The stay at the Spizkoppe told us again that one night in the beautiful location was not enough. Besides another evening of stargazing, during the day Spitzkoppe has so much to offer in the form of hikes, mountain climbing and caves with bushman paintings to keep one busy.
From the Spitzkoppe the road takes one north with the terrain changing from the desert to a more bushy and greener landscape. As always our brunch stop was at one of the many roadside picnic places the Namibian roads department have planned. Most are under lovely big trees and are also mostly clean and very safe. While enjoying one’s meal with a lovely cool beverage one is continually greeted by passing commercial trucks or a few fellow tourists on their way to their respective destinations.
On route to Etosha one must not pass the lovely private reserve of Erindi. Initially the land was purchased to turn it into a model cattle farm, However, by the early 1990s, it was realized that to increase the overall profitability of the farm, gradually stocking of the farm with Game was started. Natural food resources was a major concern, so to avoid competition with the cattle, plains game was introduced. 3 000 hectares was fenced off and 55 giraffes were put on. This was a noticeably successful venture, so more game such as the Blue Wildebeest and African Elephant was brought in from Etosha National Park. The farm was already home to wild animals like the Gemsbok, Kudu, Leopard, Cheetah, Honey-Badger, Baboon and many others. Eventually, the cattle farming had been completely phased out, and the reserve had been fitted with all the game management requirements. By 2008, Old Traders Lodge was erected and open for visitors. Since then, Camp Elephant was constructed, and several successful conservation programs run concurrently.
With what I now claim as the best campsites I have ever stayed at, I, in fact, rate the campsites even better than the main lodge where I have had the pleasure of staying as well. With a well-stocked convenience store and campsites with canopies that one can erect your camper rooftop tent in, too lovely lawns, wash up area with a lock-up fridge for ones convenience to a bathroom with toilet, shower, wash up basins for each individual campsite.
For the camper a day pass with a route for game drives can be purchased at reception and again due to us enjoying our campsite so much could easily have stayed another night so that we could go out on a drive to see a reserve that is Big 5 with bird life been a real winner.
Heading north the next day we eventually arrived at the town of Ativ. What a transformation of a few years back. It now boasts a lovely Spar convenience store and bottle store with the German bakery in a new center still selling the best game pies I have ever tasted. With the Spar one now can plan your groceries better and be able to buy your fresh produce for your stay in Etosha.
An hour later we reached Anderson gate and Etosha and onwards to our first camp of Okakeujo. The camp is the oldest tourist camp in Etosha and the administrative center of the park.
The main attraction of this camp is that it overlooks a permanent waterhole which is floodlit at night. A wide diversity of wildlife surrounds Okaukuejo camps. The wildlife congregates and interacts from lion to rhino to elephant and antelope.
The spectacle starts at dawn, with animals coming in large numbers to quench their thirst. The activity continues throughout the day until late at night. In the early evenings, it is not uncommon to have black rhino, elephant, and lion all drinking at the same time.
Our first full day took us on route to Andmax pan. With the Etosha pan to the one side, this area is open to vast open plains where we were treated to herds of springboks, Zebra and Oryx. At a place called “Leeubron” we were blessed to see what looked like a mini-migration of zebra and springbok together, where we had to switch off our engine and wait for the massive herd of Game to idly walk by bleating and eating.
Halali Camp and the word Halali refers to the sound of a bugle or horn announcing the end of a day’s hunting. The German soldiers that were posted here enjoyed the hunting. This was until Governor Von Lindequist wisely declared the Etosha a game park and reserve.
Halali Camp is strategically located halfway between Okaukuejo and Namutoni. Halali is at the base of a dolomite hill, amongst shady Mopane trees. Halali Camp is one of the favourite watering holes inside Etosha National Park. The seating area is high and overlooks all of the waterholes. It is an excellent location for sunset views and photography over the waterhole. It is the regular visiting point for Elephants, Black Rhino, Spotted Hyena, and lions.
A highlight of the trip from Halali to Namatomi is the drive onto the pan and the lookout point into the vast white pan known as Etosha. This vast open lunar landscape again leaves one feeling vulnerable and insignificant, we as humans are in the greater scheme of life.
Namutoni camp is on the eastern side of Etosha and derives its name from an old German fort. The presence of the fort gives Namutoni more character than the other rest camps in Etosha. Namutoni is the closest to Fisher’s Pan, a renown wonderland of water birds in the wet season including breeding flamingos.
The list of animals and birds grew daily even though due to good rains the animals did not need to come to the watering holes as there was enough water spread over the whole reserve, our unique sightings, besides the lions and elephant were from the black-faced Impala, Honeybadger, Hartmann’s mountain zebra to birds like the Double Banded Couser, African Pipit, White Quilled bustard and the Crimson breasted shrikes.
On leaving the openness of the pan and the start of our track back South , feeling slightly apprehensive knowing that our trip was coming to an end was short lived with our arrival at the Waterberg Plateau.
Waterberg Plateau Park a national park in central Namibia encompassing the Waterberg Plateau, 68 km east of the town of Otjiwarongo. The Waterberg Plateau is a particularly prominent feature, elevated high above the plains of the Kalahari of Eastern Namibia.
The plateau and some 405 km² of surrounding land were declared a Nature Reserve in 1972. The Waterberg Plateau Park is ecologically diverse and has over 200 different species of bird and some rare species of small antelope on the lower hills of the mountain
Often called a “lost Eden”. Animals on top can’t get down and the sheer sides are almost inaccessible. This massive plateau fed by natural springs is a lush haven for endangered wildlife and uncommon flora. The Waterberg Plateau National Park can be explored on fabulous walks and hikes and guided game drives – the views from the top are spectacular.
On moving further south our second last stop was the animal rehabilitation sanctuary of Harnas on the outskirts of Gobabis. As their website aptly states “ expect the unexpected” It is about caring and escaping. It is about sharing and delving into the wonders that make Harnas so unique. Explore its wild nature in all its untouched glory!
In short, Harnas is one of the few wildlife orphanages and welfare centres in Africa. From lion, leopard, cheetah and wild dog to the smallest meerkat and baboon, more than 1000 wild animals have made Harnas their home.
For the past 30 years, the Van Der Merwe family have been involved in the care, rehabilitation and keeping of orphaned, neglected, abused and abandoned wild animals. Marieta Van Der Merwe, the heart of Harnas, has been intimately involved with the management and development of Harnas. Harnas started from an instinctive love for wild animals
The continuous publicity given to Harnas has however resulted in a huge escalation of animals brought here and the initial hobby has changed into a full-time occupation for nearly 100 people. In addition to this, there is the ever-increasing human-wildlife conflict. Namibia has a high unemployment rate and a very low-income rate for most of the population. The survival of humans will always come first. When farmers have to protect their livestock against predators in the hope of making a living, their choices are very limited. Conservation, therefore, suffers severely. A weak economy creates social problems for humans and subsequently affects their relationship with the wild animals.
The people of Harnas find it difficult to turn away requests to take animals, where the alternative would lead to their death. At first, the family used their own income to carry the Harnas expenses. This resulted in the loss of not only their cattle farming but also most of their farmland [3800 hectares]. Due to a dramatic increase in both the number of rescued animals and the running costs of the wildlife foundation, the need for a wildlife trust fund was born. Hence, in 1997, the Harnas Wildlife Foundation Trust Fund was founded. Despite never having received any government funds or grants, the Van der Merwe family still managed to win international acclaim for their success in rescuing and caring for the Namibian wildlife.
In March 2000, this led to the registration of the Harnas Wildlife Foundation in Germany. The Harnas Wildlife Foundation Trust Fund is a non-profit organisation that obtains its funding from sponsors, donations, and adoptions.
One of the biggest problems that seemed to increase as the numbers of animals continuously rise is the need for proper release sites. More and more it was evident that the original dream to save animal lives and where possible release them to be free in a safe environment became a problem. Intensive research in the Harnas lifeline area, as well as proven results at identified release areas, could only prove further that concentrating on creating a lifeline, especially for the semi-wild and domesticated predators, is the safe way out. Space and high costing, however, remain major problems to achieve this objective.
The stay which was meant to be one night turned into two with us spending a morning touring the farms and meeting the wonderful staff dedicated to making a difference to many of the animals who would be cripple or would have died terrible deaths if it was not for the sanctuary and works with local communities to improve the lives of the less privileged through various humanitarian projects. (school program above)
Harnas was a great end to a wonderful Namibian experience, leaving us deep in thought with regards to the challenges the sanctuary faces as mentioned by themselves to were the line gets drawn between a true sanctuary , rehabilitating the injured animals, releasing them back into the wild, in a space that is ever getting smaller due to the human influence to becoming just another zoo.
As conservationists, one is left with mixed feeling to the challenges that Marieta Van Der Merwe faces, and our discussion has gone way past our return home. However, the one recommendation I can make is: Visit Harnas, talk to the people, form your own opinion. Visit Namibia, it truly is a country of contrast and beauty.