Text Jeannette van der Merwe
Tucked away safely in the Tiras Mountains is a homely retreat wrapped in the silence of the desert. This is where you can sit on the orange boulders and look over the valley, dreaming of what good things life has to offer, and where you can experience a feeling of being hidden away from the world.
The warm, protected feeling is accentuated by the friendliness of the people who farm and live there. The Namtib Biosphere Reserve is owner-managed by Walter and Renate Theile and their son Thorsten. The Theiles are passionate about their farm and passionate about nature.
Walter bought Namtib in 1982 with tourism in mind. The farm was completely run down and a great deal of effort was put into restoring the veld to its former condition. The Theiles run the farm as a biosphere reserve. Thorsten says the idea behind the biosphere concept is to prove that you can sustain yourself amply while still living in an ecologically friendly way. The Theiles have managed to earn enough out of the valley to make a living while protecting and rehabilitating the land.
The farm boasts an abundance of fauna and flora. There are about three hundred gemsbok and six hundred springbok. Bat-eared fox and black-backed jackal prowl around and leopard keep baboon numbers stable. Domestic animals are also kept on the farm, but the wild animals are always considered first. An imbalance in the game population could lead to a decline in biodiversity, which is why the family manages the farm with such care.
The Theiles work in conjunction with the nature conservation faculty of the Polytechnic of Namibia. Students are sent to Namtib to do their practical studies. One such study was to establish whether the reserve could sustain giraffes on a long-term basis. The study involved recording all the trees on the farm and determining which species occurred there. The conclusion was that only two giraffe could be accommodated and even then some plant populations might be damaged, so the Theiles gave up the idea. But with magical surroundings highlighted by a gemsbok here and there, who needs giraffe?
The highest peak of the Tiras Mountains (1 900 metres above sea level) is on the reserve, making Namtib a place with spectacular scenery. Enigmatic fairy circles dot the fields. The cause of these bald patches is still a mystery. The Theiles have their own theory, which they share with their guests enthusiastically.
It is not only the beautiful scenery and the mystique that make Namtib special. It’s also the good company. Thorsten demonstrates his offbeat sense of humour when he tells us about a remark an overseas tourist made during a game drive, “Ah, there are some klipdassies. They prey on gemsbok, don’t they?”
Namtib Biosphere Reserve is truly a rewarding place to spend quality time.
This article appeared in the April ‘07 edition of Travel News Namibia.