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Namibia TRAVEL NEWS

WWW.TRAVELNEWSNAMIBIA.COM

VOLUME 26 No 4 | WINTER 2018

THE NOTORIOUS

SKELETON COAST

WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW ABOUT

LANDSCAPE CONSERVATION HEADING NORTH TO

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Namibia TRAVEL NEWS

French photographer Eric Lafforgue captures Meekulu Mwadinhomo, the Queen of Uukwanyama, in traditional garb at the royal homestead in Owambo. Discover the magic of the region on page 68.

is published by Venture Media in Windhoek, Namibia www.travelnewsnamibia.com Tel: +264 61 383 450, Hyper City Unit 44, Maxwell street, Southern Industrial PO Box 21593, Windhoek, Namibia MANAGING EDITOR Rièth van Schalkwyk PRODUCTION MANAGER Elzanne Erasmus elzanne@venture.com.na PUBLIC RELATIONS Janine van der Merwe janine@venture.com.na LAYOUT & DESIGN Liza de Klerk CUSTOMER SERVICE Bonn Nortjé bonn@venture.com.na ONLINE EDITOR Nina van Schalkwyk nina@venture.com.na TEXT CONTRIBUTORS Elzanne Erasmus, Pompie Burger, Nina van Schalkwyk, Annelien Robberts, Dirk Heinrich, Antoinette De Chavonnes Vrugt, Annabelle Venter, Jacqueline Angula, Conrad Brain, Ginger Mauney

PHOTOGRAPHERS Elzanne Erasmus, Annabelle Venter, Annelien Robberts, Nina van Schalkwyk, Dirk Heinrich, Pompie Burger, Paul van Schalkwyk, Hentie Burger, Liza de Klerk, Victoria Ashipala, Tony Figueira, Helge Bendle, Conrad Brain PRINTERS John Meinert Printing, Windhoek Travel News Namibia is published quarterly, distributed worldwide and produced solely on Apple Macintosh equipment. The editorial content of TNN 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.

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ABOUT VENTURE

VENTURE MEDIA 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 more than two decades. Be part of our community and let’s do it together.

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TRAVEL NEWS NAMIBIA is a high-quality glossy Namibia travel and lifestyle magazine tasked with promoting Namibia to the world. Travel News Namibia is published quarterly in English and annually in German. The NAMIBIA HOLIDAY & TRAVEL is an annual tourism directory with over 200 pages of updated information on the country, regions, people, activities and wildlife. The NAMIBIA TRADE DIRECTORY is an annual trade and industry portfolio and is the pillar of information dissemination to the private-sector and the promotion of foreign investment.


EDITOR’S LETTER

MAGIC OF THE UNEXPECTED 25 Years ago, in June 1993, the first Travel News Namibia was published. Now, one quarter of a century later, we are still spreading the word. Carefully, because the very essence of what makes Namibia exceptional and worth the long haul flight is that our country is not a mass tourism destination. Namibia never could or should be one. To celebrate this special edition we opted to catch your eye with a photograph by internationally acclaimed photographer Eric Lafforgue. He captured the Queen of the Uukwanyama tribe, Meekulu Mwadinhomo, at her home in the Omhedi village. After his expedition through our country Eric concluded that Namibia was about much more than just dunes and animals. In this edition we bring you variety and insights to entice you to explore further. I was born in Namibia and have never seen the Ruacana Falls on the Kunene River as more than just a rock face. The main reason why so few Namibians and visitors have had the pleasure of marvelling at so much water is that nobody knows when the rock face will change to a spectacular waterfall. Dirk Heinrich captured it for all of us on page 13. By the time you read this edition the rock face will be sun-baked again. Just as the Maltahöhe lilies appear without forewarning and wilt within days, or just as one can never be sure to see a leopard in the wild, or a desert elephant in the northwest, the magic of travelling is to be there when precious opportunities present themselves. It made me think about the way we inspire the world to travel to Namibia rather than any other place on earth. We do not have century-old churches, or grand historical buildings or anything man-made for that matter that would entice dreamers to fly halfway around the globe to tick off a list. What we do have is the unpredictability of nature, of seasons and the magic of an unexpected experience that is truly aweinspiring. This may be the reason why travellers come back to Namibia again and again, venturing further off the beaten track to explore and experience that magic of the unexpected in different seasons and outlying regions. Clear skies and dramatic vistas present the most spectacular full moon rises in Namibia. Sometimes just crossing the Klein Windhoek Mountain on my way home from work makes my heart stop. Over the years it became a fascination, and when a colleague joined in, we planned our trips to be in a different perfect spot in Namibia to see the full moon rise every 29 days. Needless to say that it does not necessarily work out that way, nature hampered our quest. A perfect physical spot does not necessarily provide a clear easterly horizon. My conclusion is that the way we want to inspire you to travel to Namibia – and when you arrive here, to make the most of it – is by showing the magic through different lenses. We aim to convince our readers that there is not the best season, or a top destination, the perfect means of travel or the ultimate top ten list. We want to offer you our diverse perspective and hope that it will inspire you to look at the same place with different eyes, or meet someone in the middle of seemingly nowhere and listen to their story. Celebrate this milestone with us and toast to the future of tourism in a country where we honour the importance of the people who live with wildlife and help to protect our natural world and to the visitors who tread lightly on our fragile land.

Rièth van Schalkwyk

TRAVEL NEWS NAMIBIA WINTER 2018

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CONTENTS WINTER 2018 44

10 BUSH TELEGRAPH The new and exciting 13 RUACANA ROARS AGAIN - a rare sight on Namibia´s border 14 NAMIBIA'S NATIONAL PARKS featuring Skeleton Coast National Park

22 KAMANJAB Place of Stone 24 CAMPING Q&A with Judge President Hosea Angula 26 PHOTOGRAPHY FEATURE of the Nxai Pans in Botswana 36 COMMUNITY of the Mayuni Conservancy 40 SALAD RECIPES with Antoinette De Chavonnes Vrugt

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44 SENSE OF HOME AND HOPE Landscape-level conservation 49 CAMEL-THORN life skills


CONTENTS

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50 STRENGTH OF THE HUMAN SPIRIT with Mika Shapwanale

54

54 BIRDING the uncommon Starlings 60 HARDAP 10 Reasons Why 62 RIEMVASMAKER and their peaceful simplicity of life 68 OWAMBO Life in the slow Lane 74 CONSERVATIONISTS uniting and joining forces 80 THIS IS MY NAMIBIA

68 36 TRAVEL NEWS NAMIBIA WINTER 2018

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THERE ARE MANY WAYS YO U C A N FALL IN LOVE WITH NAMIBIA

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MEAT-LOVERS’ PARADISE

BUSH TELEGRAPH We live in a meat-lovers’ country, and therefore we know how important quality meat products are to Namibians. The Hartlief Rooftop Bistro, owned by the Raith family, is situated in the Northern Industrial Area of Windhoek at the entrance of the Hartlief factory. Hartlief started out in 1946 as a small family butchery in the heart of Windhoek. The business has since flourished and expanded into a first-class processed meat manufacturer that is loved by many, locally and internationally. When stocking up on premier meat products, make sure to stop by the rooftop bistro to enjoy a fresh brötchen with a variety of delicious fillings.

WE

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MAKING AN

EX-STRAW-DINARY CHANGE

At the rate that straws are mindlessly tossed in the trash, the ocean will consist of more plastic than fish by 2050. What a shocking prediction! What can we do to turn the situation around? In support of the motto of this year’s Namibia Tourism Expo, “Small Things Matter”, let us all take the pledge to say no to straws. Single-use plastic is the main cause of pollution in our rivers and oceans. The “no straw” movement is specifically aimed at the hospitality industry, but encourages all of us to “refuse it if you cannot re-use it”.

Travel mugs. They come in very handy, since we are always on the go. Besides, these environmentally friendly mugs help reduce waste. Get N$2 off for your next cappuccino, freshly brewed in your own mug at any Slowtown branch in Namibia. Another tough day contributing to saving the planet.

WWW.TRAVELNEWSNAMIBIA.COM

“What we learn to love, we learn to respect” - theme of The Kayamoja Wildlife Art Festival Kayamoja ArtConnects Trust is a non-profit organisation connecting disadvantaged children with wildlife and wildlife conservation through art. Their first joint exhibition showcased local and international wildlife artists’ work in combination with local children's creations. An astounding 50% of the festival’s proceeds went to the Trust. Wildlife art in this context is not just a matter of beauty in our homes, but has become a weapon in the battle for conservation. Children were encouraged to paint wild animals or create animal faces on cupcakes. Delicious foods and snacks filled the gaps and live music entertained the crowds.


TAME YOUR SPIRIT IN THE

WILD

GIRAFFE'S TALL TALES

PLOT TWIST

A BOOK LAUNCH WITH A

Six languages, 25 contributors, two editors, a multitude of literary categories – all in one publication. Writing Namibia: Literature in Transition was officially launched on 18 April 2018 by Dr Ellen Ndeshi Namhila. The book, published by UNAM Press, is described as a treasure house of knowledge at the service of national development. It is proof of literary achievement and serves as an incentive to focus on publishing, a largely neglected sector in Namibia. Aside from customary formalities, the UNAM Drama Department entertained the audience with theatre sports with the underlying message that performance brings literature to life.

Yoga. Meditation. Adventure activities. Eat. Sleep. Repeat. With plenty of time to relax and soak up the African sun. Nothing more. Nothing less. Soulful. Memorable. Healing. Prepare yourself for the journey of a lifetime that will linger in your spirit long after it has ended. Venture into Namibia’s serene open landscapes on a Yoga Safari Adventure. Explore the diverse wildlife and culture of the country, while taking your yoga practice to the next level. The oldest tour operator in Namibia would know what their clients want. To take part, contact Wilfred Sentefol, the second generation, through SWA Safaris’ website: www.swasafaris.com/safaris/yoga-safari/

In the last few issues of TNN we shared fun and often lesserknown facts about giraffes and their conservation. The more we know about them, the better chance we have to conserve their numbers. June 21st is World Giraffe Day, aimed at raising awareness of the plight of the species. The Giraffe Conservation Fund (GCF), which has its main office in Namibia, is currently the only non-government organisation in the world that concentrates on the conservation and management of giraffe in Africa. The GCF documentary “Giraffes: Africa’s Gentle Giants”, which follows a GCF team as they try to relocate a group of giraffes, is up for an Emmy Award for Outstanding Nature Documentary this year. giraffeconservation.org

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RUACANA ROARS AGAIN - a rare sight on Namibia´s border

Text and photographs Dirk Heinrich

T

he spray rises a hundred metres high into the blue sky as 1400 cubic metres of water thunder down the blackbrown rocks per second. Below the falls the Kunene continues through a gorge of about one kilometre. At most places along that section the turbulent river remains hidden under the spray. At Ruacana the Kunene plummets over near vertical rock faces to a depth of between 107 and 120 metres. Then it winds its way westwards through a mountainous arid landscape for 352 kilometres to empty into the Atlantic Ocean. Part of the current heavy flow of water from Angola is diverted through the underground hydroelectric power station, built into the rock next to Ruacana Falls. The total capacity of the four turbines is 347 megawatt. The Kunene peaked on April 22nd this year when 1604 m³/s rushed down the falls and through the power station. The second highest volume was recorded in 2011 when 1844 m³/s cascaded over the rock faces on the way to the ocean. The highest flow rate in the history of Ruacana Power Station (built at the end of the 1970s) was estimated to be over 3000 m³/s in April 1984. Exact measurements were impossible because all the instruments and gauges were flooded. This spectacular natural event is not a regular feature, however. The level of the Kunene fluctuates all the time, depending on rainfalls in Angola and the amount of water released from dams upstream in the neighbouring country. Most of the year the falls are in fact dry because the Kunene is diverted through a 1.5 km long tunnel to the hydroelectric power station. The water masses which rushed down the river in April flooded several lodges on the Namibian side and had the Epupa Falls further downstream roaring too. It has been reported that crocodiles avoided the strong current in the middle of the fast flowing river and moved into the flooded areas next to the banks of the Kunene. TNN

TRAVEL NEWS NAMIBIA WINTER 2018

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Paul van Scalkwyk

NATIONAL PARKS

NAMIBIA'S

The sky is dark and eerie. A south-westerly gale is howling. Waves are pushing towards the coast, their crests several metres high above the boiling sea. The wooden ship dances to the tune of Mother Nature. Sails are torn and the men on board fear for their lives. A huge wave capsizes the ship and breaks it. Clinging to one of the wooden planks a sailor tries to reach the beach. When he awakes, the sun is shining, the sea is calm and a painful silence surrounds him. Exhausted the man gets up, thirsty. There is nothing but sand on one side and the Atlantic Ocean, which has spared him, on the other side. No sign of life around him, only a few bones. The sailor has survived the sea but the barren beach and desert do not offer anything for survival.


WHERE DO ALL THE SKELETONS COME FROM? Text and photographs Dirk Heinrich


LEFT Tufted ghost crabs (Ocypode cursor) feed on a seal carcass. These crabs are scavengers and head for the water as soon as they sense danger. They live in burrows above the high-water mark.

T

his could have happened a few hundred years ago on Namibia’s notorious Skeleton Coast in the northwest of the country. Some human remains have been found, also a number of shipwrecks or parts thereof. Nobody will ever know how many ships have sunk off these hostile shores. How many ship-wrecked sailors made it to the beach and then perished is not known either. Most of the bones found on that coastline are not of human origin but mainly from marine mammals. For hundreds of years the carcasses of these animals, some of them colossal, have washed up on the beaches. The death of one means life for others. Blackbacked jackals and brown hyenas scour the beaches to scavenge on opportune food sources. Even lions have been seen enjoying a meal of whale meat in this barren part of Namibia. Gulls and crabs, too, survive on marine animals. The northern beaches of Skeleton Coast National Park are the only place where ghost crabs (Ocypode cursor and Ocypode africana) are found in Namibia. They move around the beach in large groups, feed on carcasses and scurry into the water at the first sign of danger. The bones of whales, dolphins, seals – and in a few cases humans – have been deposited on the coast, the Skeleton Coast, for centuries. Sometimes, when travelling along the beach of Skeleton Coast National Park, which extends over a length of 500 kilometres from the Ugab River in the south to the Kunene River in the north, you will not spot a single carcass. At other times a number of dead whales and dolphins can be seen above the high-water mark. Orcas (also known as killer whales), pilot whales, humpback whales, bottlenose dolphins and Heaviside´s dolphins have been washed up in recent years. Even the skeleton of a crocodile was once found a few kilometres south of the Kunene River mouth. It is not known why many dolphins, whales, seals and other marine animals and forms of life die on this particular part of the African coast and find their last resting place there. The cold Benguela Current is full of secrets.

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BELOW A black-backed jackal has been feeding on a seal carcass while a kelp gull waits its turn in the background. These two species are the most common scavengers found on Namibia´s coastline. Dead whales and dolphins are sometimes found above the highwater mark.


NAMIBIA'S NATIONAL PARKS This year, Travel News Namibia explores the outliers. The off-the-grid, lesser known parks each of which are a unique slice of nature well-worth the often troublesome visit. In this second installment of the series, Namibian journalist Dirk Heinrich explores the infamous and tumultous desert coastline, its secrets and epic natural phenomena. Explore the hidden wonders of yet another ‘park on the fringe’, be regaled by epic stories of survival and enthralled by the wildlife and nature that not only survives, but thrives in one of the least-explored, most enigmatic and mysterious corners of this majestic land, the Skeleton Coast. BWABWATA NATIONAL PARK

MUDUMU NATIONAL PARK ETOSHA NATIONAL PARK

MANGETTI NATIONAL PARK

NKASA RUPARA NATIONAL PARK

KHAUDUM NATIONAL PARK

SKELETON COAST NATIONAL PARK

WATERBERG PLATEAU PARK

CAPE CROSS DOROB NATIONAL PARK

VON BACH RECREATION RESORT DAAN VILJOEN GAME PARK

NAMIBNAUKLUFT PARK

SOSSUSVLEI

TSAU //KHAEB (FORMER SPERRGEBIET) NATIONAL PARK

HARDAP RECREATION RESORT

NAUTE RECREATION AREA

AI-AIS/RICHTERSVELD TRANSFRONTIER PARK

TRAVEL NEWS NAMIBIA WINTER 2018

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And there are other kinds of skeletons along this stretch of coastline, too, such as those of trees swept along by the rare floods of normally dry rivers like the Ugab, Hoanib and Hoarusib. The trees are carried out to sea and eventually washed ashore again many kilometres north of the respective river mouth. And then there are also the skeletons of civilisation, such as shipwrecks and the remains of heavy machinery, left in the desert after hopes to strike it rich by exploration – mainly for diamonds – turned out unsuccessful. Some skeletons, like the rusted, bent and twisted parts of aeroplanes, are the result of disasters. A well-documented disaster happened in 1942 when the MV Dunedin Star ran aground off the Skeleton Coast north of Möwe Bay and the Hoarusib River. The biggest rescue operation to date was launched to save the 63 people who made it ashore and the 42 who remained aboard ship. All but two men were saved. The Skeleton Coast kept the remains of the two drowned men, the Dunedin Star, the tug Sir Charles Elliot, the wreck of a SAAF Lockheed Ventura aircraft and the shelter built by the survivors. It was the very first time that vehicles ventured into this part of the Namib Desert and their tracks remained visible for decades. The dangers of the Namib Desert are manifold, sometimes even surreal. Although those shipwrecked who survived the strong current, the heavy surf and the thick mist and made it ashore at the mouth of the Kunene River, had the good luck of having fresh water and greenery around them, they found themselves in danger of being eaten by a crocodile on the edge of a desert. There are big and hungry crocs in the lagoon at the river mouth.

LEFT TO RIGHT

But it is not all mystery, secrets, death, horror and skeletons in An unusual skeleton was found only seven kilometres south of the Kunene mouth. The skull of the huge crocodile was this part of Namibia. The scenery of Skeleton Coast National partly visible, the rest was covered by sand. Park is unique. Like green life-giving arteries, dry rivers cross the desert on their way to the sea. Along their vegetated In the background the skeleton of a hide built a few decades banks desert-adapted giraffe, elephant, gemsbok, springbok ago to shelter a researcher who was counting waves in a bay. and baboon thrive. Some of them are followed by predators The skull of a seal between rocks and sand such as lion, leopard and cheetah. Fresh-water springs in the riverbeds, and a few in the gravel plains or between the sand A ghost crab digs a tunnel next to the spine of a dolphin, with the remains of a cormorant on the other side. dunes, enable the animals to roam the desert. The Skeleton Coast with all its drama is a fascinating place, where secrets are kept and surprises guaranteed. TNN

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Lichens grow on the jaw of a rhino which must have died a few decades ago in this harsh environment, after moving down one of the river courses and then getting lost between the sea and the sand dunes.


NAMIBIA'S NATIONAL PARKS LEFT TO RIGHT

One of the few fresh-water springs between the dunes of Skeleton Coast National Park. Without these waterholes many of the animals would not be able to survive in this harsh area. Animals in the area know where the lifesustaining springs are, shipwrecked sailors of yore didn´t. One of the many shipwrecks on the Skeleton Coast. How many ships have sunk at that part of the coast will forever be a secret. A skeleton of civilisation: a rusted heavy earthmoving machine, left in the desert next to the sea. Now it is a shelter for a pair of black-backed jackals.

For more information on the Skeleton Coast National Park, visit our website at www.travelnewsnamibia.com/destinations/namib-skeletoncoast-national-park-one-of-the-largest-parks-in-the-world/.

TRAVEL NEWS NAMIBIA WINTER 2018

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GENERAL Surface area: 824,268 km² Capital: Windhoek Independence: 21 March 1990 Current president: Hage Geingob Multiparty parliament Democratic constitution Division of power between executive, legislature and judiciary Secular state - freedom of religion (90% Christian) Freedom of the press/media

ENVIRONMENT Nature reserves: 15% of surface area Highest mountain: Brandberg Other prominent mountains: Spitzkoppe, Moltkeblick, Gamsberg Perennial rivers: Orange, Kunene, Okavango, Zambezi and Kwando/ Linyanti/Chobe Ephemeral rivers: Numerous, including Fish, Kuiseb, Swakop and Ugab

FLORA 14 vegetation zones 120 species of trees 200 endemic plant species 100 plus species of lichen Living fossil plant: Welwitschia mirabilis

ECONOMY Main sectors: Mining, fishing, tourism & agriculture Biggest employer: Agriculture (46%) Fastest-growing sector: Tourism Mining: Diamonds, uranium, copper, lead, zinc, magnesium, cadmium, arsenic, pyrites, silver, gold, lithium minerals, dimension stones (granite, marble, blue sodalite) and many semiprecious stones

PHYSICAL INFRASTRUCTURE Roads: 5,450 km tarred, 37,000 km gravel Harbours: Walvis Bay, Lüderitz

© Venture Media 2018 www.travelnewsnamibia.com

Main airports: Hosea Kutako International Airport, Eros Airport, 46 airstrips Rail network: 2,382 km narrow gauge Telecommunications: 6.2 telephone lines per 100 inhabitants Direct-dialling facilities to 221 countries Mobile communication system: GSM agreements with 117 countries / 255 networks Postal service: affiliated to the Universal Postal Union

consular or embassy representation in Windhoek.

TAX AND CUSTOMS All goods and services are priced to include value-added tax of 15%. Visitors may reclaim VAT. Enquiries: Ministry of Finance Tel (+264 61) 23 0773 in Windhoek

MONEY MATTERS

One medical doctor per 3,650 people Three privately run hospitals in Windhoek with intensive-care units Medical practitioners (world standard) 24-hour medical emergency services

Currency: The Namibia Dollar (N$) is fixed to and on par with the SA Rand. The South African Rand is also legal tender. Foreign currency, international Visa, MasterCard, American Express and Diners Club credit cards are accepted.

POPULATION

DRINKING WATER

SOCIAL INFRASTRUCTURE

2.3 million Density: 2.2 per km² 400 000 inhabitants in Windhoek (15% of total) Official language: English 14 regions, 13 ethnic cultures 16 languages and dialects Adult literacy rate: 85% Population growth rate: 2.6% Educational institutions: over 1,700 schools, various vocational and tertiary institutions

FAUNA Big game: Elephant, lion, rhino, buffalo, cheetah, leopard, giraffe 20 antelope species 240 mammal species (14 endemic) 250 reptile species 50 frog species 676 bird species Endemic birds including Herero chat, rockrunner, Damara tern, Monteiro’s hornbill

FOREIGN REPRESENTATION

Most tap water is purified and safe to drink. Visitors should exercise caution in rural areas.

TRANSPORT 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. There is an extensive network of international and regional flights from Windhoek and domestic charters to all destinations.

TIME ZONES GMT + 2 hours

ELECTRICITY 220 volts AC, 50hz, with outlets for round three-pin type plugs

More than 50 countries have Namibian

www.namibiatourism.com.na


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ON SUNSHINE

magine yourself floating across gentle waves of air as the first golden rays of a bright morning peek over towering sand dunes and ragged mountain tops. It is an otherworldly glow. It is early still, yet the Namib Desert’s famous sunshine beckons from the horizon as you drift along. Below, a sea of sand creates a mosaic of hues and patterns on the earth’s surface. Soft flowing lines intermittently interrupted by white pans make up the visage of this ancient desert. There is nothing quite like a hot air balloon safari over the Namib, and who better to experience this phenomenal adventure with than a vetted company that has been gliding across the African skies for 31 years. Namib Sky Balloon Safaris was founded in 1987 by Eric and Nancy Hesemans. Today their son Denis and his wife Andreia are at the helm and take guests on this magical quest. Join them for a spectacular sunrise flight over the surroundings of Sossusvlei. With pick-up points and transfers from more than 10 lodges in the vicinity, it is an opportunity open to anyone travelling through this part of the Namib. Take to the skies and discover the best possible views of one of Namibia’s most astounding natural phenomena. The company’s eco-friendly modus operandi, contributions to the local community and friendly service will warm your heart and leave a smile on your face. Take pictures, breathe it all in and enjoy every moment of floating on sunshine.

Skeleton Coast Safaris I

t's a place that many travellers never get the chance to see. Never get the opportunity to explore. The Skeleton Coast is as far off the beaten track as can be. Its name harks back to a time of shipwrecks along this volatile stretch of deserted coastline in Namibia's north. The desert landscape seems completely desolate at first. But join the Schoeman family and see the mystery unfold. Stunning landscapes, vast seas of sand transformed into natural works of art that unfurl beneath the belly of the plane as it soars high above the earth. Discover the beauty of the Skeleton Coast with tours of the area. Immerse yourself in the surroundings and find the surprising secrets the desert still has hidden. The Schoemans were among the first to be allowed access to this formidable area, and their years of experience and knowledge of the park make them excellent hosts for first-time travellers and salted visitors alike.

Tel : +264 61 224 248 info@skeletoncoastsafaris.com www.scs.go.na

When you book a safari, make sure to combine your trip to the Skeleton Coast with other iconic destinations further afield, such as Swakopmund, Etosha National Park and Sossusvlei in the south. Skeleton Coast Safaris offer the ultimate exclusive and personalised experience.

TRAVEL NEWS NAMIBIA WINTER 2018

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KAMANJAB - Place of Stone During a drive down to Windhoek, Nina van Schalkwyk stopped in the dusty little town of Kamanjab, where she was charmed by its surprising creativity, cheerful inhabitants and a sheep that can’t keep its pants on.

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amibia isn't a very big place. Wait, let me start that again... Namibia is a VERY big place – but it's not very 'big'. That doesn't make any sense, does it. Let me try to explain.

some snacks. Distances between one destination and the next are large, and many travellers would be tempted to try and get to their destinations as quick as they can, with no stops in between.

Namibia as a country may be quite large, but somehow it still feels like a small town. So when you find something new, some little place or establishment or a funky little corner of enthusiastic originality, it's quite a surprise, a reminder that there are people occupying spaces that they've made interesting and unique, which otherwise would have blended into the surroundings.

I, however, am not in the habit of rushing anywhere if I can help it, and if there is the scent of a story somewhere, I try to sniff it out. It was my colleague who first introduced me to the funky little shop adjacent to the Total Garage on Kamanjab's main road. She called it the Atatatata shop, referring to the wooden sign with that word which hangs over the entrance of the shop. Of course, any Namibian would tell you Atatatata is a bit of slang that basically means wow! or hectic! Or even: you are in big trouble, mister. The steps leading up to the shady stoep in front of the shop are covered with Namibian number plates, plus a lone South

Kamanjab is a nondescript settlement en route to the famous sights of Damaraland or the Kunene Region in the northwest. There wouldn't be much reason to stop, except to fill up with fuel, heed the call of nature or grab

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African one. Bottles hanging from the corrugated roof chime cheerily in the breeze. The stoep harbours a medley of objects. Treasures. Two wire-and-bead sheep, thigh-high, are well camouflaged between the grey concrete floor and the tables and chairs set out for weary travellers. "Look at the sheep: she went to the beach for the December holidays, but she lost her bottoms!" Sure enough, the woolly creature wrought from wires wears a bright red bikini top, fastened around its neck in a ludicrous way. The establishment, I find out, belongs to Willemien and Oom Jan Strauss, both well-known in the community. Sergeant Basson, who directs me to the fuel station after a bout of car trouble, comes to the shop later in the afternoon. His previous formal attitude at the roadblock outside town has given way to a casual friendliness that is


mirrored in the faces of the owners, despite the difference in age and background. You can tell that Willemien and Oom Jan are comfortable with the town they chose, and have opened their hearts to it. Both are originally from South Africa. Something about Namibia, let's call it that mysterious Namibian magic, beckoned them north across the Orange River and, through some kind of madness, caused them to settle in Kamanjab. Between a rock and a hard place. No pun intended: Kamanjab literally means 'Place of Stone'. And yet, between the stones the size of a man's head, the couple created not only a home for themselves but last year also set up accommodation facilities among the koppies in the form of six simple campsites and four chalets for the intrepid travellers. Willemien gave us a tour of their new project, pointing out the little details. She can't help herself, she said wryly, after I noticed a wire gecko fixed onto the ogiesdraad (chicken mesh) cupboard in one of the chalets. Other quirky details like an antelope horn for a door handle and metal monkeys in the trees reflect Willemien's light-hearted eye for detail that turned a run-of-the-mill fuel station into an interesting stop-over to tempt the photographer's eye. Before I realise more than an hour has passed. I leave Willemien and Jan seated at one of the little tables on the stoep in front of their shop, chatting to friends from South Africa who stopped for a visit, a man with a white beard from a nearby farm, young bornfrees in deep conversation. I look around and realise that this little space has become a gathering place for all. A welcoming venue that makes locals as well as the array of people who pass by feel comfortable like family in the company of Willemien and Jan. TNN

North West Garage & Tyres, Take Away and Bottle Store PO Box 95, Kamanjab +264 81 471 7005 jpstrauss47@gmail.com

Owner Willemien on a tour of their newly-built campsites just outside Kamanjab.

Something about Namibia, let's call it that mysterious Namibian magic...


THE CAMPING FILES Photographs Tony Figueira

The camping bug bites the most respectable members of our community. Deputy Judge President Hosea Angula started exploring Namibia with fellow supreme court judge Dave Smuts and the late photographer Tony Figueira in the early 80’s. And even though work seems to be getting in the way of his hobby, we do believe that once a camper, always a camper. Here Judge Angula shares his thoughts on the best camping cars, scaling the Brandberg and why you should never leave your shoes outside the tent.

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went camping for the first time with my friends Dave and Tony. We explored Botswana, Damaraland, Sossusvlei. Nowadays you have a GPS; the roads are clearly marked, you find other people along the way. You are never far from civilisation. It was not like that back then. The tracks were not that good, and you had to depend on your maps and your calculations. Victoria Ashipala

When we went to Damaraland the first time, Dave had a Toyota double cab, the first double cab on the market. The backseat was tiny! One sat folded up in the back. When we went camping in Botswana, Tony had an Isuzu. A small bakkie, but it performed very well. And then we had a Land Rover. It did well, but I remember we had to buy some parts in Maun to get it repaired.

ABOVE

Each place is unique in its own way. Sossusvlei is beautiful in the morning and the afternoon, with the changing colours of the dunes. Damaraland is entirely different, with its wide open spaces, its emptiness, and yet you find living creatures there.

When we were young: Smuts and Once, when we camped in Sesriem, I put my Angula relax in the desert sun. shoes outside the tent, and a jackal came in On every journey, no matter the night and grabbed one of them. So the how epic, there will always be a rest of the trip I struggled on without it. tyre that needs to be fixed. Deputy Judge President Hosea Angula

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What I love about camping is sitting around a campfire with friends; the conversations

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we have. I only go camping with friends, because you have to camp with people that you know well. When you are together in the wilderness for three or four days there is nowhere to hide. During one Christmas holiday, a bunch of my friends and I decided to camp at Mile 14 outside Swakopmund. For some, it was their first camping experience. You sit there and talk nonsense, just mingling with your friends and spending quality time together. My last camping experience was six years ago when I climbed the Brandberg, the highest mountain in Namibia. Our team leader was Andy Chase, who had a lot of experience. It was my first climb, and I did not know what to expect. We had to carry our supplies, our food and water, for five days. We started climbing in the morning and by midday we were almost on the plateau. Once we reached the summit, we hiked on the plateau, which is relatively flat. Early in the morning, from the top of the mountain, we could see the mist at the coast. We were almost in the clouds. It’s a good feeling. An achievement. When you go camping in wild parts of Namibia you need to make sure you have enough water. You can have food, you can have everything else, but if you do not have enough water to last, you are in trouble. TNN


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Nxai Pans

a classic Kalahari experience Text and Photographs Annabelle Venter

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We’ve just returned to South Camp and it’s almost dark. Stretching our stiff limbs, the place is silent tonight since we are the only campers. And then we hear it, a soft swishing sound in the grass. Moving cautiously to the edge of the tree line in the deep twilight, we can just make out a solid mass of elephants mere metres away from us. They’ve stopped and are watching us now, trunks extended, exploring our scent. They saw us f irst, though, and have decided we are not a threat. So off they go again, completely silent except for feet brushing through the crisp grass.

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hey’re gone as quietly as they arrived and within a few minutes it feels like a dream. The experience leaves us feeling incredibly humble and privileged. That’s what camping in the wild is all about, living respectfully in the presence of wild creatures, neither one disturbing the other. This is why we love Botswana's Nxai Pans. When we first discovered this national park 20 years ago, my husband declared it ‘his favourite place on earth’. There were few visitors back then and on several occasions we were the only people in the park for days on end. In those days the rangers didn’t always have a vehicle if someone had gone to Maun for supplies. There were five campsites and just a single ablution in the centre of the camp, with au natural decorations like a discarded snake skin. On that first trip the only other visitors related that when they arrived that morning there were lions relaxing in the shade of campsite 5. They had no option but to go for a drive until the big cats had finished their nap! Back then we also spent hours on camp chairs at the old waterhole, chatting with the staff and watching lions making kill after kill in front of us. This is where our interest in wildlife photography was piqued. During this time wildlife film makers Tim and June Liversedge and their crew were filming spectacular footage for their IMAX/National Geographic movie called Roar, Lions of the Kalahari, featuring the lions we had also come to know. Visitors then were mostly local nature enthusiasts, only because they truly loved the place and didn’t mind the lack of facilities, or the tortuous 6-lane, 35 km, deep sandy track to get there. A track that chewed up certain 4x4s and left them stranded on several occasions, blocking the track!


GETTING THERE BY ROAD FROM NAMIBIA:

You will need a 4x4 camping vehicle, preferably with a rooftop tent, with the appropriate border clearance papers from the car hire company. Nxai Pans is roughly 1000 km east of Windhoek by road via Gobabis, Ghanzi and Maun. Leave Windhoek by 7 a.m. to avoid arriving in Maun after dark, and watch out for donkeys on the roads when you enter the town. You’ll be travelling east and the sun sets earlier than in Windhoek. There’s a wide variety of accommodation and camping to choose from for your overnight stay. You need to be self-sufficient and can stock up on supplies in Maun before leaving town. It’s best to leave early in the morning for Nxai Pans, to do the 35 km sandy track from tar road to camp office before it gets too hot. Experience in driving in sand is advisable. There is no office or water at Baines’ Baobabs.

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One beautiful spring morning in September 2001, the 11th to be precise, we were parked next to the road chatting to the only other campers when one of us noticed some lionesses approaching far away in the distance. We sat and watched silently as three lionesses, each with three tiny cubs, strolled nonchalantly between the two vehicles en route to the waterhole! We followed and watched this beautiful scene in that magical pink first light, feeling that all was well in our remote part of the world. A little later that morning, the pride’s male, ‘King Nxai’, arrived to slake his thirst. It was a moment we won’t forget. Arriving in Maun the next day we discovered that the previous day was one that the world will not forget either, when the Twin Towers fell in New York. Nxai Pans is the northern part of the greater Makgadikgadi pans complex, an ancient fossil lake bed, some 15 kms wide, and there are many tracks dotted with baobabs traversing the area. The park includes three pans, the larger one centred around the park’s waterhole, just 2 km from camp. To the northeast lies Kgama Kgama Pan which is wonderfully remote, and if you are travelling alone then it’s a good idea to let your neighbours know

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where you are going. In summer, when it’s raining, the track there is treacherous with deep hidden potholes, but still always worth a visit. To the south is Kudiakam Pan where you’ll find some famous baobabs. Summertime is very wet in the pans, with a shallow layer of water covering all the uneven road surfaces. The tracks become extremely slippery and one can end up against a tree, as we almost did! They usually dry out during the day, but on a trip in February back in 2004, we found ourselves completely flooded. After an extensive shopping expedition en route in Maun we found we had the campsite once again to ourselves. We selected our spot, set up the tents, and unpacked groceries and cool boxes. Once settled in we set out with our friends on an afternoon game drive, but no sooner had we left the camp when the clouds burst. We skidded and splashed along for a few kilometres while the rain subsided. Returning to camp an hour or so later we found the campsite kneedeep in water, all our gear floating in the mess. This quickly reduced our food supply since the water was mingling with the ablution’s drains! Moving out of the campsite (it was like a basin) to higher ground we discovered all our clothes were also wet! A routine of draping clothes on bushes for a few


hours, before the next downpour, continued for the next four days. It was great fun indeed and luckily our friends who were on their first camping trip in Africa thought so too! At night we sat reading in our rooftop tent listening to the nocturnal sounds in the soft rain – lions hunting zebra 50 meters away followed by hooves thundering past us into the darkness; unidentified footsteps splashing through the flooded campsite next to us; tiny lion cub cries as the pride passed between the vehicles below us. It was thrilling and a trip I will never forget. Camping in the rainy season is not for the fainthearted, but brings beautiful sights with it too. Fresh pink lilies break through the compacted earth. Dung beetles make light work of the mountains of elephant dung. Delicate fungi pop up in the dung overnight, waiting to bewitch us as the sun rises. Baby zebras frolic on the plains while the predators hunt in the long grass. Nxai Pans are the destination of one of the longest animal migrations in Africa when the zebra move south from the Chobe River to feed on the new summer grasslands. All too soon the dry season descends on the pans once more, and the predators and other game must visit the waterhole daily. The original waterhole was a spectacular place to pass the whole day, but since a lodge was built with its

own waterhole on the western side, the animals now move between the two. Occasionally the water tower near the camp overflows and elephants stop to quench their thirst there. Then apparently it’s also a good place to spot cheetah drinking very early in the morning. In the past, when Botswana still allowed hunting, breeding herds of elephants were scarce and we have only seen those herds twice in the past 20 years. The first time we glimpsed a really scared group running across the pan, but last year they were back at the waterhole and much more relaxed around the vehicles. We have several times woken to find no water in the campsite and the staff told us that the elephants had ripped up the pipes once again. Since the new ablutions were added the elephants have found other ways to access water during the dry times. Single bull elephants regularly visit the campsite during the day and night and one must be watchful not to bump into them on a dark night. Did I mention the campsite is not fenced? Although there are plenty of baobabs to see around the pan’s edge, no trip to Nxai Pans is complete without a visit to Baines’ Baobabs on Kudiakam Pan.

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This pan can be reached by taking the turnoff east, about 18 km south of the main camp. It’s a beautiful sandy drive over some 15 km of open veld until you reach the first pans. Look out for lion, caracal, small antelope and the occasional elephant. You’ll see the famous group of baobabs some time before you reach it. It’s so flat around here that they stand like sentinels above the pans. Named after explorer Thomas Baines who painted them in 1862, these baobabs have hardly changed since. Camping is not permitted at Baines’ Baobabs themselves, but it’s a lovely place to stop for a quick picnic. If you are keen to photograph these beautiful trees there are campsites available in the area, but these are spread out some distance away. This is probably the best way to get good light and no people in your photographs plus the feeling of remoteness at night is really special. Campsite no. 1 is directly across the pan from the main group. When we first visited there we found fresh lion spoor, and various birds exploded from the tree on our approach – barn owls, hornbills, bee-eaters. There are basic ablutions now but for that first memorable camp at this spot we rigged up a water bag from the roof-rack. While enjoying that outdoor shower, knowing there was no one else for many kilometres around us, suddenly a small aircraft zoomed out of nowhere right past the camp! The pilot must have been as surprised as us because he flew around the island for a second pass, much lower and closer this time! I’ve never seen an aircraft over the pans before or since that day. The gentle rhythm of daily camping life at Nxai Pans is pleasantly soporific and it’s a good idea to stay at least three days, but of course 5-7 would be better! One falls into a routine of being up before dawn and out at the waterhole just as the sun rises. Lions come to drink then before choosing a tree to lie up for the day. As the heat rises, groups of antelope begin the long trek to the waterhole. It gets crowded by ten o’clock and tempers flare around the water, sending all the animals scattering in clouds of dust. This is the magic of Nxai Pans: the dust, the animal interaction and the unexpected visitors. After lunch and showers at the camp, we’re back at the waterhole by mid-afternoon to wait for the elephants. The heat and stillness can make you drowsy, and on more than one occasion we had almost fallen asleep, waking with a start as the elephants burst out of the bush next to us! Sometimes we are able to spot them from far away, approaching the waterhole in a line and these are the sightings that make Nxai Pans so special. Gate times in Botswana are set for all the national parks and at certain times of the year you still have time after sunset to return to camp, ideal for catching those golden light moments for photography. Getting back to camp it’s time to reflect on another magical day in Botswana, to listen for the night sounds, see if you can spot the bush babies in the Terminalia prunioides trees above you and watch the moonrise.

White-headed Vulture on an anthill

Just remember to keep your eyes open for elephants! TNN


BEST TIMES TO VISIT?

The green season is great for the zebra migration, summer birds and abundance of game. Baines’ Baobabs can be flooded and the campsites inaccessible in summer, and you should ideally travel in convoy. Winter-time is best for almost guaranteed waterhole action and predators.

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Beat the sands of time (and Namibia).

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right green vineyards are set against a harsh desert backdrop. Neuras Wine and Wildlife Estate mainly consists of stony desert or savannah grassland but nevertheless it is an oasis in every sense of the word. Because the estate sits on a geological fault that creates a near-perfect terroir for cultivating grapes. Five springs provide pure water, while the mountains shield the earth from the unforgiving desert wind and the alkaline soil is just right for vines. A full wine tour takes you through the vineyard, the cellar and to the fountains. But this is not the only excitement on offer. A thrilling highlight is the cheetah feeding session. Upon entering the camp in a game viewer, guests stand on a viewing platform and the cheetahs race up to them on top of the hill. Surrounded by cheetahs, guests come into eye-level contact with these magnificent beauties which have been rescued as cubs and can unfortunately no longer be released into the wild. This experience presents amazing photo opportunities. The cheetahs certainly do not feature on the “cuddle corner” list, but back at the lodge guests can pet adorable goats. Neuras presents itself in a downto-earth setup with the old homestead still intact. Geese and peacocks roam on the lawn. There is no electricity supply from Nampower – only a generator, solar panels and a battery system. The cement dam has been converted into a swimming pool with an old windmill next to it, the most typical characteristic of the Namibian countryside. First cultivated in 1894, Neuras Estate served as a vegetable and cereal farm supplying the German Schutztruppe with fresh produce. Today this piece of land is known rather for its wine, and more prominently for Rudie and Marlice van Vuuren’s on-going conservation projects concerning Namibia’s landscapes, cultures and wildlife. N/a'an ku sê bought Neuras in 2012 with the intention for these 14,400 hectares to become a model of conservation budding from their N/a'an ku sê Foundation founded in 2006. The welcome mat is out for day visitors and overnight guests who are in search of the rustic farm experience. Guests can enjoy home cooked Namibian meals, a taste of the simple joys of local cuisine combined with elegance and refinement. The braai facilities sheltered in the shade of trees also add to an authentic Namibian farm experience. Ancient canyons with fascinating geological formations provide marvellous opportunities for nature hikes.

Phone: +264 63 293 417 Email: neuras@naankuse.com Web: www.neuraswines.com

Do you have a burning desire to make a change? The entire N/a’an ku sê Collection offers guests the chance to become actively involved in the country’s conservation projects. Become a volunteer and help to restore the environment, while meeting like-minded people and learning all about Namibia.

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Helge Bendle

The story of

culture, the captain and a chief in the east

Chief Mayuni, the traditional chief of the Mafwe tribe

Text and Photographs Elzanne Erasmus

We kneel down at the front entrance to the building of the Mayuni Conservancy Traditional Authority as instructed by our guide, Geoffrey. “Clap clap clap, clap clap clap” – we heed the traditional custom of clapping our hands in a kneeling position, asking for permission and goodwill to enter such an auspicious place. Once welcomed in we repeat the performance right outside the office of the man we have ventured here to meet. No sound comes from within, but with the custom upheld and no sign of rejection, we are granted entry, a warm welcome and a collection of wonderful tales awaiting us inside. And so my most fascinating interview to date commences… it’s not every day you get to meet a chief.

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ervet monkeys outside our tented suite are chanting their “good morning” wake-up call. The sun is just peeking through the canopy, rays of orange and pink hues announce the start of the day here in paradise. Our early morning welcoming party at the lodge’s main area comprises Armstrong, Lydia and a freshly brewed French Press. Smiling faces, courteous and friendly “how was your night’s rest” enquiries, a wonderful start to the day and another delightful visit to Nambwa Tented Lodge. On a breakfast boat cruise we chat away with fellow guests and are regaled with stories from our skipper and guide, Beaven. This is not my first visit to Nambwa and will certainly not be my last, so it feels like chatting to an old friend as Beaven and I catch up on how his family is doing and how things are faring in this beautiful corner of the world. As true Namibians do, we commiserate with each other over the rains and the resulting animal movements. An afternoon game drive with Eustace, the lodge’s other guide, yields the same sense of welcome familiarity. This is their home and they have an uncanny ability to immediately make you feel like a treasured guest, not just someone passing through.

On a recent adventure to Nambwa Tented Lodge I discovered a new sense of recognition for what makes a place such as this truly special. What makes it stay with you, engrained deep in the fabric of your soul long after you’ve made your journey home? All the usual characteristics are there: the location and scenery are utterly spectacular, the floodplains and bushland wilderness of Namibia’s Zambezi Region so different from the rest of the country and completely beguiling. The wildlife puts on a show: impala, kudu, red lechwe, bushbuck, buffalo, hippo, crocodile, wild dog, huge herds of elephant and and and… The lodge itself so skilfully and tastefully blending in with the natural surroundings, magically creating a luxurious ambience while still somehow making you feel right at home. And therein lies the crux of it. Home. There’s something to this forest retreat that inspires a sense of comfort and belonging like few others have the capacity to do, and on this latest visit I believe I’ve finally found the source. It’s the people who welcome you. The people who make you feel like they’re welcoming you home.

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“Emotion becomes the fabric of a lodge”, Tinolla Collins once told me. She and her life partner Dusty Rodgers are the owners of African Monarch Lodges, which comprise Nambwa Tented Lodge, adjoining Nambwa Lagoon Camp as well as their sister lodge, Kazile Island Lodge, the only accommodation establishments within Bwabwata National Park. Emotion lies at the core of it all, and it is the people that create these feelings and the atmosphere of a place. After all, home is where the heart is, and the staff are at the very heart of Nambwa.

After spending days secluded inside our bush retreat in Bwabwata National Park it’s strange to realise that civilisation is nearby. That’s why they call it “the people’s park”. BELOW

Guide Beavan Kanzeka (right), and guest, Danielle Labuschagne wearing a flower necklace traditionally made for an engaged woman. The children from the local village enjoying our visit Eustace Libulelo, a guide at Nambwa The ever-smiling faces of the Nambwa family

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Having met, chatted and bonded with the Nambwa family (because that is truly what they are) I noticed a very important common denominator: they are all local, and all intrinsically understand and reinforce the value that tourism has for the local communities in the region. I became so enthralled with this sense of community and understanding that I enquired whether a visit to a local village would be within the realm of possibility. “Of course!” was the answer, and so it happened that I and my travel companions had the pleasure of being invited into yet another ‘home’, where we not only met charming individuals, but had the opportunity to make a host of new friends. A small plume of dust signals his arrival as we wait on the shores of a Kwando tributary. Children’s laughter reaches our ears from nearby. After spending days secluded inside our bush retreat in Bwabwata National Park it’s strange to realise that civilisation is nearby. That’s why they call it “the people’s park”. Wildlife and humans need to co-exist here, make a home for themselves and find a balance and the harmony in which to thrive. That’s one of the many reasons why our host for the day, Geoffrey, has come to fetch us on this riverbank. Geoffrey Tukuhupwele, who works for the Ministry of Environment and Tourism as a key part of the region’s anti-poaching operations, is a well-respected and much-loved member of the community here. I see it in the way everyone waves and greets him as we pass through small settlements. We stop at villages, meet his friends and family. We play an animated game of soccer and are blessed with not one, but two impromptu concerts as the energetic youngsters sing for us while jumping around in a circle resembling a “ring around the rosy” game. At another village we launch the drone we have brought with us. The children


laugh, shout, run and wave at this “tiny helicopter”, as they call it. Never before had they seen such a thing, and the experience is equally special to both the audience and us, the pilots. It’s a simple life here in the Zambezi, but one full of laughter, where the slow pace of the African way of life mirrors the rivers running parallel to it and leaves a sense of peace with you as visitor. Both an eye-opening and heart-warming experience. Food for thought and the soul. And so we moved on to the true purpose of our community visit… At the offices of the traditional authority, after showing our respect for local cultural rituals, I have the pleasure of sitting vis-à-vis Chief Mayuni, the traditional chief of the Mafwe tribe. A wellspoken, eloquent gentleman, the Chief regales me with stories of the past and present, helpfully translated by Geoffrey. The Chief relates how he first met Dusty, of whom he had heard before their meeting, referring to him by his local nickname: Captain Caprivi. “In 1997, Geoffrey and I went to Impalila Island to meet Dusty Rodgers,” says the Chief. And so started a success story, which now already spans over two decades, in co-operation between conservancies and what would become African Monarch Lodges. I enquire about the Chief’s personal opinions on tourism practices and the benefits that reach the community. “I have been advocating this since the early nineties!” he emphasises. Long before such practice was common, Chief Mayuni supported and advocated the direct positive influences that lodges and operators could have on locals. Job creation, education, training and the critical role which the mere presence of such entities plays in conservation, he says, are at the forefront of these advantages. He reiterates how every member of his community should fully understand how this balance of community, tourism, private-public partnership and conservation can support one and all. Cultural villages, like the one donated by African Monarch Lodges near Kapaku, are an ideal and effective platform for locals to not only showcase their products and skills, but also promote cultural tourism as a revenue source. The Mafwe Living Museum is another example of the socio-economic benefits that can be derived from this growing industry. Today, African Monarch Lodges recruits almost exclusively from nearby villages to staff its facilities. These ‘AML family’ members have a deep sense of pride in what they do and where they do it. This pride shines through their smiles and is obvious in every conversation I have had with them. What a wonderful feeling to be surrounded by people who find joy in their work, love sharing this joy and their culture with you and make you feel as if some of it has rubbed off on you. Upon our departure no-one says “goodbye”, but rather “see you soon”. Never has a farewell felt so much like a hello. At Nambwa and in the communities we were so fortunate to visit, every greeting feels like a “welcome home”... I’ll clap to that. TNN

ABOVE

Nambwa guests and children playing a game of soccer Children from Geoffrey's home village facinated by their first experience of a drone. Geoffrey Tukuhupwele (left), who works for the Ministry of Environment and Tourism and Nambwa guest, Francois Pretorius (right)

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Bush Cooking SALADS TO PREPARE IN ADVANCE Text Antoinette De Chavonnes Vrugt Photographs Hentie Burger

GREEN BEAN SALAD (My Hungry Heart)

Will last at least a week in a cool place Mix together all the ingredients and pour over the beans. You can make this salad up to 5 days before needed – just turn it regularly.

1 kg young green beans – only take off stem – steam lightly, refresh in ice water DRESSING 10 ml brown sugar 180 ml olive oil 8 cloves garlic 250 ml medium cream sherry 125 ml soya sauce 250 ml pecan nuts, roughly chopped

SPICY BEAN SALAD (Life on a Table) I love these salads that you can make ahead of time, it’s so convenient. This one can last at least 2 weeks; I also bottle it to preserve it even longer. Place the oil, onion, garlic, green pepper and spices into a saucepan and sauté gently, stirring from time to time for 5 minutes. Add the beans, apple, raisins and chutney, stir to combine and simmer gently and partly covered for about 20 minutes or until the consistency is as desired. Season to taste with salt, pepper and vinegar and serve at room temperature.

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30 ml oil 1 large onion, coarsely chopped 2 cloves garlic, crushed 1 green pepper, seeded and diced 5 ml curry powder 1 ml ground cinnamon 2.5 ml ground coriander 2.5 ml turmeric 2.5 ml ground cumin 2.5 ml ground ginger 2 x 425 g cans of beans in tomato sauce 1 green apple, peeled and diced 50 ml seedless raisins 30 ml chutney salt, pepper and vinegar to taste


SLAPHAKSKEENTJIES My Hungry Heart was the first Namibian book ever to be entered and awarded at the International Gourmand Cookbook Awards in Paris. Life on a Table continues Antoinette's “love letters to the people and the land she holds dear�.

(My Hungry Heart) This salad is divine. You can make it up to 7 days in advance. Excellent to make for a camping trip! Toss salad ingredients together, combine ingredients for the sauce and mix the lot together.

2 cups fresh broccoli, blanched 250 ml cashew nuts 250 ml bacon, chopped and fried 2 onions, chopped 250 ml sun-dried tomatoes SAUCE 250 ml mayonnaise 15 ml sugar 15 ml apple vinegar Freshly ground black pepper and salt

BROCCOLI SALAD WITH SUN-DRIED TOMATOES (- Baby onions with tangy egg sauce)

(My Hungry Heart)

This can be served warm or cold as a salad. Boil together the water, vinegar, sugar, mustard and salt for 5 minutes. Let the mixture cool down. Add beaten eggs, return to the stove and stir constantly until the sauce thickens. Do not boil, simmer only. Once thick, remove from the heat and let cool. Pour over onions and serve. Can be made 5 days in advance.

Use 1.5 kg of small onions. Place in boiling water for 5 minutes, drain and remove the skins. Cook the onions lightly in salted water until just done. Do not overcook. Transfer to a serving bowl. SAUCE 250 ml water 125 ml sugar 5 ml salt 125 ml wine vinegar 5 ml dry mustard 3 eggs, beaten

MIRACLE SALAD (Life on a Table) A wonderful salad to make ahead of time that can last at least 4 days in the refrigerator without the lettuce turning brown. Place shredded lettuce into the base of a bowl in a neat layer. Add celery, green pepper and onion and mix lightly with the top part of the layer of lettuce. Cover the fresh ingredients with the frozen peas and smooth the top.

1 medium head of lettuce, washed, drained and finely shredded 2 stalks of celery, finely chopped 1 medium green pepper, finely diced 1 medium onion, finely chopped 1 kg frozen peas 1 x 530 g bottle good quality thick mayonnaise (i.e. Miracle Whip) parsley sprigs to garnish

Spread the mayonnaise over the peas in a neat layer. Sprinkle with parsley. Cover with cling wrap and let rest in the refrigerator for at least 6, but even up to 36 hours before serving. For variation you can garnish the salad with 200 g crispy fried bacon.

Discover more of Antoinette's delicious recipes in Life on a Table and My Hungry Heart For wholesale and retail contact Bonn Nortje at Venture Publications: bonn@venture.com.na

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5

Grootberg Lodge

9

6

Kunene River Lodge

Hobatere Lodge

4

Hoada Campsite

Ondangwa

7

Shipwreck Lodge

Etosha Möwe Bay

Terrace Bay

Namutoni Okaukuejo

1

Tsumeb

Kamanjab

Auas Safari Lodge

Palmwag

Outjo Khorixas

Otjiwarongo

Uis Omaruru

Mile 108

Okahandja

Henties Bay

2

Desert Breeze Lodge

Gobabis

Windhoek

Swakopmund

Buitepos

Walvis Bay Rehoboth

Auas Safari Lodge

Solitaire

Desert Breeze Lodge

Sesriem

The Stiltz

Mariental

Sossusvlei Maltahöhe

Hoada Campsite Grootberg Lodge

Helmeringhausen

Hobatere Lodge

3

The Stiltz

Lüderitz

Bethanie

Keetmanshoop

Shipwreck Lodge

Aus

Fish River Lodge

Rosh Pinah

Ai-Ais

Karasburg

Noordoewer

Discover beauty in remote locations.

Kunene River Lodge

Grünau Ariamsvlei

8

Fishriver Lodge


A sense of

HOME AND HOPE Landscape-Level Conservation Text Annelien Robberts Photographs Paul van Schalkwyk

GREATER SOSSUSVLEI-NAMIB LANDSCAPE

State-protected area: Namib-Naukluft Park Private reserves: NamibRand Nature Reserve Habitats: Namib Sand Sea, the Naukluft Mountains, the coastal lagoon of Sandwich Harbour, the inland vleis of Sossusvlei and Tsondabvlei


From towering sand dunes and ragged mountaintops to canyons carved deep into the earth and underground lakes, lush tropical vegetation to searing deserts, dry riverbeds to oases in the truest sense of the word. From the cold Atlantic Ocean to perennial rivers and floodplains, thundering waterfalls to the silence of the savannah grasslands. The landscapes of Namibia have inspired many who have had the privilege to set foot on this land. A source of life and livelihood, it is the land of immense diversity. Where you will find incomparable sunsets and space for the soul to breathe. It is the place we call home.

U

nfortunately, as our modern world’s headlong rush in the name of development coincides with an everincreasing human footprint, the planet has reached a scale of impact that requires us to take large-scale measures. Despite actions taken, conserving microhabitats is no longer sufficient, which called for a different take on conservation. Consequently, landscape-level conservation was initiated – restoring the landscapes to what they once were.

WHAT IS LANDSCAPE CONSERVATION?

We might need to look at the definition of a landscape first. A landscape can be defined as a large piece of land (measured in km²) comprising more than one type of habitat and often in combination with manmade elements, for example agriculture or tourism companies. Within a landscape, all these different resources serve different purposes, although they essentially remain interconnected. This means that what happens in one part of the landscape can affect another part. Landscapes do not only promote the expansion of a biodiversity conservation area’s range, but also the restoration and enhancement of the productivity of land so that fauna and flora can flourish in their natural settings. It should be productive in line with the land use suited for that specific area. As local users in a landscape are likely to have diverse needs and interests, landscape conservation is allencompassing. Its design is centred around different forms of conservation such as state-protected areas, private protected areas, communal conservancies, commercial conservancies and many more. This is where the NAM-PLACE Project comes in.

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THE “WHO” OF THE PROJECT

The Namibia Protected Landscape Conservation Areas Initiative (NAM-PLACE) Project was established by Namibia’s Ministry of Environment and Tourism, funded by the Global Environment Facility and administered by the United Nations Development Programme.

GREATER WATERBERG LANDSCAPE

Core conservation area: Waterberg Plateau Park Communal conservancies: African Wild Dog Conservancy, Okamatapati Conservancy, Otjituuo Conservancy, Ozonahi Conservancy Freehold conservancy: Waterberg Conservancy

THE “WHAT” OF THE PROJECT

Namibia Wildlife Resorts

The five-year project (2011 – 2016) was designed to lift the barriers and promote the establishment of a large-scale network of protected landscapes. An additional 15,550 km² of land has been brought under protected landscapes management in order to address imminent threats to habitat and species loss. An increasing capacity to collaborate across boundaries at a regional scale meant that the project enabled the creation of innovative support structures and mechanisms to preserve and protect valued landscapes, provide vital ecosystem services, and create resilient communities.

THE “HOW” OF THE PROJECT

The initiative selected five landscape pilot sites: Mudumu Landscape, Greater Waterberg, the Windhoek Green Belt, the Greater Sossusvlei-Namib, and the Greater Fish River Canyon Landscape. Each landscape comprises an existing state-protected area (National Park) at the core. It further

GREATER FISH RIVER CANYON LANDSCAPE

Core conservation area: Fish River Canyon State-protected areas: Ai-Ais Hotsprings Game Park, Naute Recreational Resort Private reserves: Gondwana Canyon Park, Canyon Nature Park Transboundary Reserves: Richtersveld National Park

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MUDUMU LANDSCAPE includes adjacent communal conservancies and private reserves or land areas with shared biodiversity management objectives and frameworks and compatible land use. The project focused on developing strategies for land uses in areas adjacent to existing protected areas and making sure that these are compatible with biodiversity conservation objectives. Within each landscape various activities are carried out that are intended to contribute to the greater economic scheme of things.

SPACE IS A LUXURY, OR IS IT A GIVEN?

As the late Albi Brückner once put it: “If Africa’s wildlife is to recover and survive for another millennium we need to invest in its future by increasing the size of existing national parks and private reserve areas to encompass complete natural systems.” He further added that “The ultimate dream of a Greater Namib Wilderness is an area with a minimum of fences in which former game migration routes have been reopened as far as possible, with the natural flora sufficiently recovered to allow the reintroduction of game species that once occurred there naturally.”

Core conservation area: Bwabwata National Park (Kwando Core Area) State-protected areas: Mudumu National Park, Nkasa Rupara National Park Communal conservancies: Balyerwa Conservancy, Dzoti Conservancy, Kwandu Conservancy, Mashi Conservancy, Mayuni Conservancy, Sobbe Conservancy, Wuparo Conservancy Community forests: Kwandu Community Forest, Lubuta Community Forest, Masida Community Forest, Sachona Community Forest

WINDHOEK GREEN BELT LANDSCAPE

Core conservation area: Daan Viljoen Game Park State-protected areas: Khomas Hochland Conservancy

However, despite fences falling and landscapes growing within the 5-year time frame, funding had a set expiration date. Progress of landscape-level conservation undeniably slowed down, if not came to a complete halt. While the Greater Sossusvlei-Namib Landscape is a great example of taking the cue and pursuing the ultimate conservation dream, everyone has not followed suit. Conservationists are dreaming big, but many challenges remain beyond a shadow of a doubt. In most parts of the world space has become a luxury, but Namibia still takes pride in its wide open spaces, unspoiled natural beauty and free-roaming wildlife. If there is one place in the world where this dream is attainable, is it not in Namibia? TNN

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LIFE SKILLS FROM THE

CAMEL-THORN TREE Text Annelien Robberts

O

n a recent trip to Wolwedans I found myself in awe of the thriving desert life. It hasn’t rained here in the last five years, but that doesn’t mean that this part of the world has come to a standstill. Au contraire. We discovered life, and more significantly, growth in the desert. Inspired by the acacia forest we came across I dug up some interesting facts about the hardy camel-thorn tree. My motto for 2018 is “Be as tough as a camel-thorn.” Here is why:

1. INTELLIGENCE IS A CAMEL-THORN’S SECRET WEAPON

Namibia’s beloved camel-thorn trees might seem harmless, and on top of that delicious, to a hungry desert-dweller, but they are very clever. As soon as animals start munching on the leaves, the tree goes into self-defence mode by secreting a sharp garlic-like odour that turns animals off. Disclaimer: do not try to secrete any odd smelling substances, but never underestimate intelligence, even if it is simply to know when to hold your tongue or when you need “me-time”.

2. IT IS NOT JUST A CASE OF “EVERY TREE FOR ITSELF”; IT IS ABOUT COMMUNITY

The tree that is under attack warns other trees against the enemy so that they can prepare themselves against the onslaught. Take care of yourself, but do not forget to be useful to those around you too.

3. CAMEL-THORNS GROW DESPITE, OR EVEN BECAUSE OF TOUGH CIRCUMSTANCES

These trees are widespread over the country and can be found in the Namib Desert. Not only do they survive in the toughest of circumstances, but they actually thrive. They don’t use circumstances as an excuse. How does the German song go? Hart wie Kameldornholz ist unser Land (our country is as tough as camel-thorn wood). Who wants to be as tough as nails when you can be as tough as a camel-thorn?

4. CAMEL-THORNS DON’T NEED A BIG CROWD TO THRIVE

A wide-open plain in the NamibRand Nature Reserve boasts a forest of camel-thorns, but not in the usual sense of a “forest”. There is nothing “dense”, “dark” or “green” about this forest – it is a red and brownish dunecoloured canvas speckled with acacias. But they still grow. Who you are when you are alone is the best reflection of the real you, as opposed to who you are in public. Even if nobody sees the good things you do, do them anyway.

5. MAKE TIME TO LISTEN

The trees have ears. Literally, since their seedpods take the shape of a human earlobe. (Although the scientific name originating from Latin means ‘half-moon shaped'.) Plus I can only imagine the mind-blowing stories that the trees can tell of humans and even animals passing by. Be a listening ear to those who need someone to talk to.

6. BE BENEFICIAL

These trees offer shelter to many small animals and insects. Live the kind of life where you are helping others.

7. FIND YOUR ROOTS

The tree’s taproot grows down to a depth of up to 60 m, allowing access to deep groundwater sources. Find something to live for and be firmly rooted. Don’t be the plastic bag that gets stuck in other trees’ branches. TNN

Tel: + 264 61 230 616 Email: info@wolwedans.com reservations@wolwedans.com www.wolwedans.com

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Mika Shapwanale AND THE

STRENGTH

OF THE HUMAN SPIRIT Text and Photographs Nina van Schalkwyk

O

ne of the best things about being in the tourism industry is seeing the positive effects that come out of it. Simple things. Conservation. Employment. Development. The thing is, tourism is inherently positive. And in a way it is the type of industry that will always attract positive people, a specific kind of person, people who put others before themselves, who believe in the bigger picture, who take pride in their country and are in essence ambassadors for their nation. I had the good fortune to meet one such person. Mika Shapwanale, manager of the Mushara Collection east of Etosha. On a recent visit to Mushara, Mika and I sat down in the shade of the trees and chatted about his journey in tourism. But it wasn't merely an exchange of the usual what do you do's. Mika is an exceptional person. The reason I had organised the meeting was that I had heard so much about him, about how he had worked his way up from starting out as a gardener at Ghaub Guestfarm. How he taught himself Afrikaans and German and improved his English. His big heart. Andre Compion, the previous owner of Ghaub Guestfarm, describes Mika as one of the most exceptional people he's ever met. "He got up at three in the morning and drove to my father's funeral in Swakopmund, and afterwards drove over 1000 km back to Mushara. He loved my father and didn't think twice about the cost and effort involved in showing him this last honour. That should say enough about him." Meeting Mika in person I ask him what set him apart from other young people who start out in the industry with entry-level jobs. "I was dedicated from the start", he says. He has enough self-awareness to realise that his warmth and friendliness went a long way in clearing his path. But as with most success stories, there had to be a few challenges along the way. Can you imagine going from gardener to waiter to manager? From working alongside your peers to being placed above them? Of course there were a few coworkers who couldn't quite accept his authority, but how did

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he deal with that? Mika comes straight to the point: "To be a good manager you need to be fair but firm with your staff, treat them with respect." Going as far back as his childhood, Mika couldn't help himself stepping into leadership roles with ease. Commander during playground games, class captain and a leader in Sunday school. But there are class captains in every class, every school, all around the world. That's not unheard of. Being a leader in school isn’t necessarily the hardest thing on earth. It's what comes after the security of school that one's true colours get tested. Mika's humble beginnings meant that for him, as for many Namibians, tertiary education was out of the question. His childhood dream was to become a farmer, which is pretty much the status quo for most in a country where the majority of the population live off the land. That didn't happen though, because as a young man seeking work, Mika found himself at Ghaub Guestfarm, working hard and being helpful. What is his secret? His smile? No doubt. He has a very warm smile, the kind of face that makes you feel comfortable immediately, a body language that is relaxed and yet always professional. So then, is that it? Perhaps the answer lies in his very nature. His helpfulness, his awareness that his actions can create a pleasant experience for his guests. André relates that when the chefs were unable to come to work, Mika would step in and take over the kitchen and start cooking the food himself. During his time as the manager of Ghaub Guestfarm, Mika dealt with the bookkeeping after learning how to work with Pastel. He managed the staff, the unions, the orders and the bookings. "Basically everything," says André. What is it that makes someone get so involved in the success of the company they work for? I mean, why don't all employees care so much? Mika tells me that the best advice he ever received was to enjoy his work. And I sense that for him that doesn't mean floating around for years trying to find his inner passion. For him it means enjoying the thing that he is doing, finding the joy in his job. Perhaps that's why his smile is so warm. TNN


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SOSSUSVLEI SCENIC (2HRS, 12MIN)

This may well be the most popular scenic flight in Namibia! It starts in Swakopmund and takes you past Walvis Bay International Airport towards the Kuiseb River until the riverbed lies abeam the Swartbank Mountain. Flying upstream you will see Gobabeb, Namibia’s world-renowned Desert Research Station, spread out below, followed by the striking Kuiseb Canyon. The view from above allows you to look deep into the canyon and distinguish various waterholes. Turning south we fly over Tsondab Vlei where the course of the Tsondab River is blocked by massive sand dunes. The vlei is a breeding ground and sanctuary for vultures. As we approach the Sossusvlei area from the north, your pilot will make a slow and comfortable turn around Sossusvlei, Deadvlei and the Big Daddy and Big Momma dunes. It is an incredible sight. Only airborne visitors are lucky enough to see the wonder of the Namib Sand Sea from this angle. From above it also becomes clear that the Tsauchab River once made it all the way to the coast before the Namib dunes blocked its course, creating Sossusvlei. The next destinations are the three Diamond Camps, which have turned into ghost camps long since and dozens of seal colonies along the coast. Following the coastline, your journey then continues north, past the Eduard Bohlen shipwreck, Conception Bay, the Shawnee shipwreck and Sandwich Harbour where the plane will climb gradually so that you can see the flamingos and pelicans below. Before you reach the town of Walvis Bay and its harbour, you will be dazzled by the quilt of brilliant colours created by the saltpans. As the pilot slows the aircraft for landing, you fly past Swakopmund, allowing you to savour the last few minutes of your breath-taking flight before landing safely at Swakopmund Airport.

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Swakopmund Office: Tel: +264 64 403 575 Email: swakopmund@scenic-air.com


One of those characteristic British faces that, once seen, are never remembered

– Oscar Wilde

Starlings

NOT THAT COMMON Text and Photographs Pompie Burger

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Wattled Starling (Creatophora cinerea)

If there were a lion behind every second bush, or a leopard in every tree, would they be so special? Would photographers want to shoot them (to protect them), would photographers drive off-road or into a no-entry road to get a better angle on their million dollar picture? I have in fact seen people drive all over each other to get a closer look at a lion, to get to the front of the scene of the crime. Imagine, for a lion! Luckily no photographer will ever do that. The point I want to make about starlings is that they are too common. Most of the starlings have a metallic sheen flashing back when the sun touches their feathers, but unfortunately they are not so special because they are just too common. This might be where this terrible word is coming from: ‘common’, like too many seen too often. Possibly it is also because they are robust and gregarious. Let’s rather call them plebeian. TRAVEL NEWS NAMIBIA WINTER 2018

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A

t a certain time of the year in Britain there is a most mesmeric aerial display of European Starlings. It involves over five million birds flying in almost perfect formations, which to a large extent makes them actually extremely special – not common at all. Unfortunately, they are also the greatest fruit pest in North America and therefore end up being regarded as common. Somehow, if you cannot be exclusive in numbers you are somehow degraded to the common. Maybe if you can do some sort of Chinese trick (no offence) like flying upside down or walking on water it will add to your uncommonness. Unfortunately starlings can do none of these things, not in Namibia anyway. They cannot sing too beautifully, they cannot walk on water or construct nice nests, and most importantly they are common in numbers.

ABOVE Violet-backed Starling (Cinnyricinclus leucogaster)

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The Violet-backed Starling (Cinnyricinclus leucogaster) is the one exception as far as the Namibian starlings are concerned: it is not common and it is also beautiful. This starling’s colour is probably the most impressive of all birds (almost). Why the scientists have called it leucogaster (white stomach) still remains a secret to me. The fact that it is a migrant might be the reason why it is so special. The female Violet-backed Starling also has a very attractive dress, looking very different to the male but in its own right a handsome bird with heavily streaked breast and belly. It arrives in the north of Namibia by the end of August, only to depart back to northern Africa by April. The Violet-backed Starlings are the only migrants except for the Wattled Starlings (Creatophora cinerea) – which are only nomadic, however, and not fancy over-the-border migrants.


BIRDING WITH POMPIE

Meves Starling (Lamprotornis mevesii)

Wattled Starlings (Creatophora cinerea)

If you really want to exceptionalise Wattled Starlings: they are very unconventional looking birds. In their full going-away dress they do look funny/ugly with their black wattle, but if you see them during wintertime you might even feel sorry for them. Apart from being an LBJ look-alike, they have this very poorly shaped body, long neck and head which might fit the summer dress but does not really go with this winter outfit (sounds pretty much like a teenager). Again, due to the fact that they are not that common, they are special – despite looking rather unrefined/ugly – because of their lack of numbers in Namibia! They prefer anthropogenic (whatever that might mean) habitats. To the starling populations’ further detriment, two starling species have been introduced to Namibia from Asia (sounds familiar) and Europe. The Common Myna (Acridotheres tristis) and the Common Starling (Sturnus vulgaris) are the culprits. I wonder why they are both called common; even worse, the Common Starling is called vulgaris by the scientists! (This time they got it right). Luckily both are still not resident in Namibia except in the Orange River delta in the south, so if you are hard up to see this alien just go south, and keep going. Two of the other starlings which are different and also common as far as numbers and distribution are concerned are the long-tailed starlings, Meves (Lamprotornis mevesii) and Burchell’s (Lamprotornis australis). The other long-tail (special) is the Sharp-tailed Starling (Lamprotornis acuticaudis). To differentiate between them, do not look much further than their distributions. The Burchell’s Starling occurs to the south of the Kavango and Zambezi regions while Meves occurs in those areas and the odd one in the Kunene Region. One of the few, if any, special starlings (limited in distribution and numbers) is the Sharptailed Starling which occurs in a very limited area in Khaudum National Park. Another of the various good reasons to visit this park.

Burchell’s Starling (Lamprotornis australis)

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STARLING GROUPS:

1. Long-tailed: Burchell’s, Meves’, Sharp-tailed 2. Winged: Pale-winged, Redwinged 3. Common (aliens): Common, Common Myna 4. Aberrant: Wattled 5. Lamprotornis (shining): Greater Blue-eared, Cape 6. Plum-coloured

Red-winged Starling (Onychognathus morio)

Pale-winged Starling (Onychognathus nabouroup)

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BIRDING WITH POMPIE

Two of the “glossy blue” starlings which are not that difficult to identify (see next paragraph) are the Red-winged (Onychognathus morio) and Palewinged Starling (Onychognathus nabouroup). The Pale-winged Starling occurs in the western part of the country while the Red-winged Starling is included because of the nice picture I took of it in South Africa. Now for the cherry on the cake, or maybe the icing on top of the cherry, for the serious bird-watcher. These are the undifferentiable glossies (Lamprotornis means glossy). Luckily only two appear in Namibia (compare to RSA where there are four), so we can skip the other two. The Cape (Lamprotornis nitens), probably the most common (Stormer?), and the Greater Blue-eared Starling (Lamprotornis chalybaeus). Apparently, the difference is that the Cape Starling lacks the dark ear coverts and has a uniform blue colour, while the Greater Blue-eared Starling, apart from the black ear coverts, has a violet belly and flanks. If you really want to be difficult you can add the Miombo Blue-eared Starling although it might have – maybe, probably and unlikely – been found in the eastern tip of the Zambezi Region but that will just complicate my identikit system. The diet of all the starlings, according to dieticians in the world of ornithology, is either fruit and insects or insects and fruit. As one would expect, none of them are song and dance birds. But whether common, kitsch, vulgar, Stormer, alien robust or from Australia (somehow all of these do dovetail together), be kind to these birds, you might even stop and take a closer look to decide if it is a Greater Blue-eared or a Cape Starling or an Angolan Cave Chat. TNN

ABOVE Cape Glossy Starling (Lamprotornis nitens) Greater Blue-eared Starling (Lamprotornis chalybaeus)

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10 REASONS to visit Hardap Dam in Namibia's south

A special hidden gem in the Namibia Wildlife Resorts portfolio is Hardap. Often overlooked, this sprawling resort lies along the banks of Namibia’s largest dam and boasts not only a wide array of accommodation options but also an enticing experience for visitors who love nature, water and views. The Travel News Team recently visited and came up with 10 reasons why Hardap should be added to your travel itinerary.

1. IT’S CLOSE TO THE HEART

4. WILD WALKS

2. IT’S FOR THE ADVENTUROUS

5. BIRDING ISN’T FOR THE BIRDS

Situated 250 km south of Windhoek, outside the town of Mariental, Hardap is not such a long drive from the capital. Weekend trips down south are all the more feasible if you take into account that the road there is completely tarred. So what’s to stop you from popping down for a visit? Water baby? Well, this is definitely one of Namibia’s original destinations for water sports. These are few and far between, in a desert country. Hardap Dam offers a magnificent playground for those wanting to get wet and wild on its smooth surface. So pull the boat out of storage, dust off those water-skis, load the canoe, and why not pack the angling gear while you’re at it? Boat houses, conveniently positioned on the shore of the dam, are available for rent. The dam’s fish-rich waters make it a wonderful freshwater angling destination, with species such as kurper, barbel, yellowfish, carp and bass to be found. Make sure to obtain your angling permit from the office. Time your trip to coincide with angling competitions also organised here.

3. A NATIONAL PARK HIDDEN ON THE BANKS

Covering a surface area of approximately 25 000 hectares, the Hardap Game Reserve is split in two by the dam. In this nature’s haven, on the southern part one can tick off various species such as kudu, gemsbok, springbok, steenbok, Hartmann’s mountain zebra and ostrich. A guided game drive with one of NWR’s game viewer vehicles will give you the perfect opportunity to explore the area’s wilder side.

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Want to really connect with nature? Well, we have the answer for you. Enjoy one of the two hiking trails - either the shorter route of 9 km or the longer one of 15 km. View game from up-close and discover the natural beauty of the dam and its surroundings, but make sure you get up early. If you’re visiting during the summer months you’ll note that the dam is flecked with white dots on its surface (see main photo above). No, those aren’t buoys or tiny boats, they are hundreds of pelicans! The dam is home to one of the three largest Great White Pelican breeding colonies in the country, with more than 800 having been counted at a single occasion. Eager birdwatchers can enjoy lots of sightings of their favourite feathered friends on and along the dam’s peaceful waters. With many inlets and small islands, this man-made lake provides a safe breeding place for flamingos, Fish Eagles, Goliath Herons, Reed Cormorants and Ospreys, to name just a few.

6. SUNDOWNERS AND EPIC SUNSETS

The view is breath-taking. No, really, be prepared. The resort’s main area is perched atop a rocky outcrop high above the surface of the water on the dam’s northern shore. It allows for a magnificent panoramic view of the wide expanse of water and beautiful nature surrounding. Enjoy the breeze and marvel at the reflection of dramatic technicolour clouds on the smooth water surface at sunset. Sip on your sundowner and take in yet another majestic Namibian sunset.


What makes the resort truly special is how family friendly it is, so pack the kids too. They’re sure to enjoy the space, the sightings of rock hyrax and beautiful birds all along the rock walls built between the chalets and the dam. The resort’s beautiful pool with a view and baby pool to boot, is a treat.

8. WATER WATER WATER

The Hardap Dam, the largest dam in the country, has a capacity of 320 million cubic metres and a surface area of 25 km2. When sluices are opened, it can discharge up to 5 500 m3 per second. This was last done in February 2000 to release the heavy inflow of water during an exceptionally good rainy season. In an arid land the sight of this much water is sure to quench your soul’s thirst and offer some reprieve. So take it in, live and love all the water and appreciate the significance of such a reservoir for this desert country’s inhabitants.

9. COMFY STAYS OR GROUP PLAYS

With VIP chalets, dormitories, family and bush chalets

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Pompie Burger

7. TAKE THE KIDS ALONG!

and even campsites to choose from, there really is an accommodation option for every type of traveller. The good news is that all the other facilities were recently refurbished. Enjoy the view from your room, dine at the restaurant that will make you feel as if you were in a giant ship floating on the water, or have a drink at the bar with the group of friends you brought along for the adventure.

10. DAY TRIPS

On your way somewhere else and only looking for somewhere to stop over? Feel like retreating into nature for a day? Visit the dam and nature reserve, make use of the picnic and braai facilities along the water’s edge and enjoy a self-drive through the wilderness. Alternatively, you can also pop into the resort’s restaurant and enjoy a lovely lunch from their à la carte menu. Enjoy your stay, even if it is just for the day! TNN Tel : +264 61 285 7200 Email: reservations@nwr.com.na www.nwr.com.na

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The Peaceful Simplicity

OF LIFE Text and Photographs Elzanne Erasmus

Gerhard and an ancient camel-thorn in the Aba-Huab River, a few kilometres from the small settlement of De Riet.


Oom Willem and Tannie Fredricka Basson give me a knowing smile when I say that it’s good to be out of the city for a change. They know all about the simple and quiet life. They have come to grips with it here in their valley of solitude. After being instructed to move to Damaraland in Namibia nearly half a century ago by the South African apartheid government, they have made a home for themselves here.

O

om Willem asks me if I am Namibian. “Yes,” I say, “born and raised.” “That’s good”, he replies. “It’s good to be a Namibian. Now I am one, too.”

Despite the way the Riemvasmakers found their way to Namibia, the small community thrives in the arid region west of Khorixas. Some live at Bergsig, some at Vrede, and some, like the Bassons at De Riet, a small cluster of informal structures close to the Aba-Huab River. With little fencing to protect themselves or their livestock, the pre-fab church destroyed by a heavy rainstorm last year, they don’t have much. But what they have been able to hold on to through all the disruption caused by the relocation, and years of living in harsh conditions, is a sense of self and culture, as well as their beautiful Afrikaans mother tongue vocabulary that sets them apart from many cultural groups in the area. A community less than 100 people strong, Tannie Fredricka, or Ouma Gannas as many know her, says that they are all close friends. The Bassons only have Oom Willem’s sister and her husband as direct local family, but the people who live here enjoy a neighbourly camaraderie forged by growing up and old together, sharing the strain of displacement, hardships, the joys of new family members, the sorrow of losing others. Tomorrow is the Bassons’ 49th wedding anniversary. I promise to return for their 50th next year. Such a special

auspicious event deserves a huge golden celebration, so let us dance under the starry Damaraland skies! “Your wife looks much younger than you,” jokes Gerhard, my travelling companion. “It’s because I took such good care of her,” Oom Willem replies cheekily. The children stare in awe at the bicycles we have mounted onto the roof of the Landy. How much fun would a two-wheeled toy such as that be, to spin around with in the dust around the house. But the harsh conditions wouldn’t allow it to last. I see two old bicycles upended in a neighbouring yard. One of them misses a wheel, no chain on the other. Handlebars bare metal rods. Time and the elements take their toll. But despite all this there is colour and life in this small community. A vibrant little kindergarten, a spot of brightness among the otherwise muted desert tones. The teacher waits patiently at the open doors for all her pupils to make it to the classroom. There is no set time for school to start. They filter in one after the other as soon as mum has finished her morning routine and gotten the young ones clean and ready for the day. Here they laugh and play and learn, then walk back home once the morning’s lesson is over. The older kids attend a primary school at Bergsig some kilometres away.

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Our journeys change lives

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A lovely cup of tea, a quick visit. We talk about the weather. A cliché to some, but a necessity among Namibians. The rain, or lack of it, is always a mutually engaging and indulgent topic amongst locals of this arid land. “Is there grazing left, Oom Willem?” “No, none, but the goats wander downriver for some green bushes to nibble on.” It is there, due to a lack of manpower to herd the goats, a lack of infrastructure to protect them, that livestock is lost to predators such as the desert lions that roam the region. The human-wildlife conflict is all too real for communities such as the Riemvasmakers of De Riet. The quintessential debate ensuing on how to preserve the wild species while at the same time protecting the livelihood of the local inhabitants who live among them. A lion ranger programme is once again underway in the area, which will hopefully help curb the problem. IRDNC is helping where they can, trying to warn communities if a lion or pride is in the surroundings, and setting up deterrent mechanisms. Here at De Riet, old and young live on the banks of a river which is mostly dry all year. The able-bodied members of their community work in town (Khorixas or as far as Windhoek) or in lodges in the surrounding area. Tannie Fredricka bakes cookies for the Wilderness Safaris lodges nearby. Oom Willem sells a goat, if there is one to sell, when it is time for them to make a trek back to Kakamas in South Africa for a wedding or a funeral. They have been here in this small corner of nowhere since March 11th, 1974. The Bassons welcome tourists for a visit. A chat paired with a cup of tea. The lost art of getting to know someone just for the sake of it. That is the slow-paced, minimal yet peaceful beauty of life for the Riemvasmakers at De Riet. TNN

But what they have been able to hold on to is a sense of self and culture, as well as their beautiful Afrikaans mother tongue vocabulary.

Children on their way to the kindergarten. Class doesn't start at a specific time, but rather when everyone is ready for the day.

Teatime at the Bassons'

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Owambo

slow lane

- life in the

Text Annelien Robberts Photographs Annelien Robberts & Nina van Schalkwyk

April is a reflection. A reflection of a good rainy season. A reflection of tall, slender makalani palm trees in the crystal-clear surfaces of oshanas (meaning pans in Oshiwambo) brimming with fresh rainwater and lined with lilies. This year is no exception. And the Owambo Region in the north becomes one of the most scenic and inviting parts of the country. It beckons you to delve into its colours, flavours and vibrant liveliness. Immerse yourself in a heart-warming culture with which about half of Namibia’s population identif ies. Linger off the beaten track by linking your Etosha trip with Owambo and make the most of the last days of summer. 68

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The Olushandja Dam where an agricultural project took root to sustain a school in Etunda.

O

utapi is a small town with a big heart that boasts its own famous ‘skyscraper’: a towering 800-year-old baobab tree. Simply standing underneath the rustling leaves of this 28-metre high tree is an awe-inspiring encounter in itself. But being inside this tree is nothing short of a spiritual experience. Many couples have tied the knot right here in the heart of the hollow tree which is now furnished with some benches and a small altar with the Bible. Our guide, Gebhardt Shiimbi, who has lived in this area all his life, shows us a sticky substance dripping from the tree and explains that the baobab heals itself when injured. No wonder that treeinspired yoga poses are quite the thing. According to an African proverb, wisdom is like a baobab tree: a single individual cannot embrace it. It undoubtedly rings true with this particular tree, generally referred to as the tree of life. Aside from its medicinal and nutritional value and offering food and shelter for animals, it served as a refuge for women and children during tribal wars. In later years it was used as a post office, and during the South African Border War it became a chapel in a military base.

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Modern-day visitors can still find shelter here, as camping spots were set up in the shade of the majestic tree. The tree has been declared a national monument and is part of the Ombalantu Baobab Tree Heritage Centre, which also includes a little craft shop and café. Owambo is all about trees – all sizes and species, significant and some, from a passer-by’s perspective, perhaps not so significant. En route from Ondangwa to Ongwediva, traditional dresses for sale adorn one such “insignificant” tree. The seamstress has turned it into a shop window of sorts, resourcefully operating her business from there. Who needs online shopping when you can pick the newest additions to your closet off a tree? On that note, a loud and sprawling market will give you an unparalleled local shopping experience. Open markets are a prominent part of life in Owambo. On our trip to the north (all the way around Etosha!), my travel partners and I opted for the open market in Oshakati – the largest in the country. The Dr Frans Aupa Indongo Oshakati Open Market is an exciting burst of colour and culture. Its urban design imitates a central square and even boasts a 360-degree viewpoint over Oshakati, in case you were wondering what the tower is for. People-watching is unsurpassed in this kind of environment, so keep out of sight and sit back, keep an eye on the crowds and soak up the scenes. This is exactly what we did. After marvelling at the endless varieties of traditional Owambo foods (think mopane worms, eembe, or chillies for the brave) and crafts and clothing on display, we picked out a table to enjoy a cold drink. Be sure to ask permission before taking pictures and if a vendor refuses, move along swiftly as you might find somebody else who is keen to let you photograph their stall. A friendly seamstress beckoned us closer to take pictures of her handiwork – a myriad of striking Owambo dresses in all

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colours, patterns and sizes. A saleswoman nearby did not lose any time to invite us to take pictures of her and her baby, kitted out in a bright pink dress. The region is famous for its ubiquitous bars with quirky names. Street vendors’ sun-bleached beach umbrellas attached to bicycles are scattered along the streets of the towns. Attached to the bicycles are small trailers stocked with fresh produce, a true representation of the region’s fast food. Not that anything in Owambo happens fast – there is no senseless rushing from point A to point B. As my travel partner remarked, it is one of the places in the world where herds of cattle enjoy right of way. This way of life is reminiscent of a bygone era. The German colonial period had very little impact here. The only European influence was the Finnish mission work, which started in the 1870s. When the missionaries first arrived in Namibia, the first country they were sent to, they tried preaching to the Owambo population in the Otjiherero language. However, this was a big no-no for the Ndonga people (an Owambo tribe), especially their king. If the king was not pleased, it meant the entire people rejected it. The missionaries thus learned the language and the culture of the people. At the same time they developed the Ndonga dialect into written form.

DID YOU KNOW? Oshiwambo is a Bantu language with nine dialects that are closely related to one another and commonly understood by all Oshiwambo speakers. Kwanyama and Ndonga are the two major dialects that have been developed into written languages.


Learning The Culinary Lingo Is An Activity In Itself. Here Are Some Words To Get You Started:

Oshifima sho mahangu = (pearl millet) porridge Onyama = meat Omboga = wild spinach Omagungu = mopane worms Ondjuhwa = chicken Oshigali = bean sauce Ondjove = nutty marula oil Eembe = small, sweet bird-plum fruit Ontaku = a fermented mahangu drink Oshikundu = a beer-like beverage

5 USEFUL PHRASES WHEN VISITING THE REGION: Good morning = Wa lala po (meme/tate) Good afternoon = Wa uhala po Good evening = Wa tokelwa po How are you today? = Ou li po ngaipi nena? I am fine, thank you, and yourself? = Ame ondili nawa, tangi ove? Where is Oshakati? = Ame ondi li nawa, tangi; ove? (or na ove?) Thank you very much = Tangi unene Goodbye = Kala po nawa

Insider’s tip: Visit Mango Guesthouse in Ongwediva for a delicious traditional Owambo meal.

TOP, LEFT TO RIGHT

Outapi's famous ‘skyscraper’ at the Ombalantu Tree Heritage Centre is an 800 year-old baobab Amicable encounters with saleswomen and their children at the open market in Oshakati Many of the foods at open markets are presented in hand-woven baskets, such as the chillies that can be found all over the region.

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Finnish missionary Martti Rautanen, a respected figure who moved to Namibia at the tender age of 25 where he then spent the rest of his life, was nicknamed Nakambale (“one who wears a big hat”) by locals. He is well known for his translation of the Bible into Ndonga, which became available in 1924. It sprouted from his desire to offer the people, whom he loved and ministered to, the Bible in their own language. Rautanen based his translation work on an Otjiherero grammar book. His methods to collect words consisted of listening to people speak, asking local people, and inventing new words. Asking the locals was not a fool proof method, however, because in most cases they agreed with his suggestions, simply because they did not believe in disagreeing with a respected person. The Nakambale Museum is in the former missionary house and displays items from the Finnish missionary station such as Rautanen’s paper slip collecting method, as well as some artefacts of the Owambo culture. Adjacent to the museum is a complete Ndonga homestead, which can be viewed on a guided tour. Visitors can also relax in the tranquil rural setting, as campsites are available. For me, a personal highlight on our trip was nestled amongst beautiful trees and lush vegetation in Etunda in the western Omusati Region of Namibia, where an inspirational local project has taken root. We made a quick stop at Nakayale Private Academy, established in 2016 and intended to offer gifted children from disadvantaged communities a chance to build their own future. An agricultural project on the Olushandja Dam sustains the school and boasts a tally of successful harvests. The teachers warmly welcomed us, and eager children, between pre-primary and grade 3 age, shyly smiled and sneaked a peek at the new faces. After an official welcoming, consisting of the children singing in English and Oshiwambo, they completely warmed to us. We were chatting away like old friends. Forgotten was the fact that we were strangers just a moment ago. Owambo is about dancing in the warm April showers and living life in the slow lane. It is a region filled with baobabs that remind us that things we might view as upside-down might actually be the right side up. It is about learning the local language – which also makes the difference between being a traveller and a tourist. A trip to Owambo is a down-to-earth, humbling experience where not only trees thrive, but also the people, whether they live there or are just passing by. TNN

PLACES OF INTEREST TO VISIT IN OWAMBO • • • • •

Martti Rautanen’s paper slip collecting method to translate the Bible into Ndonga, as well as other items and artefacts of the Owambo culture on display in the Nakambale Museum

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Nakambale Museum, Olukonda Eenhana Heroes’ Memorial Shrine Bennie’s Entertainment Park and Lodge, Ongwediva Dr Frans Aupa Indongo Oshakati Open Market Uukwaluudhi Royal Homestead and Museum, near Tsandi • Ongulumbashe Memorial • Ombalantu Baobab Heritage Centre, Outapi • Ruacana Falls


Jacqueline and a local fruit vendor

MY STINT AS TOUR GUIDE Text Jacqueline Angula

B

efore we went on this adventure I really hoped, prayed, that my two colleagues who have never been to the north would love Owamboland as much as I do. I wanted them to see the beauty in everything. I wanted them to be in awe of this part of THEIR Namibia. But above all I wanted them to say the four little words: WE WILL BE BACK. Our journey started at the open market in Ondangwa where we bought a bag of eembe, a traditional fruity snack, and I taught the girls some phrases in Oshiwambo, such as tangi meme (which means thank you). The next stop was my dad’s village, Olukonda. I was so proud to show them the place with the best sunsets, but also because it was the first place in the north where the missionaries settled. We visited the museum and walked through the first church that was built in the north. To experience something so sacred was the highlight of our first day. My homeland was showing off in a big way. Exactly the way I hoped it would. Day two only got better and more fun. The pride I felt when I heard my friends "oohing" and "aahing" at the beautiful scenery, green so soon after the first rains; the way they spoke about how Owamboland reminds them of other parts of Africa. The "oohs" and "aahs" continued when they saw little kids in their school uniforms walking on the side of the roads. Or when we drove over a bridge and rolled down the windows to get a perfect shot of the pans filled with lilies. Listening to them talk about the tall makalani palm trees that are only found in this part of Namibia gave me a warm feeling. On day three we all got to experience some places as firsttimers, which was exciting for me as well. I visited the colourful Dr Frans Indongo Market with them. Another proud moment for me because we are developing, we are building, we are

creating. The market bustles with an energy that reminded me of the downtown Johannesburg bus terminal with minibuses everywhere. Only that here everyone speaks Oshiwambo. For women dressed in their ndelelas, it is a place of business, where people sell goods, make goods, cook food to be sold, or where people like us just stop by to enjoy what is on offer. After a mini photo session with some of the locals we found a nice Otala (place with shade) where we sat down for a break. My friends shared a dumpy (a 660 ml returnable bottle of beer) and discussed the photo shoot. In the evening we went to a local bar. On the way, we chatted in the car about how we would only stay for an hour. We stuck to our one-hour rule, because we were the first to arrive. Being us, we wouldn’t let an opportunity or a beautiful sunset go to waste, so we toasted the memories and the success of our trip on the balcony of the snazzy bar. We got lost and found our way again. We got bitten by mosquitoes at a beautiful traditional restaurant. All of us ordered traditional food, which we couldn’t finish. Be warned: the people in the north are very generous with food portions. When they dropped me off at the airport to continue their journey to the west, I did not have the heart to ask them if they intend to be back. But I saw the sparkle in their eyes at the end of every day when they spoke of my Owamboland, and so I am sure that was their “yes, we’ll be back”. Owamboland and my father’s hometown, you did not disappoint for a second! Of course we will be back! TNN

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JOINING FORCES AND UNITING

CONSERVATIONISTS Text and Photographs Conrad Brain


In my mind, the future of conservation and wildlife survival in Namibia lies in effective partnerships and a fusing of skills, talents, expertise and experience. Sometimes unlikely partnerships produce unexpected results. If the diverse range of characters mentioned in the following events can achieve so much in such a short time, Namibia could cement its reputation as a wildlife haven and a retreat for the human soul.

C

onservationists and biologists are usually, through the nature of their work, people who work in isolation – especially those that are field based. Communications between individuals or even organisations may be limited to formal information exchanged via publications, workshops or social media. Events that unite multiple people, structures and organisations in a personal and interactive manner, a sort of one-on-one interaction in the desert, swamp, ocean, savannah or wherever they might be working, are rare. Last year an announcement was made that was to change all that. Westair Aviation had donated a Cessna 182, through the Namibia Chamber of Environment (NCE) and Welwitschia Insurance, which was designated for the exclusive use of conservation.

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The Ministry of Environment and Tourism, Wilderness Safaris, NCE and Westair seemed unusual partners initially, but together a formidable team was created.

Two factors immediately struck home on learning of this: It was an extremely generous and selfless gesture from Westair, Welwitschia and NCE, but much more than that, the opportunities to make use of this “gift” seemed as vast as the Namibian horizon and as timely as our recent rains. Details were provided by NCE on procedures to follow in order to access the use of the V5-IIM aircraft. Like the directors of this far-sighted organisation, they are direct, hassle free and precise. With close to ten thousand flying hours, I knew I would soon be adding to this total. I was right, and though the reason for my flying is singular – conservation – the uses of V5-IIM have been extremely varied.

TRENDSETTING OPERATION NUMBER ONE – ZAMBEZI

This was the first operation of the plane where I had the honour of becoming part of what was probably the trendsetter in terms of adopting a conservation collaborative approach. It was an aerial survey of the Zambezi Region wetlands and floodplains. After twelve days of flying, a comprehensive total survey of the Okavango, Kwando, Linyanti, Chobe and Zambezi rivers and their floodplains produced results that will significantly add to the history of prior surveys of that region. In fact, every survey conducted adds exponentially to the value of all previous surveys as wildlife trends and population demography emerge and develop through the data. From the onset and throughout the planning and execution of the survey, there was a complete openness across a broad range of participants. NACSO requested and headed the survey, while the Ministry of Environment and Tourism (MET), Wilderness Safaris, NCE and Westair seemed unusual partners initially, but together a formidable team was created.

“HOLIDAY” IN THE AIR ABOVE DAMARALAND AND WESTERN ETOSHA

Very soon after the Zambezi survey another request was made that would involve the exact opposite terrain – Damaraland and western Etosha. Coordinated by Save The Rhino Trust Namibia and the MET, our holiday was spent in the air, helping to protect Namibia’s black rhinos. With support from Westair and NCE for the plane, and additional support from Wilderness Safaris and Journeys Namibia, the SRT, MET and I worked with the Namibian Police Special Field Force and the Namibian Defence Force to provide aerial surveillance and monitoring of the black rhino home range areas in western Namibia over the Christmas and New Year period. Again, a diverse and unusual team achieved results above expectation.

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ABOVE Nampol Special Field Force security team, MET and myself on Christmas Day 2017. BELOW The photo below was taken during a rhino airlift operation at the Skeleton Coast many years ago. For more than a decade Conrad flew the MET aircraft V5-ICE exclusively for conservation.


V5-IIM TO THE RESCUE

While some operations can be planned down to the minute, others, due to the nature of wildlife work, are as unpredictable as the animals themselves. In the western Hoanib River area of the Skeleton Coast, a cheetah known as “Mama-cheetah” had apparently fallen and broken her two front legs. This cheetah is of particular significance because she is the most westerly located cheetah that we know of in the desert, and by monitoring her we are gleaning invaluable data on species survival in the desert. The Desert Lion Conservation Project asked for help and via the AfriCat Foundation and Wilderness Safaris’ Hoanib Camp, the V5-IIM was on the way again. The plan was to immobilise and move the cheetah to AfriCat’s clinic where she could be assessed, treated and allowed to recover before returning her to her home in the Hoanib as soon as possible. The aircraft arrived fully equipped to move the cheetah but on inspection and gathering the history of the case, another scenario emerged. Mama-cheetah had just weaned a cub, missed two kills and had fallen off a river embankment. Her two front legs were swollen but didn’t appear to be fractured. Being a veterinarian myself, I assessed the case as most likely a metabolic condition from calcium deficiency and infection. We decided to treat the animal on site rather than expose her to the stress of a translocation and all that goes

along with that. We were right. After two months of field medication the cheetah recovered and returned to a normal cheetah life in the desert, hunting successfully and surviving. All of us were ecstatic. For two weeks. That was when, at a waterhole in the desert known as Auses, a leopard killed Mama-cheetah.

TRACKERS ON THE GROUND, WITH EYES IN THE SKY Northwest Namibia was by now no stranger to the V5IIM, and another diverse task was on the horizon. In a highly efficient operation, with a team whose expertise is unsurpassable, a major rhino protection and de-horning procedure has just been completed. The team players were again diverse, and just as effective. Spearheaded by MET and SRT, the operation included highly skilled trackers on the ground plus the aircraft and two helicopters above. In the most extreme terrain imaginable we hopefully gave the rhino population a future chance and a breathing space for survival.

In my mind, the future of conservation and wildlife survival in Namibia lies in effective partnerships and a fusing of skills, talents, expertise and experience. Sometimes unlikely partnerships produce unexpected results. If the diverse range of characters mentioned in these events can achieve so much in such a short time, Namibia could cement its reputation as a wildlife haven and a retreat for the human soul. TNN

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

Conrad Brain has worked in the field of conservation for decades, starting out as a filmmaker in the desert, then veterinarian in Etosha National Park to his current day job as pilot for Wilderness Safaris, but he donates his off-time and expertise to pilot conservation projects in the sky.

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THIS IS MY NAMIBIA By Ginger Mauney

February 1992

M

y Namibia is a place where dreams come true. Not in the ‘click your heels ruby slippers off to Oz’ kind of way, but in the years of hard work, isolation, sweat, grit in your teeth, satisfying way. I have been lucky because dirty, tenuous, tenacious work has taken me to extraordinary places, introduced me to exceptional people and provided acceptance and opportunities on a scale that I could never have imagined. My Namibia could happen only in Namibia. Nearly thirty years ago, when I first came to Namibia, I was lucky enough to start my journey in the Skeleton Coast Park with humble, acclaimed filmmakers and photographers, Jen and the late Des Bartlett. I was an aspiring filmmaker and they generously shared their decades of experience in what it takes to make a wildlife documentary film. For them, there were no shortcuts to capturing on film the essence of a place and its special inhabitants, even if it meant spending 17 years in the desert, and there was no shortage of passion for telling stories from the wild that not only revealed something unique, but that were also truthful. Their approach was entrenched

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in the belief that what’s happening in the natural world is best left honest, undistilled and unadorned. It doesn’t need hype or gore or swashbuckling storytellers. Nature is enough. And then nature can be so much more. In the confines of the Kuiseb River I met my husband, threw my sleeping bag in the sand every night for nearly four years and gained the unconditional acceptance of a troop of baboons. From Etosha National Park where we raised our son and where I met bearded, bright, hard drinking and hardworking allies in conservation, this is my Namibia. It was small and vast, mine and so much larger, all at the same time. I love the space, the isolation that is found in Namibia. It allows for deeper breathing, deeper thoughts. It penetrates the pores and inspires dreams, the ones that fill your nights and guide your days. But I also know that this can’t be taken for granted. The protection of this incredible space and the natural wonders it holds is mandated by a government that has made conservation a priority and by individuals who work tirelessly, fearlessly to protect it. Zoom in, point to a place on the map of Namibia, and, at any given time,

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a singular name can be put to its past, present and future. Pull out, and it’s like pixels filling a scene as the individuals make up a collective. Because although we may be isolated, we are not alone. Motley, innovative, imperfect, and passionate, there are those that support the lone rangers in the field by riding for rhinos, visiting lodges that provide sanctuary for the big cats, supporting farmers that strive to live with wildlife even when their livelihoods are at stake. On a national scale, there are those who have banded together in conservancies to manage and conserve approximately 19 percent of the land in this country, selflessly providing space for wildlife to roam, and experiences of a lifetime for those who visit these areas. Along with the space, solitude and time to explore the mysteries found in nature, these are the reasons why I was drawn to Namibia and why I remain. I think it’s also why people from all over the world visit Namibia, not once or twice, but dozens of times. Within this wild, wonderful, protected, spectacular country there is a place for all of us to stand alone and to stand together as we reach higher, dream bigger, and aspire for a better future. TNN


www.wolwedans.com

Wolwedans is more than a mere collection of camps. It’s a collection of dreams. Its ethos lies in setting an example in sustainability and continually fulfilling its commitment to the conservation of the NamibRand Nature Reserve.

...simply out of this world


Photo © Gerhard Thirion

Namibia. Wild at heart.

An untamed wilderness that will always leave you spoilt for choice. Mother Nature is waiting for you.

NAMIBIA – Head office C/O Haddy & Sam Nujoma Drive Private Bag 13244, Windhoek Tel: +264 61 290 6000 Fax: +264 61 25 4848 Email: info@namibiatourism.com.na www.namibiatourism.com.na

GERMANY Schillerstrasse 42 – 44, D – 60313 Frankfurt am Main, Tel: +49 69 1337 360 Fax: +49 69 1337 3615 Email: info@namibia-tourism.com www.namibia-tourism.com

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