T he small town of Grootfontein serves the surrounding cattle-ranching community and is the last centre on the road to Rundu and the far north-east.
Its history and character are personified in its coat of arms by depictions of the Hoba Meteorite, a palm tree, kudu, eland and cheetah. The Herero name of the town – Otjiwanda Tjongue – means leopard’s crest, and these secretive, nocturnal cats still occur in the surroundings. Due to the relatively high rainfall and large number of springs in the area, the San and Damara who lived here during the first half of the 19th century called the place Gei-/ous, which translates as Grootfontein (Afrikaans for large spring).
A historic fort from the German era, built in 1896, houses the Grootfontein Museum with its extensive mineralogical collection, ethnical display – including an extensive exhibition on the Himbas – implements for making ox wagons, utensils used in the Kavango Region and an exhibition featuring the German colonial Schutztruppe. The museum, which was recently revamped, celebrated its 30th year in 2013. It hosts an annual Christmas market on the last weekend of November, as well as movie nights throughout the year. Housed in the same building in Eriksson Street is the Tourist Information Centre. Close by is the fountain that gave rise to the town’s name, encircled by the Tree Park with its collection of exotic trees.
Providing a break from fast foods, Bloom Coffee in Hidipo Hamutenya Street serves balanced, home-cooked meals, cakes and light refreshments, and sells small gifts and jewellery.
Situated in the Grootfontein district, north-east of the homestead of the Keibeb Farm, is a large baobab tree that was declared a national monument because it was regarded as the largest of its kind in the commercial farming area. On the farm Rietfontein is the grave of Axel W Eriksson, well-known traveller, hunter and pioneer of South West Africa during the second half of the 19th century.
Grootfontein Museum/ Tourist Information Centre
Tel (+264 67) 24 2456
Accommodation in the area
Accommodation in the Grootfontein surroundings can be found at Roy’s Camp. Apart from other activities, the prolific bird life in the area makes it a good stopover for keen birders.
Sociable weaver, Philetairus socius. Photo ©Paul van Schalkwyk
Yellow-billed Hornbill, Tockus leucomelas. Photo ©Paul van Schalkwyk
African barred owlet, Glaucidium capense. Photo ©Paul van Schalkwyk