference for an overnight stay. The team at Solitaire recently announced name changes to their accommodations. What used to be the Solitaire Lodge, Desert Camp and Desert Farm will now be known as Solitaire Roadhouse, Solitaire Desert Camp and Solitaire Mountain Lodge respectively. These new monikers are perfectly accurate descriptions of what you will find at Solitaire during your next visit down south. If you are only passing through, be sure to stop over anyway for the pure enjoyment of the history and one of the town’s famous apple crumbles… along with an ice-cold beer.


On 8 February, Namibia unveiled its Tourism Satellite Account (TSA) report, aiming to enhance investment in its significant travel sector, which constitutes 6.9% of the nation’s GDP. The report, a collaborative effort between the Ministry of Environment, Forestry and Tourism and the Namibia Statistics Agency, is supported by the UNECA and highlights tourism’s N$14.3 billion direct GDP contribution in 2022. It serves as a strategic tool for informed decision-making within the tourism sector, emphasising the role of tourism as an economic driver, creating jobs and fostering socio-economic development. TN



the wet season

It’s mid-December and summer is in full swing. Windhoek is rapidly being drained of life as most people start the great yearly migration to the coast to escape the heat. As vehicles overloaded with children, pets and beach toys trek west we head northeast to the Zambezi Region.


It is well-known that the winter months are better for game viewing, especially when visiting game parks like Etosha or heading into the wildlife areas of Namibia’s north-east. Besides having to survive temperatures that can push the mercury up into the high 30s, they are also the dry months. This means no rain and more importantly, less foliage to better see animals in areas with dense bush. The natural waterholes in the veld have dried up by this time, therefore the manmade waterholes are hives of activity acting as natural wildlife magnets.

In the rainy season, the opposite is true. With plenty of water in the veld, the animals disperse and dense foliage obstructs visibility. This should not be a deterrence as this time of year holds its own charm. The greenery of the bush gives a visually pleasing backdrop to sightings and there are baby animals in abundance. This was especially true of warthogs as we discovered in Nkasa Rupara National Park. We barely saw anything else.

“You’re gonna die of the heat”, most said when they heard of our plans. Yet, apart from three or four days of humid, hot days, temperatures were bearable and even the couple of rain showers we had were welcomed as they cooled down the world around us.


When planning your next trip there, don’t be scared to go against what is recommended – you might just see something special.


November to April is the best time for birding because during this time migrants are present. Some of the standout birding moments were driving into the Kwando Core Area of Bwabwata National Park and seeing endless numbers of Fish Eagles. At some point, we counted them while sitting on the ground within a 20-square-metre area. Another was in Nkasa Rupara National Park where two southern Carmine Bee-eaters caught a ride on the back of a warthog.

If I were a first-time traveller to the region, I would not believe that this area swarms with elephants during the dry season. Having migrated mostly to Botswana for the season the only trace I saw of the gentle giants was old droppings.

Not deterred, it was fun to identify the differences between puku, lechwe and reedbuck. On an early morning game drive we watched a lechwe cross the water at the Horseshoe bend of the Kwando. We quickly reached for our binoculars when we noticed a submarine-like shape following the lechwe now swimming at double speed. To our surprise, as soon as the antelope made it to dry land, a snapping crocodile jaw broke through the water in a last-ditch but futile attempt to catch breakfast.

While we didn’t see any big cats, we had the privilege of watching African wild dogs bathe and chase each other through a muddy pool. It was ten minutes of pure joy for all of us as we watched these dangerous predators goofing around like puppies.

Even during the wet season, most areas are accessible and no expert driving skills are needed. When planning your next trip there, don’t be scared to go against what is recommended –you might just see something special. TN


with love FROM AFRICA

Handmade, wild-harvested from rich Namibian botanicals & environmentally-sound

Katja Wittneben could say that it was Namibian myrrh and the Opuwo Community Project that planted the seed for her natural bodycare range, but the seed had already been planted years before.

An affinity to the natural world had inspired her to study botany. When Katja took part in the community project’s competition in 2013, submitting several products made with myrrh, it nourished the seed, well-established years earlier. And it began to flower.

She started to produce soaps, balms and body oils at home, delighted not to be using the store-bought products containing allergens, preservatives and sulphates. She even made a healing bum-balm for her newborn baby. These satisfied her desire to create something of value from nature, empower communities and conserve Mother Earth, philosophies which remain at the core of her Natura Africa natural cosmetic range today.

Coming from scientific backgrounds, Katja and her husband, Martin, had always been nature conservationists at heart. She says, “When you have kids you realise that you want to preserve Mother Earth even more.” Living in Namibia, they were fascinated with traditional plants, their age-old uses and wisdom, the African botanicals that have been known for centuries for their skincare benefits and medicinal properties.

They inspired Natura Africa’s products, which are kept pure and simple with essential oils, hydrosols and extracts. Katja’s ‘hero’ ingredients, as she calls them, are marula, manketti, baobab, Ximenia and Kalahari melon oil. Other African treasures like buchu oil, Cape snowbush essential oil, bulbinella extract and myrothamnus (resurrection bush) and kigelia powder enrich the products, offering additional benefits.

All the ‘hero’ oils are ethically-sourced and harvested wild and sustainably. Women in the rural areas collect the nuts and seeds, and sell them to companies which cold-press the oil. This income enables them to pay for school fees, food and household essentials in communities which exist by subsistence farming.

Katja and Martin explain: “We believe that by sourcing ingredients from community projects, we can give back to our communities and preserve our natural resources.”

It is also a small group of women who hand-blend and produce the high-quality products in small batches in the Natura shop in the Brauhaus Arcade in Swakopmund. Customers are greeted with the enticing scent of whatever is currently being made.

Katja follows the Ubuntu philosophy, which centres around the idea of interconnectivity and mutual support within a community. She explains: “I like the idea that all of us are connected and that we are responsible for our choices within a community. On a consumer level it shows as the difference we can make by buying ethical products.”

Free of sulphates, mineral oil, palm oil and parabens, bottled in glass and using minimal packaging (made in Africa), the Natura range gives a big tick next to ‘Caring for the planet’. Among the products are facial and body oils, African clay facial masks and cold-pressed soaps. And Katja continues to offer her popular baby-bum balm, perfected by years of motherhood.

After ten years of producing the natural body-care range, Katja is still amazed by the natural world’s gifts and how plants, especially Namibia’s desert-adapted plants, produce the incredibly rich and nourishing beauty oils and extracts.

The ethos of living consciously and making a difference in people’s lives while adding value sends out a ripple effect of positivity to Mother Earth and beyond. TN

Visit Natura Africa at the Brauhaus Arcade in Swakopmund or online at 18 WWW.TRAVELNEWSNAMIBIA.COM
Martin & Katja Wittneben
Jana Kiesewetter Jana Kiesewetter Karin Retief
Karin Retief

Customer Foreign Currency Account

What is a Customer Foreign Currency Account (CFC)?

Customer Foreign Currency Account

Namibian entities involved in import and/or export transactions, as well as providers of services such as merchant trade (for example tour operators and insurance brokers), may use customer foreign currency accounts (CFCs).

What is a Customer Foreign Currency Account (CFC)?

required, you don’t need to convert currency unnecessarily and thereby reduce your exposure to exchange rate risk — since funds already in the account act as a natural hedge.

What is required to open a CFC account:

• Founding statement

These are particularly useful for parking unused foreign currency - in the case of timing mismatches between currency receipts and payments.

CFCs are administered by an Authorized Dealer, and all transactions must comply with relevant Bank of Namibia (BoN) exchange control requirements.

Namibian entities involved in import and/or export transactions, as well as providers of services such as merchant trade (for example tour operators and insurance brokers), may use customer foreign currency accounts (CFCs).

CFCs are available to Namibian entities, while FCAs (Foreign Currency Accounts) are available to non-resident entities.

Reduced risk and costs

• Certificate of registration from the Namibia Tourism Board – for businesses that are directly or indirectly related to tourism

• Proof of operating address

required, you don’t need to convert currency unnecessarily and thereby reduce your exposure to exchange rate risk — since funds already in the account act as a natural hedge.

• Motivational letter

What is required to open a CFC account:

• Founding statement

By netting inflows and outflows, and keeping funds in foreign currency until

Switch to FNB

These are particularly useful for parking unused foreign currency - in the case of timing mismatches between currency receipts and payments.

• Certificate of registration from the Namibia Tourism Board – for businesses that are directly or indirectly related to tourism

• Proof of operating address

We can’t take credit for the views... They were here before we got here.
22 Heinitzburg Street, Windhoek | +264 61 249 597 | |
Castle since 1914. Hotel since 1994.


Text Charene Labuschagne

Many of my fondest childhood memories begin on a Friday afternoon. My selfemployed parents would bid the office farewell at lunch time and the next two hours were spent chaotically collecting all the necessities, stuffing my father’s Hilux bakkie to the brim with tents, cooler boxes and bedding. The last stop at the supermarket always had my dad grumbling between drags of a cigarette, as he itched to get out of town and hit the long road.

Everyone I know has a road trip story or twelve. Almost all of them are retold with nostalgia and enthusiasm.

The road trip is a tale as old as time and long precedes the invention of the car. Perhaps road trips are one of humankind’s first manifestations of the desire for travel.

A thorough visit to Namibia inherently implies spending extended hours with your legs at a 90-degree angle. Once you have made peace with that, the fun begins. And since we have mastered the art, I hope to instil a love for long drives in our visitors with this list of road trip rules.


Colloquially referred to as padkos (road food), the best snacks for a road trip are homemade, wrapped in aluminium foil or packaged in a Tupperware, and stored in a cooler bag nestled between the front-seat passenger’s feet. Childlike excitement would reach fever pitch on our backseat whenever my mom bent over to dig out hard-boiled eggs, chicken drumsticks and meatballs.

However, if you are staying at lodges while visiting Namibia, preparing padkos is not always an option. Luckily, the very best Namibian road trip snacks are droëwors and biltong, which can be bought from any roadside padstal. I urge you not to purchase these pre-packaged dried and cured meats from a supermarket. Droëwors and biltong were never intended to be sealed in a plastic bag and hung for months in the chip aisle. These taste rather stale and tarnish our reputation as the country producing the best droëwors and biltong in the world.

I also highly recommend requesting a breakfast or lunch pack from the accommodation establishment where you are staying. These are always a lucky packet, often including a wholesome sandwich or wrap, fresh fruit and, if you’re lucky, a hard-boiled egg.

Le Roux van Schalkwyk


This bloated playlist features some head-bobbing indie, cheesy 80s synth, sing-alongs and all-time classics – the perfect soundtrack for Namibia’s scenic roads.


Listening to your favourite songs in a car with your favourite people while driving leisurely on a gravel road through Namibia is arguably the epitome of holiday. In the previous edition of Travel Namibia (then still known as Travel News Namibia) we shared the ultimate Namibian road trip playlist. Before embarking on a 400 km drive, download it from Spotify, then hit play and your journey will become an extended music video. Sing-along songs have a gift for making kilometres feel just that little bit shorter.

Music, much like scent, has a magical way of safeguarding precious memories. A few months on from your road trip through Namibia, a single song can rekindle the sights, sounds and experience in uncanny ways.

Le Roux van Schalkwyk


Few things stir conflict quite like mistaken navigation. And while all roads lead to somewhere, in Namibia, veering off your path could mean being stranded without fuel, as many of our roads don’t see civilization for up to 300 km. Planning your route the night before departing is a simple way to avoid getting lost and potentially spending the night on the roadside, waiting for another car to pass you by, because cell phone reception is also rather scarce.

Once your route is established, factor in extra time for the pit stops and corrugated gravel roads that require a little more patience. It is impossible to be in the moment, appreciate the scenery, snack thoroughly and enjoy the music while being in a rush.

If you look back at your holiday in Namibia and count all the hours spent in the car, the ratio will be high compared to the hours spent sightseeing, sleeping and exploring. The stories of your journey through this country might highlight standing at the foot of a dune, drinking a boot beer in Swakopmund, or taking a dip in an infinity pool on the Waterberg plateau. Yet the time spent in your rental car will probably go unaccounted for, even though it is often more. With a simple mindset shift, the right snacks, music, pit stops and navigation, Namibia is every bit as scenic and spectacular during the journey as it is at the destination. TN


Stopping occasionally is essential for a road trip through Namibia. So much so that, all around the country, road signs will announce a picnic spot one kilometre in advance, and in the shade of a camelthorn tree a cement table and bench will await. The very best pit stops, however, are at the spontaneous ones.

When a beautiful view beckons – and it will – pull over for a moment. This is a great opportunity to stretch your legs, drink a leisurely cup of coffee, and photograph your unforgettable Namibian road trip. These pit stops also serve as a reminder of the luxuries of travelling by air-conditioned car, as the warm outside air and a few sweat droplets on your nose will quickly bring you back to the Namibian reality.

Here you are, in the middle of what feels like nowhere, overlooking an untouched, rugged landscape. There is no one else around for as far as you can see. You are on the journey of a lifetime, and suddenly the destination does not feel so important. What matters is the here, the now, the heat, the view. Remember to stop and smell the dust.

Le Roux van Schalkwyk

Imagine a flat tire in the middle of the Namibian bush, while a young elephant bull is approaching…and that was only the beginning of three exciting days at Etosha Heights, a private game reserve, bordering the famous Etosha National Park.

We joined students and researchers from the Namibian University of Science and Technology in releasing two cheetahs into the wild, searching for GPS-collared elephants and witnessed the passion of our Namibian youth for conservation. And we kept the microphones rolling throughout to bring you another story about our favorite topic: Namibia!

The land of vast spaces, of contrasting landscapes, of desertadapted elephants, Omajova mushrooms and glorious sunsets. The land of stories galore.

In our podcast ‘Namibia hören’ we take a look behind the scenes

of the most exciting places. And we meet people who care deeply about this country. Discover Namibia with us and share our love for this beautiful land.

We showcase our unique natural environment and tell you about Namibia’s conservation. We find out how charcoal or beer made in Namibia finds its way to foreign markets. Or what makes Kapana or Zambezi bream so special? And what role sports, music and politics play here. In short, we take you on a journey through Namibia.

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for the soul

Namibgrens NAMIBGRENS A sanctuary

& Photographs Kirsty


A treasure well-known by Namibians looking for a special getaway or event location, Namibgrens is a generational working farm that boasts superb accommodation options built into giant granite boulders. What many do not know about Namibgrens: this destination is a gastronomic delight, a feature becoming more popular in travel choices considering that what we often remember most after travelling is the food we ate. After all, culinary tourism is the art of good eating.

There are a few things that make this destination special. One of them are the gorgeous granite boulders that make for interesting contrasts on the horizon. Cultures throughout history have prized certain rock types as ornamental stones, and granite is an example of this. The Great Pyramid of Giza is built from limestone, but the innermost King’s Chamber is clad with granite. It is a rock composed mostly of quartz, and it is believed to have balancing effects. It certainly has aesthetic properties, creating a glittering beauty all around Namibgrens.

The drive from the capital city, Windhoek, is short and easy, a combination of tar and gravel roads. Namibgrens is also a convenient stopover location, mere minutes from the breathtaking Spreegshogte Pass on your way to the Namib Desert.

We are welcomed by the sounds of farm animals and beautiful trees swaying in the breeze as well as the managers, Sandra and Kalf van Zyl. In 2019 this husband and wife duo closed their boutique delicatessen in Windhoek, Kaapse Tafel, to heed the call of living a simpler life in sync with the rhythms of nature. Being foodies with restaurant ownership experience, the arrival of Sandra and Kalf at Namibgrens has added a new dynamic to the farm – sensational food. It makes this destination even more special, and it was one of the top highlights of our visit.

Everything we sampled was scrumptious. It is also clear that whatever they don’t grow themselves in the farm garden, they source from neighbouring farms, thereby supporting smallscale producers in the area. You can taste this difference. There are so many flavoursome treats, such as the cold-pressed virgin olive oil from a neighbour who grows his own organic olives, or the organic lemons bursting with flavour.

Dishes made from wholesome ingredients woven together with love deliver a taste sensation at the border of the Namib Desert. Gemsbok steaks and slow-roasted vegetables for dinner, perfect French omelettes for breakfast, cheese platters with preserves and homemade bread. Oh, the bread! The pièce de résistance is the artisan bread.

The bread has become so famous that once a traveller made a detour of 300 kilometres to buy some Namibgrens bread. Kalf is an artisanal baker, and with the rising popularity of his bread he needed help. Enter Abed Hailonga. Abed worked for many years under Moose McGregor at the legendary Solitaire

Bakery. After Moose’s passing, differences of opinion with the new owners forced Abed to leave. He was delighted when the opportunity to become a baker at Namibgrens presented itself.

Abed’s passion for his bread is visible when you meet him. He beams with pride. Kalf explains that Abed has such a talent for bread that he quickly became the primary baker at the farm. They use traditional methods, slower methods where nothing is premixed. That is the artisanal way.

Whether a rosemary sourdough or the special recipe of fifty percent white flour mixed with fifty percent wholewheat – the bread is exceptional.

Another highlight of the dining experience at Namibgrens is that you can choose to dine in private and the team will bring your meal to your villa where you can enjoy the views of the setting sun along with your gourmet and local delicacies. Travelling as a family, we chose this option and it worked out extremely well. We had a feast delivered to our villa at the exact time we wanted. It was fine dining, but at home.

It is a feeling of luxurious comfort in synergy with nature.

We stayed in beautifully appointed luxury villas which are built into giant boulders. Each room is unique and interesting. The villas were designed around the rocks, making them an extension of the mountain. Oversized beds on the other side of boulders, with giant windows for stargazing, make for a sublime night's sleep. Showers appearing out of rocks boast views across expanses. It is a feeling of luxurious comfort in synergy with nature.

If you prefer, the villas are fully self-catering, like pods sheltering you from the outside world. Our villa had a library with a good selection of books. Some of them you are allowed to take with you if the book enthralled you. Reading a book while sitting in the window seat that seemed to float over an artwork of boulders was the ultimate moment of relaxation. This place has captivated me.

Some come here to recharge, others to commit to undying love for one another at this popular and fully equipped wedding venue. A sanctuary for the soul, it is truly luxurious simplicity. A place to release and refuel, in more ways than one.TN



This is probably the most fascinating bird that occurs in Namibia, at least as far as their hunting/ fishing methods are concerned. They are skimming the water with accuracy and precision with their flexible orange red bill only 2-5 centimetres below the surface for fish that might have the audacity to come up that close. They use their lower mandible, which is longer than the upper one, with hyper-sensitivity to “feel “ their target, not seeing it, because most of their fishing takes place at dawn and at night (crepuscular). Within that split second of touching they close their bill and snatch the fish with immaculate efficacy.

African Skimmer. Rynchops flavirostris . Waterploeër.

Looking at a Skimmer one might think something went wrong in their creation. A dentist might make the diagnosis of an overbite that needs to be corrected with an osteotomy to shorten the lower mandible. A hunter might suggest a bit of sharpening of the bluntish tip of the lower mandible. An orthopod might suggest leg lengthening with an Ilizarov external fixator for its rather short legs. Going into the development and survival skills, all of the above “scientists” will eventually come to the conclusion that this modified Tern is in fact perfectly created to do its job in an almost perfect construction. The bill, as mentioned, is probably the most perfectly shaped and created for skimming. The legs, which are short in relation to the body, make for balance when skimming: it lets the front part of the body tilt forward sufficiently to give it the correct angle to fly across the water. The long narrow wings make for an agility in flight matched by very few other birds.

My first encounter with these birds was during the spring of 2010 with the infamous Mark Paxton. I was fortunate to be invited to go with him on a Skimmer ringing expedition in Mahango Game Park. I will not go into too much detail about the wonderful gourmet dinner I prepared for him the night before our expedition, suffice to say that even Mark ate all his food without complaining about the menu or the company.

The next day we went early in the morning to the scene of the crime on a sandbank at the Kavango River. While he started preparing his goodies for the ringing, I took a walk along the river watching in awe how the Skimmers tried to divert our attention from their breeding spot. Obviously Mark was not to be disturbed by the constant calling/screaming and divebombing around his head. Without much ado about these tactics he started searching for nests on the bare riverbank and found some without much of a struggle. His excitement was contagious when he caught the first immature Skimmer and started ringing it. Meantime back on the range, the wind picked up considerately. Our boat was not that securely tied down and as a result started drifting into the mainstream of the Kavango

River. Not being the best-known swimmer, and rather uncertain when last the crocodile population had a proper meal I decided to call Mark. Being an experienced nature conservationist, he just took off his shoes (he does not wear socks) and dived into the river to rescue the boat.

There are only three Skimmer species in the world: the African, the American Black and the Indian Skimmer. There are a few records of the American Skimmer along the Namibian coast. The main difference is the black tip to their bill, compared to the yellow tip of our African Skimmer, as well as the fact that they are coastal birds. African Skimmers are intra-African breeding migrants, arriving late April to early May. Their timing of breeding depends on sandbanks being exposed. Their departure is based on the intensity of the early rains and flooding in late December or early January. In years of drought some birds remain through the rainy season.

Their breeding grounds are selected with almost scientific accuracy. The timing is important because the eggs must be laid and hatch while the riverbanks are exposed because the water level is going down. By the time the level rises the chicks must be hatched and ready for their first solo flight. The nest is rather basic: just a small scraping so that the eggs are not visible from the side. Luckily the spots on the eggs add a bit of camouflage.

The eggs take about three weeks to hatch after which the chicks are ready to fly within three months. Initially the lower mandible is the same length as the upper bill, but starts growing soon, until it is ready for fishing. When the young birds are still in the pediatric ward the parents will protect them from predators by performing injury-feigning distraction displays. Because of their small feet, especially the juveniles sometimes land too fast and end up with their bill stuck into the sand. As they grow older this problem is usually solved. Practice makes perfect, so the sandbanks are the practice pitch where the young do their pilot practice by skimming on the sand.

Immature Adult and Immature
A fledgeling at a very young age
Tel: +264 61 232871 24hr emergency no: 081 129 3355 Website: ADVENTURE AWAITS

The survival of the African Skimmer is at risk because of overgrown sandbanks, rising river levels, because of dams built and the development of large water bodies downstream. Add to that the excessive disturbance by tourists and growing pressure from fishermen, fishing nets, livestock like cattle along the river. All of this, and prone to accumulations of pesticides such as DDT, have caused their breeding success to be below 13 percent.

Prime areas to find the African Skimmer are along the Chobe, Kavango and Zambezi rivers in places with bare emerging sandbanks, no vegetation and deep surrounding waters. Skimmers normally occur in small groups and roost communally. The plowing takes place on the sand and the sowing in the water. TN


Prime areas to find the African Skimmer are along the Chobe, Kavango and Zambezi rivers in places with bare emerging sandbanks, no vegetation and deep surrounding waters.


Gardens in the desert

Transforming a community with a desert-based economy

On the edge of the Namib Desert, at the gateway to Sossusvlei, lies the village of Maltahöhe. Founded in 1899 and once a hub for tourism, Maltahöhe has been on a steady decline for a number of decades. As it became more dilapidated, this small southern community saw an exodus of businesspeople and a massive spike in unemployment. What had been a welcome stopover was now a place that visitors would rather pass through in a hurry. But this was in the past, and today Maltahöhe is on track to become a thriving desert-based economy thanks to an exciting community revitalisation project called RuralRevive.

Environmental activist Reinhold Mangundu is the project coordinator for RuralRevive. He explains, “We want to create communities where happiness is the indicator for measuring progress. For me, it’s about how we can rethink progress beyond business as usual. We are trying to create environments where people and nature are central to everything because we are inherently a part of nature.”

The desert-based economy that RuralRevive is hoping to build has deep roots in community transformation. Through creating entrepreneurial and employment opportunities and ensuring that there is a linkage with an existing market demand, this project is tackling economic inequality and revitalising the community of Maltahöhe. According to Reinhold, the project also advocates a different way of looking at the responsibility of the tourism sector.



We are travelling to the Namib Desert via Maltahöhe. Upon arrival we are greeted with the sight of Blikkiesdorp (which literally translates to Tin Town), the informal settlement on the outskirts of the town. It is easy to notice the social imbalances and desperation that Reinhold told me about. It is estimated that of the nearly 7,000 people that live in Maltahöhe, only 500 people have meaningful employment. The scarcity of opportunities was only exacerbated with the collapse of Karakul sheep farming, leading many to a sense of utter hopelessness.

We are staying at the oldest country hotel in Namibia, the Maltahöhe Hotel, and owner Marika Raves is showing us around. Marika grew up in Maltahöhe and returned as an adult to help save it. She is deeply passionate about the RuralRevive project.

Marika walks us through the RuralRevive campus and explains how the laundry service was the first phase of their project and how it aims to become a laundry services hub for tourism establishments in the ecologically sensitive Namib Desert. They prioritise employment of women from the area, they use solar power and biodegradable washing powders, and their grey water is utilised to feed their vast vegetable garden. “We have our own borehole, where we harvest our water. It goes through the laundry and is then reused in the garden,” explains Marika. It is a far more environmentally friendly approach to cleaning linen than extracting from underground water sources in the Namib Desert, and it is not the only innovative project in Maltahöhe.

Marika explains that the region is dry and the topsoil is not of good quality, therefore they have also launched a project under RuralRevive to manufacture biomass compost. The community harvests plant matter of invasive species to sell back to the project. The harvested plant matter is reduced at the campus woodchipper and added to manure, which they also have in plenty here thanks to the farming community. This process creates compost for their fruit and vegetable enterprises. It is clear that this project has a strong focus on developing possibilities for income sources for the community. “Creating a small-scale economy is vital for a community that was falling apart,” notes Marika.

The campus garden is more than just a supply source for the wider tourism industry operating in the region, it is also a training facility where members of the community are learning the art of horticulture. “This is a place where we test things and teach people how to start from scratch, how to make compost, how to start planting, and more.” Marika explains that through the Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ) they now have a horticultural expert stationed here to assist the community gardeners in real time with their planting, growing and harvesting.

In the future a horticulture academy based in Maltahöhe will form part of the RuralRevive campus. “We want to bring education into this project because that is part of a circular economy. Then at least there is a possibility of training for a school-leaver here. We don’t realise it but sometimes there is no motivation to learn simply because there is nowhere to go and learn,” says Marika.


There is a wave of community and backyard gardeners spreading across the village. So contagious is this movement that even the police station now has their own vegetable garden. Fresh organic produce is creating a localised supply of fresh produce for tourism operations. This in turn means that instead of driving in fresh produce from bigger cities, the tourism industry can buy local, resulting in a reduction in greenhouse gas emissions and fresher produce to serve to guests.

“We’re currently supplying nine lodges but there are more than seventy lodges in the area. Our customers are very happy because something which comes from Maltahöhe is so much fresher, it’s organically produced and it has a story to tell, as it’s from the community. We’ve even had mulberries at the buffet at Wolwedans because you can harvest them, send them and they arrive fresh. The transport doesn’t only have an effect on our carbon footprint and the use of less packaging materials, but it also has a huge impact on the quality served to guests,” explains Marika.

To facilitate convenience for tourism operations, RuralRevive has launched The Barn. According to Marika, lodge managers need a central ordering system that delivers to their doorstep. “This is why we created The Barn, an online store selling produce to the community.”

Marika mentions more exciting phases in the pipeline. These include a recycling plant, which would be a first for the south of Namibia, offering another revenue stream for the community. As Marika notes, “Upcycling suits my community. For the Nama people, it is in their nature to do collection. They will collect bottle tops and make a beautiful flower bed for example.” This creativity is on full show as we drive through Blikkiesdorp , an open-air art gallery of upcycled goods. Trees decorated in would-be trash and artistic entrances to houses instil a sense of pride and beauty despite difficulty.


There are many partners involved in this project, including the Social Security Commission Development Fund and the Julius Baer Foundation, but the Wolwedans Foundation’s “Vision 2030 - The AridEden Project” was the birthplace of RuralRevive.

This project fosters sustainable tourism and conservation based on a business philosophy that balances people, planet and profit. Considering that Maltahöhe is the closest village to Wolwedans and that approximately 20% of their staff come from this community, it is a project that makes sense for business as well as soul satisfaction.

As Reinhold explains, “The foundation is measuring its success based on the progress on the ground. This really is what tourism and conservation should be about. The philosophy of AridEden is happiness for all beings. For me, Vision 2030 is a new narrative about the alternative future that we want to see. A sustainable future.”


But more than the beautiful surroundings, more than the epic plains cloaked by red sand dunes, more than the welcoming committee or endearing staff, we arrive here with a lingering feeling of authentic environmental consciousness.


From Maltahöhe we travel to Wolwedans to see how a tourism operation can support a town’s renewal. Wolwedans is the epitome of a classic African safari lodge. It oozes minimal opulence in the desert. Here in this tranquil corner of the NamibRand Nature Reserve we will be treated like royalty. But more than the beautiful surroundings, more than the epic plains cloaked by red sand dunes, more than the welcoming committee or endearing staff, we arrive here with a lingering feeling of authentic environmental consciousness.

Cecilijah Oletu Nghidengwa is the Happiness Coordinator at Wolwedans. On the Heart & Home Tour, she walks us through the workings of everything at Wolwedans, sharing why they put sustainability first. The water, which is believed to have its origins in the Okavango Delta, is pumped from the borehole using solar energy and bottled in glass bottles. Cecilijah points out the many recycling-focused projects here, from laundry bags to plastic bottles and glass that, mixed together, are used to make bricks that build their premises.

Cecilijah walks us through their Desert Academy, their recycling plants, their adopt-atree avenue, their repair and maintenance facilities and much more. When asked about RuralRevive, Cecilijah excitedly shares how this project is so important for their vision of sustainability and happiness, and how it is reducing their carbon footprint.


Wolwedans has a purpose which is the pursuit of happiness, and an inspired new way to get there. An ethos that is lived by every member of the team here. Seeing the workings of this lodge and finding out how it is contributing to putting the environment and communities first, makes the whole experience feel more rewarding. Somehow we have renewed eyes to see what an establishment like this in an ecologically sensitive area requires, and could mean to others. We are also aware that for this endeavour to be successful there can be no green sheen, no public relations spin to their story. This has to be authentic.

Cecilijah’s enthusiasm and belief in the better world being created here is infectious. “You’ll see circles everywhere here. It’s our signature, showing our connection to everything and everyone,” says Cecilijah.


We changed somewhere along the way. Somewhere in between the story of a town and its people transformed and the Wolwedans experience, where we saw first-hand the sustainability-focused operations of this tourism enterprise. Whether it was while walking through the gardens of organic produce or somewhere over the red dunes, something in us felt transformed. It has added a new sense to our experience, the sense of community and consciousness. It somehow even made everything taste better. And believe me the food was already out of this world. But knowing where it comes from, knowing its story, makes it more than the exceptional experience it already was. We feel that we are not just travellers but that through our travel we are contributing to the world we want to see, and this is an added dimension of exploration. This truly is conscious travel, and it feels great. TN


Namibia’s fascinating world of


Text & Photographs

If you are a Scorpio, you were born between October 24 th and November, 22 nd . If you want to see the constellation of Scorpius in the clear, possibly moonless night sky in Namibia, the best time is winter. But if you are interested in finding scorpions out there in nature it should be a dark and warm night in summer.


Officially Namibia has 63 scorpion species, of which 14 are near-endemic and 26 are endemic. Around 140 species are found in southern Africa. According to experts there are some more species in Namibia which have not been scientifically identified and described yet. In general there is still too little known about the distribution of species in Namibia, and hardly anything is known about their behaviour and lifecycle. Some more species wait to be discovered.

Most people are scared of scorpions because they are believed to be deadly venomous. In reality, very few (about 5%) are potentially venomous enough to cause death in humans. Therefore only these few are of significant medical importance. Most scorpions can inflict a painful sting without further consequences. The venom of some Thicktail Scorpions

of the family Buthidae and the genus Parabuthus can cause fatalities. As the most venomous scorpion in southern Africa, including the whole of Namibia, the Rough Thicktail Scorpion (Parabuthus granulatus) tops the list. This species can be found in a variation of colour combinations. Some are black, some black with yellow legs and pincers, some brown with yellow lower legs, some orange-brown or yellow. Fatalities have also been recorded from the normally black Hairy Thicktail Scorpion (Parabuthus villosus) which is found in western and southern Namibia. The Hairy Thicktail Scorpion, which can also be black with yellow or reddish legs and pincers, is the only scorpion in the world showing diurnal behaviour. It is the largest Thicktail Scorpion species with a length of up to 140 millimetres in this region. Scorpions are measured from the front margin of the carapace to the tip of the sting.


1. Opistophthalmus carinatus Radiant Burrower

Dr Ian Engelbrecht, author of the book “Field Guide to Scorpions of South Africa”, calls the Radiant Burrowing Scorpion Namibia’s national scorpion, because it is found nearly everywhere in large numbers and different sizes. Stings are painful but not serious.

2. Parabuthus villosus Hairy Thicktailed Scorpion - Dunes Swakop

The only scorpion that can be encountered wandering around in the sand dunes or the arid western landscape of Namibia is the near-endemic Hairy Thicktail Scorpion. These up to 140 mm long scorpions with small pincers and thick tails are dangerous. Victims of a sting should be taken to a hospital. The left of the two comb-like sensors, called pectines, can be seen sticking out from under the scorpion under the second leg.

3. Opistophthalmus carinatus Radiant Burrowing Scorpion - Avis Windhoek

The two median eyes in the centre on top of the carapace and the lateral eyes on each front corner of this Radiant Burrowing Scorpion can be seen very clearly. Scorpions such as the Burrowing Scorpions with big pincers and thin tails are not considered to be harmful to humans.

4. Hadogenes tityrus Namib Rock Scorpion (female) Rock Scorpions are harmless. They have very thin tails with a very small sting. According to Dr Ian Engelbrecht’s scorpion field guide, “stings (of Namib Rock Scorpions) are unheard of and not likely to cause anything more than a mild irritation”.

5. Hadogenes tityrus Namib Rock Scorpion (male) Male Namib Rock Scorpions have been seen wandering around during the rainy season in December and January looking for females. This species can be observed in a black and a pale variety, depending on the area and habitat. They are found in Namibia and the Northern Cape in South Africa.

6. Parabuthus granulatus Rough Thicktail ScorpionPalmwag

A brown version of the Rough Thicktail Scorpion with yellow lower legs (tibia, basitarsus) and foot (tarsus) from the Palmwag area in former Damaraland, now the Kunene Region.

7. Parabuthus granulatus Rough Thicktail ScorpionNaDEET

The Rough Thicktail Scorpion is considered to be the most venomous scorpion in southern Africa. Stings must be treated as a medical emergency. This species is found all over Namibia, Botswana and the western half of South Africa. They occur in different colour variations. This one was found in the dunes in the central Namib Desert. The right yellowish-white pectine of two comb-like sensors can be seen sticking out from under the scorpion under the second leg.

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On the other hand, scorpions of the family Hormuridae and genus Hadogenes (Rock Scorpions) are harmless to humans and can be handled without fear. The most common one of this genus in Namibia is the Namib Rock Scorpion which is widespread in the southern and western parts of Namibia. This species is 40 to 70 mm long and has a very short tail, while the male Namaqua Rock Scorpion, which is found in the south of the country, can reach 150 mm in length. The thin tail can reach nearly twice the length of the body.

The golden rule if you encounter a scorpion is that the ones with small pincers and a thick tail are dangerous and the ones with big pincers and thin tails are not dangerous. A small scorpion is not always a young one. Measuring only 20 mm, Ansie´s Lesser Thicktail, which is not found in Namibia but in South Africa, is the smallest scorpion in southern Africa. Children and elderly people are more in danger when stung by certain species than healthy adults.

Scorpions are seen as living fossils. They have been on Earth for 420 million years. On top of their carapace they have two median eyes and a row of two to five lateral eyes on each front corner. Scorpions cannot see very well but can detect the slightest vibrations with the help of specialized hair-like structures on the body, pincers and legs. To help detect prey, predators and mates they have chemoreceptors to analyse chemical signals. Two comblike sensors under the body, called pectines, are the most important chemoreceptors of a scorpion.


8. Uroplectes otjimbinguensis

Lesser Thicktail Scorpions are small and slender. They are fast-moving and not easy to detect when they sit motionlessly. This one is Uroplectes otjimbinguensis, a Namibian near-endemic which is also found in southwestern Angola.

9. Uroplectes pilosus

Uroplectes pilosus is a Namibian endemic found on the gravel plains of the Namib Desert.

10. Opistophthalmus ugabensis

This Burrowing Scorpion Opistophthalmus ugabensis is a Namibian near-endemic. It is also found in southwestern Angola.

11. Uroplectes tumidimanus (male)

Another Namibian endemic which, according to Dr Lorenzo Prendini, is endemic to the Khomas Hochland, is Uroplectes tumidimanus.

12. Parabuthus brevimanus Mottled Thicktail Scorpion

The Mottled Thicktail Scorpion is another Namibian near-endemic which, with a length of 50 mm, is one of the smallest in the genus. Mottled Thicktail Scorpions are widespread throughout Namibia and in adjacent areas in the Northern Cape, South Africa. Stings are likely to be painful but serious symptoms are unlikely. This scorpion is in a typical curled up position when disturbed, waiting motionlessly for the danger or disturbance to disappear.

13. Hottentotta conspersus

Two species of nomads are found in Namibia. The Western Nomad is a Namibian near-endemic which also occurs in southwestern Angola. It is of medical importance.

14. Uroplectes planimanus Orange Lesser Thicktail

The Orange Lesser Thicktail, which is only 40 to 50 mm long, is found in most countries of southern Africa. In this unique observation a female with young on her back is engaged in a mating “dance” with a male.

15. Uroplectes planimanus Orange Lesser Thicktail

The same scene in UV light. While the adults fluoresce, the babies do not and have to wait for that until the cuticle hardens. Ultraviolet light is reflected by a hyaline layer in the exoskeleton, resulting in a turquoise greenish glow.

16. Uroplectes planimanus Orange Lesser Thicktail

These Orange Lesser Thicktail Scorpions babies are a few hours old and still white and soft. The youngsters feed on stored body fat. As the days pass, they develop body colour and patterns. The mother protects the little ones until they shed their skin for the first time and then begin to be independent and move off.

14 15
12 13

They use their pincers to catch and hold prey, to defend themselves, to climb and to burrow, and males use them to hold the partner during mating. Scorpions feed on smaller arthropods, insects, centipedes, some bigger ones on reptiles and small mammals, while their numerous enemies are birds, mongooses, baboons and reptiles. Scorpions are cannibalistic and will feed on their own and other species. They can survive without feeding for months, even years.

If a scorpion manages to catch prey which is too large to be carried with the pincers, it will carry the prey on its back to a safe retreat. Females carry their young for two weeks or longer on their back to protect them. Once they have shed their skins for the first time in their life and start looking like real scorpions they leave and become independent.

The easiest way to find scorpions at night is with the help of UV light. Scorpions fluoresce under ultraviolet light and appear in a greenish glow. One should never walk around barefoot at night or with open shoes. When camping and sleeping in the open, never leave your sleeping bag or bed roll open while sitting at the fire before going to sleep. Only get your bedding ready when you actually want to go to sleep. If you leave your shoes outside make sure there is no scorpion inside when you put them on the next morning. Always close your tent.

Scorpions are fascinating creatures and really not as bad as their reputation. TN

It was a privilege to join Dr Tharina Bird and Dr Lorenzo Prendini one night outside Windhoek to collect scorpions. Dr Bird, a South African, was the senior curator at the National Museum of Namibia from 2002 to 2009. She graduated with a PhD from Colorado State University in the US in 2015. After that she did a year of consultancy in collections in South Africa and then became a lecturer at the Botswana International University of Science and Technology (BIUST). Now she is the curator of general entomology at the Ditsong National Museum of Natural History in Pretoria, South Africa.

Dr Lorenzo Prendini, born in Johannesburg, South Africa, has visited Namibia many times. He is the curator for arachnida and myriapoda in the Division of Invertebrate Zoology at the American Museum of Natural History in New York and Professor at the Richard Gilder Graduate School.


discovering special stops alongside the road The Odyssey

The traveller, the seeker, the journeyer. These are travellers who are curious. They go slow, stopping every so often to take in the views. Those who are interested in what they might find along the way. The ones who believe in the odyssey, the eventful or adventurous journey.

For these voyagers, a stop along the way is an integral part of their travels, and what better way to include adventures en route than a stop at a padstal? A little oasis on the horizon to cool you down after a long and dusty road, and to cheer you up while refuelling your soul with stories and your stomach with treats. Every padstal offers something unique – perhaps it is weird, perhaps it is wonderful. Either way, it will always be memorable.

Padstal is an Afrikaans word that means stall next to the road, and is synonymous with the road-tripping culture in Southern Africa. A pitstop at one of these characterful shops is a must on every road-based journey. Each has its own story, is completely independent, trades with local goods and is an absolute highlight for roadside food lovers.

In the hope that your next trip across Namibia will allow you the time to savour the journey, I have collected stories from three unique little roadside shops and stops. I encourage you to add more to this list. Perhaps a conversation with someone who has chosen a life of operating a farm stall on the fringe of nowhere might be more revitalising than you imagined.

Rooi Dak padstal

It is hot and dusty on the C24 road in the Hardap Region of Namibia. Plumes of sand fly behind our vehicle as we drive through the tiny community of Klein Aub, 90 kilometres from Rehoboth. It is the kind of town where if you blink while driving through, you might miss it. These are Namibia’s desolate landscapes at their finest. Suddenly a signboard appears, inviting you to stop for coffee at Conny’s Coffee Shop. It is the last place you would expect to find a coffee shop, yet it is an absolute highlight in this barren wilderness. To stop at Conny’s Coffee Shop is to savour coffee at its finest, but the real drawcard here is the delightfully eccentric owner and coffee artist, Günther Martens.

With his large white beard, Günther will brew you an authentic cup of coffee to rival that of even the best baristas. Using a bespoke coffee stand made by his carpenter nephew, Günther elevates the coffee experience to coffee cupping – a sacred ritual for tasting in the coffee world.

Günther has lived an interesting life. He has advocated for a better world as a nonviolent communication teacher, taught meditation classes and offered free Qigong classes in Windhoek. He has been all over the globe, with his coffee training taking place in Hamburg, Germany.

Time slows down here, and Günther admits that this is intentional. “I didn’t want to hustle”, he explains, adding that he wants to be able to give each person he meets his personal attention. “I decided to go to the desert. People told me to go to Solitaire, but it’s too busy there. I didn’t want that life.”

“In 2017 I came here and a month later I was living here. There used to be a copper mine in the area, and then this place used to be a fish and chips shop with a supermarket and petrol station. When the mine closed in 1987, they built the veranda here and called it Conny’s. In 2014 Conny passed away and her children tried to keep it going, but it’s hard living in this environment, especially for young people, it’s not inspiring. For me, I thought that this was cool.”

His stories have us hanging at the edge of our seats while we sip on freshly brewed organic fairtrade Bean There coffee, so delectable that one does not need to mask it with milk or sugar. “If you use good coffee and you prepare it the right way, you can really taste the difference between the different coffees and origins,” Günther explains as his belly laugh fills the air.

This place is slow, interesting and peaceful – truly the essence of Günther. While birds whistle in the background, he shares why he finds this chapter of his life rewarding. “I have a sense of autonomy and I feel at peace. Here, I work with the rhythms of nature. I have to, as I even cook with the sun.” His solar oven is what he uses to prepare hearty meals or the tasty muffins that pair so well with his coffee. “My solar oven uses the sun’s rays to make food. Cooking times depend on the day’s weather. I adapt my meals to the oven, cooking dishes that I can put in and leave alone like a roast leg of lamb or a bobotie,” explains Günther.

“I am happy here. I meet people from all over the world, so my day is full. We have many geologists here because of the environment, so I’m learning about geology. There are rock engravings nearby so now I’m also learning about archaeology. Fascinating people come and stop here. Politicians on their way to holiday, or tour guides with big groups. Some come for lunch, some come just for the coffee, but amazing people come here,” explains Günther, adding, “The people who tend to come here are the adventurous people, the curious ones. They use the opportunity to take a detour. They take life a bit slower and discover the adventures along the journey. They are the ones who find the good surprises.”

Stopping at Conny’s Coffee Shop was a pleasant surprise in a deserted corner of the world, but Günther hopes he can maintain this sense of authenticity. “My hope is to stay small, remain an experience.”

Find Conny’s Coffee Shop two kilometres outside of Klein Aub, or search for it on Google maps. Call or message in advance if you want to book for lunch: +264 (0)81 360 3400.



On our journey to the Namib Desert, we decided to skip the well-known stops in search of a more authentic experience, and so we stopped for refreshments at a new padstal at the bottom of Spreetshoogte Pass. From what I have seen online, this place seemed to have the potential to offer the road pitstop experience we were looking for. A giant crashlanded rocket and two astronauts on a tractor make it impossible to miss the entrance. This level of quirkiness promises a riveting stop, and we were not disappointed.

New to the area, the Rooi Dak Padstal opened in September 2023 and offers a variety of unique and proudly Namibian handmade products plus a few engaging and one-of-a-kind attractions beyond the space theme.

The story of the astronauts is that they are Rasputin and Nazelenskyy who decided to reconcile. After successful peace talks, they went for a cruise in an old Soviet rocket which didn’t take them to space, but rather saw them crash landing in a stark terrain near the Namib-Naukluft National Park. Now, as they await Namibian citizenship, they try to earn their cold Windhoek Draughts by looking busy on a tractor at the Rooi Dak Padstal.

This elaborate story is a taste of what awaits at the roadside shop, which is filled with unique narratives. The padstal manager, Lizell Pienaar, can tell a story about almost everything on sale here, such as who made it and how these handmade items are putting the makers’ children through school.

Their signature lemon blondies, which are citrus-based chocolate brownies, are freshly made and unique. We arrived early in the morning and ordered delicious cappuccinos together with our blondies. Perhaps a stop later in the day would make their Caltex petrol pump more enticing. This petrol pump is one of only two in the world, as it does not pour fuel but cold draught beer instead.

While Cheyonne Swartz is busy serving our lemon blondies, which she baked that morning, Lizell tells us more about their range of products. “We want to be one of a kind in Namibia. We have unique items that are all handcrafted and mostly by women, from vellies to hats and T-shirts. We also have food items such as sloppy joes or gemsbok game pies and more. Everything is homemade and authentic. Even our beautiful windmill with its citrus theme was handpainted by a woman. In the future we will make our own beer from our citrus plants.”

Another one-of-a-kind feature is their postcard station. Here visitors are encouraged to write a postcard, then take a photo of the front of their postcard, which would then be sent to the recipient of the postcard via an instant messaging platform, such as WhatsApp or Telegram, along with a location pin. Then you leave the postcard in the postcard drawer in the hope that the recipient will follow the location pin and come to Rooi Dak Padstal to retrieve their message.

Well worth a visit, you can find the Rooi Dak Padstal on the D1275, only 20 kilometres down from the Spreetshoogte Pass on your way to Sossusvlei. +264 (0)83 000 0007



Namibians know that if you are on your way to the coast, you want to factor in a stop at Wilhelmstal Padstal to stock up on biltong for the road. Rated by online forums as one of the best biltong spots in the country, Wilhelmstal Padstal also boasts excellent droëwors and boerewors, as well as other unique Namibian-made produce.

Owner Janko (JP) Meyer explains, “We took over this padstal in 2017. My thinking was that it would make sense for the farm to sell its own produce directly to the consumer. We have grown since we opened up and added things, for example we now have Slowtown coffee and three trained baristas, so there is always at least one barista on site who knows how to serve your coffee or cappuccino.”

Other items on their shelves that are fast becoming famous include the homemade pasta from Omaruru, known as Die Nudel, or the specialty zucchini salsa by JP’s mom, Ingrid Meyer. “Most of our products are farm produce from the area and we want to continue to support local products. The meat products, though, are from our farm,” explains JP, who grew up making biltong, a personal passion.

The demand for their biltong and droëwors has grown to such an extent that they now offer these items at specialist stores around the country. JP adds, “We now also supply a few shops in Swakop and Windhoek, so if people need their Wilhelmstal products and they are driving on a Saturday when we are closed, they can still stock up. You can find us in Windhoek at Eat@United, in Swakopmund at the Puma Energy Service Station in Kramersdorf or at Farmganics. In Walvis Bay you’ll find us at the Pick n Pay Express Service Station.”

JP notes that there is “a lot of organising” involved with this kind of business, but it is rewarding because of the interesting people they meet every day. “We meet all kinds of people that come from all over Namibia. Sometimes they stay and chat, taking a small rest before driving on.”

Other items to look out for at this padstal include their chilli jam, chutney, rusks, honey and more. After good rains, look out for Omajowas, giant mushrooms sold by people who harvest them off termite mounds, outside the farmstall. TN

For tasty treats, find Wilhelmstal Padstal, on the B2 between Okahandja and Karibib. +264 (0) 81 606 5169


Local agricultural initiative boosts


Ahealthy diet is the cornerstone of a successful school career and in the Kavango West Region the Mungongi Agricultural Project has played a pivotal role in supporting local schools through food sponsors thanks to surplus harvests.

The Mungongi Agriculture Project grows a bounty of fresh vegetables such as cabbage, onions, tomatoes, green peppers, watermelon, pumpkin and more. This project has become the heart of the Musese village, where it is situated. Through the project, water is provided to the community, employment opportunities for individuals from the community have been created, and now school food donations have been added to the list of benefits deriving from this project. It is a true example of the power of community support and caring for others, enabled through public-private partnerships.

Situated near the mighty Kavango River, an area where agriculture tends to thrive thanks to an abundance of water nearby, the Mungongi Agriculture Project employs traditional irrigation methods and has seen bountiful vegetable harvests that are sold in areas such as Rundu, Nkurenkuru and nearby communities.

Previously, when harvests exceeded expectations, founder and manager of the project, Steven Mungongi, noted that this success meant extra pressure on them, because without adequate cool storage facilities the surplus production faced the unfortunate fate of going to waste. Recognising the potential impact on local communities, Mungongi Agricultural Project took a proactive step by donating a portion of their harvest to two schools.

Ntara Combined School and Olavi Sivhute Kangumbe Combined School were the recipients of this sponsor and

explained that it was no ordinary sponsor because its impact has been invaluable. The principal of Ntara Combined School, Florinus Mpareke, explained the timely nature of the donation as learners were preparing for their examinations. In his words, “The sponsor has made a meaningful difference in the lives of our learners. Learners camp at the school during examination preparations, so your contribution is invaluable.”

Kasanga Johannes, a Grade 11 learner at Olavi Sivhute Kangumbe Combined School, shared his perspective on the impact of the sponsor during the camping period, saying, “The sponsor played a major role – we appreciate the generous contribution.”

Mungongi Agricultural Project received a significant boost from Debmarine Namibia, equipping them with essential agricultural tools. The collaborative efforts between Mungongi Agricultural Project and Debmarine Namibia showcase the positive outcomes of public-private partnerships, as well as highlight the significance of community support.

As these agricultural endeavours contribute to the welfare of local schools, they underscore the potential for sustainable practices to bridge gaps and uplift educational experiences in Namibia. This project demonstrates how local agriculture can extend far beyond the boundaries of food production to positively impact other fields such as education, thereby fostering a sense of community well-being. TN




Five ways to connect with nature in Namibia

Iga Motylska believes that the best way to connect with Namibia’s natural beauty is by stepping out of the car, running your hand through the sand, searching for the small things, tuning into nature’s alarm clock, and travelling responsibly with a light ecological footprint.



The natural world is the greatest chronologer of time. It documents timelines of the landscape, geological phenomena as well as the history and culture of the people who once lived here. Twyfelfontein is a place to meditate on the passage of time and how we have come to be where we are today. It is the world’s biggest outdoor art gallery with the site showcasing a collection of more than 5,000 rock engravings carved into 212 sandstone slabs – earning it UNESCO World Heritage Site status. The petroglyphs show marine creatures such as penguins, flamingos and seals that the nomadic San would have encountered, alongside rhinoceroses, elephants, ostriches and giraffes. There are also depictions of human footprints and animal tracks. Archaeologists and historians believe that some carvings are pictograms that acted as maps to indicate the location of permanent and perennial water systems in these arid parts. Depictions of fantastical creatures indicate that it was equally used as a spiritual site for shamanistic rituals. Pause to reflect on what life must have been like here thousands of years ago, before continuing onwards.


Namibia’s adventure capital serves up a combination of activities that revolve around the sand and sea, from skydiving and sandboarding to hot-air ballooning and scenic flights. But perhaps the best way to truly acquaint yourself with the Swakopmund dune belt is during a fat-bike excursion on an electric bike along the shifting sands. This allows you to see the patterns in the sand at arm’s length and observe the nuances of this ever-changing ecosystem. Keep a look out for the socalled “Little Five” that call the Namib Desert home – the Namaqua Chameleon, Namib Dune Gecko, Shovel-snouted Lizard, Sidewinder Snake and Dancing White Lady Spider – as well as scorpions and insects. Most desert dwellers and plant species that endure the harsh conditions of the dunes live within 10 cm of the topmost surface of the sands. This is why bicycles do not destroy the natural environment as much as quad bikes and off-road vehicles.



Despite its ominous name, the windswept Skeleton Coast harbours some of the world’s most unusual plants and desert-adapted creatures. The Welwitschia mirabilis, which can live for a thousand years, is testament to the transient nature of humans in the face of nature’s raw power along these wild shores. Come here for the diverse landscape that offers an otherworldly experience of geology – grey gravel plains, salt pans, crescent-shaped barchan dunes, distant mountains outlining the edge of the earth and towering walls of granite. It is a reminder of how the ground beneath our feet influences plant and animal life. Without straying beyond the designated roads within the national park (as the plains are fragile and easily scarred by tyre tracks), sift a handful of gravel through clasped palms. Who knows, you might find garnets and crystals among the tiny stones. If not, the plains are carpeted with delicate lichen fields that contrast the grey landscape with a colour wheel of yellows, reds, oranges and greens. If you take your time, you might even encounter brown hyenas, springbok, gemsbok and scavenging jackals.



Damaraland is a desertscape of a different kind to the star-shaped sand dunes of the Namib. Its unending ochre slopes blend the Etendeka Mountains with the sky. The Huab riverbed is lined with a porous border of deep-rooted shepherd’s trees and parasol-shaped camelthorn trees, interspersed with silvery-grey shrubs and wisps of pioneer grass. Regardless of whether you stay at a five-star ecolodge, campsite or pitch your tent atop your vehicle, the region’s nomadic desert-adapted elephants are the biggest drawcard. These ecotypes of the African savannah elephant have biologically evolved their physical characteristics and behaviours to survive these harsh, arid conditions. They appear to have longer legs because they are leaner. This is due to their limited diet and the distances (up to 150 km per day) they cover in search of water – yet another reason why researchers have found them to have an even better memory than their savannah counterparts. TN


For a different perspective of the Zambezi Region, embark on the Zambezi Queen houseboat as you float along a 25km stretch of the Chobe River on a two-, three- or four-night itinerary. This is a water safari of a different kind. One that rivals, some would say, a land-based safari, especially during the Emerald Season – between November and late March – when the riverbanks are bountiful with new growth, tall grass and dense bush. Watch how elephants walk across the riverbed from Chobe National Park to Namibia with their trunks in the air, how lazy lions seek afternoon respite in the shade of the tree-lined riverbank and how open-mouthed hippos compare incisors before grunt-laughing off the competition. Wildlife cautiously crouches at the water to drink, eyes darting in search of any movement that could point to crocodiles. This watery lookout point – whether it is from your private balcony or the top, front or rear deck of the boat – offers a closer look at the region’s close to 500 endemic and migratory bird species, among them African Jacanas that “walk on water” with stick-like legs, earning them the name Jesus birds. Venture out by tender boat to see Kingfishers, Southern Carmine Bee-eaters and Secretary birds from up close. The Zambezi and Chobe rivers, and the interconnecting Kasai Channel, are equally famed for catch-and-release fishing. Here you can hook a tiger fish, bream, African pike, tilapia, catfish or upper Zambezi yellowfish.

Le Roux van Schalkwyk


& Photographs
Conservation Namibia

Seals are popularly known as the dogs of the sea. This is because seals and dogs are physically similar and therefore classed in the same carnivore sub-order called Caniformes (meaning dog-like). Even their behaviour is similar, as seals are known to be playful and intelligent. Not surprisingly, humans can easily relate to seals as the marine version of man’s best friend.

Our interest in seals took on a new dimension when Namibian kayaking guide Naude Dreyer filmed himself freeing a Cape fur seal entangled in a fishing line in 2013. Sharing footage of this rescue mission and many subsequent ones on social media generated thousands of views per video and a following of over three million viewers on YouTube and TikTok combined. People around the world watch in admiration while Naude and his team wrestle seals to the ground just to cut them loose and let them go.

Each video is quite simple: a seal is spotted with a piece of plastic or other man-made object biting into its body like a snare. Naude or one of his team members takes off after the seal and catches it with a net or his hands (in early videos), then sets it free by cutting off whatever caused the problem. Even though some of the wounds left by these “snares of the sea” are deep, it is likely that they heal quickly when exposed to the salty seawater.


Most Namibians will know that the Cape fur seal is abundant along the coast and increasing in numbers. With an estimated one million individuals in a range that includes Namibia, South Africa and Angola, it is not surprising that the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Red List assessed this species as Least Concern. Rescuing seals that

would otherwise die a slow and painful death from man-made waste is a noble animal welfare activity, but Naude and his wife Katja see a bigger conservation picture that goes beyond seals. In their words, “seals give plastic pollution a cute face”.

Something about the simple act of rescuing an animal in distress touches the human psyche and makes us care more about our environment. This human trait, combined with the power of social media, allowed Naude and Katja to create a new non-profit organisation called Ocean Conservation Namibia (OCN). Launched during the tourism shutdown caused by Covid-19 in 2020, OCN is dedicated to saving seals and highlighting the much bigger problem of plastic pollution.

Every piece of plastic we throw out on the road, or put in an ordinary dustbin rather than a recycling bin, ends up in landfill sites around our towns and cities, or is simply blown across Namibia by the wind. In the end, much of this waste is washed out to sea by rivers coming down and emptying their load of water, soil and plastic into the ocean. Plastic from every country in the world has entered the ocean this way, accumulating as massive “garbage patches” that cause huge ecological damage and are almost impossible to clean up.

More direct forms of pollution involve industries operating in the ocean or along the coast. Commercial fisheries use


longlines or nets for trawling, but not all of this equipment is brought back onto the boat. When fishing lines get tangled they may be cut loose, or nets break under too much pressure. This makes lines and nets one of the biggest sources of marine pollution.

The ocean is so vast that when we drop something into it we may feel that our impact is insignificant. But the collective impact of human activity on the ocean is massive. The seals rescued by OCN give us an idea of the scale of the problem along Namibia’s seemingly pristine desert coastline, all of which is formally protected.


Since Naude started rescuing seals, which began with occasional operations during his regular kayak tours in 2013, and intensified with the establishment of OCN in 2020, he and his team have rescued over 3,500 individuals. The OCN team only works out of Walvis Bay and has government permission to rescue seals from the Pelican Point colony, with occasional trips to Cape Cross. OCN estimates that their operations cover only 10-20% of Namibia’s seal population. Extrapolating OCN’s rescue data, we are looking at some 15-30,000 entangled seals along Namibia’s coastline in just a few years.

However, seals have a big advantage over most other marine animals because they frequently come ashore to rest in conspicuous colonies where people can see them. What we do not see is the number of sea turtles, dolphins, birds and other species that get entangled or ingest plastic and die agonising deaths because no one was around to rescue them. When we extrapolate this to the rest of the world, we begin to realise that the problem of ocean pollution is monumental – too big to wrap our heads around, which is why we have been so slow to do something about it.


Last year’s announcement to ban single-use plastic bags by the Ministry of Environment, Forestry and Tourism (MEFT) is a step in the right direction. Single-use plastics are flimsy and over time tend to break down into so-called micro-plastics –fragments of plastic so tiny that we eat and drink them without realising. Marine animals also eat this plastic, which causes unknown numbers of deaths. MEFT should therefore be congratulated for this decision that will hopefully reduce plastic waste in Namibia. While this is a victory in the fight against plastic pollution, much more needs to be done.

Single-use plastics are a relatively small problem when it comes to animal entanglements. According to OCN’s statistics from 2021 and 2022, fishing lines and nets are the main culprits, causing 48-52% of entanglements, followed by other plastics (36-42%) and non-plastic materials (10-12%, e.g. bits of metal or cloth). Globally, an estimated 16.3 million kilometres of fishing line and 78,447 km2 of fishing net are lost at sea each year. Clearly, this problem cannot be solved without addressing the waste generated by the fishing industry.


Reducing the environmental impact of the fishing industry is certainly possible, as evidenced by the massive reduction of seabird bycatch in Namibian fisheries in recent years. The OCN team believes that two key approaches need to be followed to tackle the plastic problem: create broader awareness among fishermen and introduce laws or accreditation to reduce line and net losses at sea. A final option that may become viable in the future is the development and use of biodegradable nets and lines.

The second option would involve working with the Ministry of Fisheries and Marine Resources and the Marine Stewardship Council, which certifies Namibian fish for the lucrative export market. The Albatross Task Force’s efforts to reduce bird bycatch have already set an example. Finding practical ways to retrieve lost nets or fishing line balls will require close cooperation with fishing companies operating along the Namibian coast. Although these efforts will benefit a vast number of marine species in addition to seals, OCN’s statistics on seal entanglement will provide a good measure of progress over time.

Until then, OCN will continue to rescue seals and raise much-needed awareness of the problem of plastic pollution. Pending approval from MEFT, OCN hopes to access more remote colonies and save more seals from entanglement in the future. Seals may be common, but they do not deserve to die a slow and painful death. Just as people remove wire snares to save animals on land, freeing seals from their manmade burdens is simply the humane thing to do. TN

First published in the 2023 issue of the Conservation and the Environment in Namibia magazine. Visit 65 TRAVEL NAMIBIA AUTUMN 2024

After a hard day’s entertainment, which you probably started by partaking in OYSTER BOX GUESTHOUSE hearty breakfast, you can unwind on our open deck, watch the African sunset over the vast Atlantic Ocean or have the customary ‘sundowner’ in our sheltered lounge and bar where you might just meet somebody interesting from the side of the world, from Sweden or Chile, from Japan or Costa Rica.

Whatever your needs may be, our friendly staff will assist you and will do their best to ensure that you have a fabulous time at OYSTER BOX GUESTHOUSE!

Guesthouse: +264 (0)64 202 247 | Reservations: +264 (0)61 249 597 |



Ondili Namib Outpost

To explore is to feel alive. To travel is to rekindle our enthusiasm for life. The further we venture into nature, the more profoundly we recharge and replenish ourselves.

This is true of our trip to the Namib Desert, a primordial swathe of land deeply connected with sacred energies. At the foot of a mountain, situated in a valley so ethereal it seems as if you have stepped onto another planet, we stop to visit the newly revamped Namib Outpost. It overlooks a plain that stretches to the red dunes of Sossusvlei on one side and on the other to the Naukluft Mountains, which are fascinating with their ancient geological history.

Built with rocks from the mountain on which it perches, the lodge’s exterior is simple and effortlessly blends into the horizon. But this changes as you enter: the opulent decor is a composition of African royalty, contemporary and a touch of yesteryear’s travellers. It is a rich portrayal, it is nature wearing powerful portraits.

The feast for the eyes, provided by the interior decoration, is only diverted by the views. So vast are the vistas to the horizon that complete relaxation will take hold of you without you even realising it. The silence leaves an impression, the feeling is one of connection. Breathe in the universe.

Arriving after a stretch on gravel roads, we are dusty and hot, but our discomfort quickly dissolves as we are welcomed by the Namib Outpost tagline welcome home, and are handed chilled ice tea and even chillier face cloths to refresh ourselves. The tagline, which we will hear repeatedly during our stay, is so appropriate. We do feel at home, despite the fact that this is an extremely luxurious venue in the midst of Namibia’s unspoilt desert beauty.

Beautifully appointed, each room boasts a unique layout. A private deck awaits behind beautiful heavy wooden doors, which I am told are from Morocco. They are reminiscent of the royal doors which were used across ancient Africa for sacred spaces. At Namib Outpost you open a brass-studded door and find an uninterrupted panorama behind your natural stone privacy wall on your deck. Sun loungers on the deck beckon you to sprawl and take in the vistas. Or perhaps cool off under your outdoor shower?

Hendrik, Boetie and Salome.

Each private deck also boasts an outdoor bed which will be made up for you if you wish to sleep under the Namib night sky. The rooms are decorated individually and come with large beds, along with private patios and outdoor as well as indoor seating options for you to recline and enjoy the views that change in front of your eyes as the sun moves and illuminates the valley from different angles.

The Assistant Manager at Namib Outpost, Salome Johannes, says the scenery is her favourite. “It’s transformative. You connect with yourself the moment you come here. Maybe it’s the energy from the mountains but it’s soulful, it’s peaceful.”

Barman Hendrik Shikongo says that for him it is the views. He is quite right. Whether he is pouring and mixing at the restaurant bar, the cigar bar or at the panoramic sundowner bar atop the mountain behind the lodge: the views are exceptional. The mountain top bar is a daily sundowner activity available to all guests. A short hike along a paved path takes you to a deck where you can sit back and enjoy watching the sun drop below the horizon in spectacular fashion. This is another thing you can do in opulent style, as Hendrik whips up an exotic gin and tonic for you, or a unique desert sundowner cocktail while you nibble on a platter of tasty snacks. It is one of many activities available at Namib Outpost. There are day visits to the legendary Sossusvlei, of course, and more.

Views surround you everywhere, whether in your rooms or while dining on tasty and varied meals on the al fresco terrace. The options are manifold: you can also take in the views from one of the many sun loungers, couches or the relaxation pods next to one of the two main pools. Better yet, why not try a massage infused with views for days. The wellness centre is another place of pristine perspective. Perhaps only rivalled by the magical touch of Dinah Araes, the in-house masseuse. In her nineteen years in the profession she has adopted unique treatments such as the calabash massage with different types of calabashes. She explains that they give her a greater range of movements for increased relaxation. After her massage you will feel a dreamlike calm.

In fact, dreamlike calm will characterise your visit to Namib Outpost. It is a retreat that offers an encounter with the desert from a raised vantage point. We are still surprised, however, at how down-toearth this lofty lodge is. Geographically elevated, elite furnishings, but with an incredible sense of authenticity and relaxedness. My family, including my young child, was welcomed with open arms. The restaurant had a high-chair for toddlers and the kitchen staff cooked special menus just for him. In our room a camp cot was made up with fine linen. Salome says, “We have tried to create an atmosphere which makes our guests feel at home. We treat our guests as if they were our family.” She recounts that when Namib Outpost reopened in April 2023, their very first guests commented on the feeling of being treated like family. Much of the best parts of the lodge were built during the time of the pandemic under the supervision of the delightful maintenance man, Boetie Mosimane.

The ethos of homeliness lends itself to the deeper connections you make on a visit to this home away from home in a supernatural and prehistoric setting. It is desert bliss. TN

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The ancient Greeks referred to the chameleon (chamai leon) as dwarf or earth lion because of the fighting spirit the small creature revealed when attacked.

Given the fact that the embryo develops underground – the female digs a hole for the eggs and the young have to literally dig their way out – these tiny creatures fight for their survival from the word go.

Namibia’s reptile expert Alfred Schleicher describes the Namaqua chameleon, also known as the desert chameleon, as a small dinosaur . Not only lions inspire awe in Africa.

A conservationist from neighbouring Botswana attests to their defining qualities.“Namaqua chameleons are big and quite bolshy. They patrol the camp at Nossob in Kgalagadi like dragons, hissing at anything they see”, he says.

You will find the Namaqua chameleon in the drier areas of the desert. According to Prof. Krystal Tolle from the South African National Biodiversity Institute it is one of very few specifically desert-living species of chameleon. Other than the Namaqua chameleon, the Arabian species also occur in the desert.

In Namibia’s Erongo Region the D1930 winds its way through dry sand and gravel planes. Eyesee Africa’s Tertius Jordaan, a developer of tailor-made tours in Africa, invited me along to test the quality of the road. The verdict: a good choice for a traveller with a basic 4x4. This area is the habitat of the Namaqua chameleon. We stopped to take photos of such a dwarf lion en route to Uis, just as we were passing the Spitzkoppe. My eye soon caught the trademark swaying movements of a Namaqua chameleon ( Chamaeleo namaquensis ). Chances are that the goose-stepping chameleon saw me first, given the fact that its eyes can look around in any direction independently, enabling it to accurately estimate distances in the vast Namibian landscape.

Upon closer inspection we discovered a male and female locked in a somewhat macabre dance: the male and female only get together when mating. “Cham eleons tend to be loners and do not live in groups nor have social bonds. So individuals will forage alone, sleep alone etc, generally avoiding other chameleons except whe n mating. If they come in contact and are not mating, they will display to each other until one chameleon retreats to a different branch or bush”, explains Prof. Tolley.

DWARF LIONS of the desert


Chances are that the goose-stepping chameleon saw me first, given the fact that its eyes can look around in any direction independently, enabling it to accurately estimate distances in the vast Namibian landscape.

“Chameleons change colour prior to mating as a means of communicating their receptivity or interest.” We were intrigued to observe that the male, the smaller one of the two, turns brighter in colour and tone, while bobbing its head when approaching the female. Prof. Tolley explained to me later that if the female responds negatively (usually by adopting dark tones or even extremely contrasting dark/ light tones) the male would usually retreat.

I could not help but wonder how many such unique moments had inadvertently been destroyed during the filming of blockbuster movies produced in the Namib Desert. Says conservationist Wendy Wilson, “In 2012, the filming of the Mad Max sequel Fury Road caused significant damage to Namaqua chameleon habitat in Dorob National Park and Namib-Naukluft National Park. They are indeed threatened by all things human, including the introduction of domestic animals, habitat destruction and wildlife trade.” Prof. Tolley confirms that they are sought after in the pet trade. “The species is restricted to South Africa and Namibia and the two countries allow only very few legal exports.”

The Erongo Region is earmarked for ambitious industrial developments, including more mining, as fish resources dwindle. No amount of fierce postering and hissing of such small creatures will protect these two species against the big wheels of the bulldozers of industrial development.

The D1930 takes you to Uis. The Brandberg, Namibia’s highest mountain, dominates the view to the left if you travel further along the C35 on the way to Kamanjab. Here we document yet another chameleon displaying typical behaviour – climbing up on a rock, to cool off. The photo of the little

solo dinosaur etched against the relief of a massive mountain, reminded me why I love Namibia: it is in the extremes that you find the delicate nuances. For some perspective, Schleicher writes in his book Reptiles of Namibia that the head-to-body length of a chameleon is 120-150 mm. In stark contrast, the Brandberg towers over the landscape at 2,573 m high. But the desert chameleon and Brandberg do have something in common other than being part of this singular landscape: they both change colour.

The Brandberg is famous for a colour metamorphosis of its own. It starts glowing in the late afternoon sun. And like the word chameleon , the meaning of the word Brandberg captures its essence. It means burning mountain in Afrikaans and German. Says translator and Otjihererospeaker Richard Tjitua, “The Herero name, Omukuruvaro means Mountain of the Gods . The Damara name for the mountain is Dâures , i.e. Burning Mountain .”

The sun also affects the chameleon: the side turned away from the sun is paler. Writes Schleicher, “This allows better radiation of the heat, thus the body is protected more effectively against the heat.” The ability to change colour is due to special pigment cells. “When they are stressed, they even turn black with anger”, writes Schleicher. The pigments of a chameleon’s skin change and react to nervous stimuli.

Upon revisiting the photographs Jordaan took on this trip (so aptly, in colour) I so wished I could send a skietgebed , a quick prayer, to the divine gods of the Omukuruvaro (Brandberg) asking them to gently hold a protective hand over our very own dwarf lions. TN

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GONE WRONG A love story

Text & Photographs Pompie Burger

When I visited Mahango Game Park in January this year I witnessed this intriguing courtship feeding process. Apart from the fact that feeding chicks is not part of the cuckoo family’s habits, I was amazed by the sheer efficacy and speed at which the courtship feeding took place. My initial thought was that the male was actually taking over the function of raising their young, but then I realised that the “chick” was an adult female Diederik Cuckoo. The female and chick do look pretty much the same, except that the bill is brown, not red (as can be seen on the pictures), which apparently is diagnostic for a female in comparison to the immature Diederik Cuckoo. TN


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