Tag Archives: San Bushmen

Spitzkoppe Revisited

One of our favourite areas in Namibia is the Erongo region and we’ve spent many happy hours exploring this amazing part of the country.  It is here that one finds the majestic Spitzkoppe mountains rising out of the dry desert landscape.  No two visits to this fabulous place are the same as we usually stay in different campsites each time. Most campsites have their local residents in the form of bird life and little animals, so it’s fun to move around and see what creatures Nature is going to manifests for us!  Our last trip didn’t disappoint as lots of colourful Rosy-faced lovebirds were nesting in the rocks above our campsite.  They are such bright little birds that they’re easy to spot in the dry brown grass as they forage for food.

Adult and juvenile Rosy-faced lovebirds

Rob and I have twice been privileged to see special animals in the area – the elusive Black mongoose, which is a shy animal, seldom seen, that lives amongst the granite boulders; and two wild cheetahs standing on a small hill.  It’s always a thrill to see cats in the wild and having a pair like this so close to Spitzkoppe was a real treat.  They weren’t terribly enamored to see us and moved away as soon as we pointed a camera at them.

Cheetah pair near Spitzkoppe

Hiking trails abound at Spitzkoppe and we walked for hours marveling at the breathtaking scenery.  Even the trees and shrubs growing out of the boulders looked like works of art.

God's artwork at Spitzkoppe

The beauty of going at a quiet time of the year is that one almost has the place to oneself.  There are a number of caves in the rocks that are home to Rock Hyrax’s, bats and the odd snake or two, and a short climb up to one of these gave us lovely views over the grassy landscape.

View across the plains

The ancient San Bushmen used many of the boulders to tell stories with their rock paintings, and a guided tour is a must if one wants to understand the meaning behind the various pictures that time and the wind are busy erasing.  Tours are a little pricey, but all the money is ploughed back into the coffers of the local community who at last are benefiting from tourism in the area.  It is an excellent way for them to realize that by preserving their heritage they have a sustainable form of income for years to come.

Beautiful scenery at Spitzkoppe

The appealing thing about camping at Spitzkoppe is its lack of development.  You won’t have the luxury of toilets and ablution facilities and the only thing that defines a campsite is a clearing and a pile of rocks around some burnt charcoal where the last camper had a barbeque.  This lack of amenities doesn’t faze us at all – in fact we quite like getting back to basics and having a bush wash with a little basin of water.  That’s when you really feel like you’re getting away from city life!

Our campsite

I have previously blogged about Spitzkoppe, so if you want more details and facts on this delightful spot, click here.


Off the beaten track – Tsumkwe to Nokaneng

We’ve written before about how our love of birds has taken us all over the country.  We’ve just returned from yet another trip that was moulded around seeing breeding colonies of the strikingly beautiful Carmine bee-eaters and rare African Skimmers.  It all started in June when we attended a travel exposition in Windhoek and discovered a company offering greatly reduced prices if one purchased accommodation at any of their country lodges.   We promptly bought six nights and then looked at where to go to cover previously unchartered territory and new birding experiences.

Tsumkwe Lodge

We were excited to see that they had a lodge at Tsumkwe, on the far north-eastern side of Namibia, in an area that is totally off the beaten track.   They had a second lodge, Namushasha, in that direction, in the Caprivi region, where we have wanted to see the Carmine bee-eaters, so it seemed logical to plot our trip with these two lodges in mind.  Having mentioned our plans to some folks we met at a dinner party, we learned that from Tsumkwe, one could go straight into Botswana through a small and relatively unknown border post at Dobe, and then cut up north to Namushasha, instead of backtracking to the main road and driving all the way across the Caprivi.  This valuable information saved us hundreds of kilometers of traveling and shortened our journey considerably.

Tsumkwe is a remote and tiny village just south of the Khaudum National Park.  It only has one general dealer store and a garage that restocks its fuel supplies once a week, so you have to be careful to carry enough fuel in case they have run out on your arrival.  It is also an area well-known for the few remaining San Bushmen (Ju/’hoansi tribe) who live there, and a number of living museums where Bushmen, dressed traditionally, give the public a glimpse into their lives, ancient spiritual beliefs and how they survive off the land.  These Bushmen will be the subject of an entire blog as we spent a delightful time with them on a very hot Saturday afternoon.

San Bushmen

The lodge at Tsumkwe is quite basic but comfortable, and the food is excellent.  We were amused to see, on entering our chalet that the washbasin, cupboards and dressing table were all made from 44 gallon drums.  How innovative is that!  They also have a campsite.

44 Gallon drum washbasin

With a whole day to explore the area before we left on the next leg of our trip, we decided to visit the Nyae Nyae Pans which are about twenty kilometers from the village.  After rains these pans are filled with birds and animals of every description, but unfortunately for us we were too early to see water so had to content ourselves with photographing Grey-backed sparrowlarks, squirrels and the beautiful scenery.

Grey-backed sparrowlark

From the pans we drove to another landmark of the area, the largest Baobab tree in the region, known as Holboom (hollow tree in Afrikaans).  This tree is absolutely mind-blowing in size – it is difficult to wrap your mind around how old it must be and how it could have a girth like it has.  We had a picnic lunch in its shade and reluctantly dragged ourselves away after having climbed up and into its midst.  It was home to a number of birds and tree squirrels.

Largest Baobab - Holboom

A few meters from Holboom there is another enormous Baobab under which one can camp if arrangements are made with the headman at the village.  An awesome spot to visit, but one needs a 4×4 as the track is very sandy in patches.

We entered Botswana the following day at the Dobe border post.  Short of actually conducting the border formalities on the bonnet of our car, it was probably the smallest and most informal customs and immigration set up we’ve come across.

Dobe border post

No cash changed hands so there were no cross border charges, and after a quick spray of the car wheels to prevent us spreading foot and mouth disease we were on our way along a very sandy and indistinct track to  Nokaneng and then up north to Namushasha on the Kwando River.

Omandumba – touching the silence

Geologists would tell you that the Erongo Mountains are rich with minerals and gemstones like aquamarine, schorl, jeremejevite, quartz, fluorite and garnets (amongst others), but I have news for you, these mesmerizing mountains are full of magnetic rocks.  They must be magnetic because they are so awesome they draw us back to them time and again.  We have visited the Erongo region often during our stay in Namibia and for the sheer beauty and majesty of the dramatic granite boulders, valleys and incredible landscapes it cannot be beaten.

Dramatic rock formations

Our latest weekend getaway was to the farm ‘Omandumba’ in the Erongo Mountain Nature Conservancy.  The Conservancy lies in a flat basin surrounded by the imposing walls of the remnants of an enormous volcano that collapsed millions of years ago.  The name ‘Omandumba’ means ‘place of bitter bushes’ which obviously doesn’t deter the animals, because the farm abounds with wildlife and birds.


The appeal to us, of this particular farm, is its remote bush campsite, where we were the only campers and had the entire area to ourselves.  What price can one put on solitude like that – not another human being around, just us, the wild animals and the soothing presence of the silent looming boulders.   At night the silence enveloped us and we often just sat quietly straining to hear something – anything, even if it was just a cricket, but there was nothing.

Beautiful backdrop to our campsite

Our walks were very productive as we found a waterhole in the rocks where we positioned ourselves for hours to photograph the birds that came to drink.

Colourful violet-eared waxbills

Admittedly there wasn’t a very large variety, it being winter, but the ones that came were very colourful and varied (acacia pied barbets, grey go-way birds, red-headed finches, waxbills – both violet-eared and common, bulbuls, larks, buntings, rosy-faced lovebirds, doves and canaries to name a few).  We even had the pleasure of an enormous black-chested snake eagle.  On a previous visit we saw the resident pair of Verreaux’s eagles and caught a glimpse of their chick in a nest high up on a cliff.

Acacia pied barbet

Animals we saw included kudu, warthogs, Damara dik-diks, baboons and the usual dassies that live on the rocks.

Damara dik-dik

Our special treat was a black mongoose that we saw for a few seconds.  We were saddened to hear that leopards had been preying on the farmer’s cattle and had to be hunted down.  It’s awful to imagine these magnificent animals being shot for being a nuisance.

Baboons kept us company

The mountains were once home to the San Bushmen and there is a good collection of their rock art on one of the walks.  We didn’t linger too long there as the overhanging rocks were covered in hornet’s nests and we didn’t fancy being casualties of their nasty stings!  Folks who would like to learn more about the Bushmen can visit a living museum in the area and meet with a local community of them, who demonstrate their survival skills and way of life.


One has to be totally self-sufficient at this campsite as there is nothing but bush.  There are a couple of long-drop toilets (for the very brave), but no showers or water.  This is part of the charm of the place though and it is a privilege to be in such pristine untouched surroundings.