Breakfast on the deck
1 Learn about the community/Wilderness Safaris connection
First stop on our recent media trip to Damaraland was Doro Nawas Camp (after an obligatory stop at the famous Outjo Bakery of course!).
This conservancy covers an enormous area of 407 300 ha. Wilderness Safaris has partnered with the local community members of the conservancy, who hold a 40% share in the lodge. As with other Wilderness/community partnerships, an increase of wildlife in the area as well as the upliftment of the local community has been observed. All staff at the lodge are selected from the nearby villages and benefit directly from your visit.
Namibians love to sing! The welcome here is warm and vibrant and the singing matches their enthusiasm in making us feel at home.
2 Visit Twyfelfontein, the art gallery of early Namibians and other natural treasures
My first visit to Twyfelfontein was back in 1988 when there was nothing and nobody there. So I was keen to see what has changed now. A beautifully designed information centre unfolds, and local guide Desiree greets us with detailed information on the rock engravings we will be seeing on the tour. If an interest in rock art and archaeology is your thing then this is for you!
The famous ‘lion with a kinky tail’ or Lion Man engraving
This is a globally important piece of pre-history and was declared a World Heritage Site in 2004. It is one of the largest collections of petroglyphs in Africa.
This is the work of the San hunter-gatherers and depicts the links between ritual and economic life of some of Namibia’s earliest humans. The paintings and engravings date back over the last 2 000 years, to before the arrival of Damara herders or European settlers in the area.
A little drive on from the rock art are some other fascinating natural phenomena, namely the Organ Pipes , Burnt Mountain and a bit further still, the Petrified Forest. Local guides will again assist you in learning more about these features.
(TIP: It can get really hot amongst those rocks so do take a sunhat, sunscreen and water with you. You don’t need to go far to encounter the first engravings, and although some are a bit of a climb, it’s really worth it.)
3 Go on a game drive to view the wildlife
Although the sensitive desert environment does not support large herds of game and the attendant predators, there is still a lot to see in this area. A game drive will take you to nearby riverbeds where you may be lucky enough to see one of the unique desert-adapted elephant herds. Oryx and springbok are best adapted to this environment and may occur singly or in small herds.
The area is good for birdwatching and boasts some of Namibia’s endemic species, such as the Damara hornbill, Rüpell’s korhaan and Carp’s tit.
4 Experience Damara culture – learn about bush medicine and even how to earn a wife!
Stopping near a pile of massive granite boulders, we look around for signs of the Damara village. A tall and striking young man dressed only in skins around his waist and a dried leguaan skin on his head, waves to us. We are welcomed with a huge warm smile and, before disappearing through a natural passageway in the granite hill, he beckons us to follow him. Inside, a cavernous natural boma is filled with activity, smoke, people and laughter. All around us Damara people are demonstrating to other visitors their skills and aspects of their culture, all dressed in traditional skinware.
We are shown how knives are made, how to tan a goat skin and grind an ostrich egg shell into beads
A lion made out of goatskin
A quick workshop on local plants and their medicinal application follows and we learn how useful mopane leaves (see image) are to cure an upset tummy.
The visit is happily rounded off by a traditional dance by all the members of the village under a magnificent backdrop of natural granite. Well worth an hour and it has opened my eyes to the culture of fellow countrymen whom I see every day, but whose culture I really knew nothing about.
5 Sleep on your verandah under the stars
We arrived after the second very late shower of the season and everywhere there were puddles amongst freshly washed plants and rocks. As the skies clear, my room-mate and I slide open the wide wooden doors and push our beds onto the verandah after dinner to catch the fresh night air.
Dead silence outside allows us to hear the night sounds of nocturnal birds. We’ve already been assured it is safe to sleep outside as there are no known predators around, only a cow or two perhaps! Sometime after midnight the moon rises to bathe us in soft light and in the morning the duvets are damp from the dew. What a rare thing in this arid land!
Written and Photographed by Annabelle Venter
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