Aabadi: A Walk of Natural Instruction

Swakopmund – Footprints in the Sand
September 3, 2012
Tasting cultures – such as smiley, oshifima and ekaka
September 3, 2012
Swakopmund – Footprints in the Sand
September 3, 2012
Tasting cultures – such as smiley, oshifima and ekaka
September 3, 2012

By Joseph Kwashi

The psychology of entrepreneurs offers a fascinating insight into the thinking of people who are often misunderstood, seen as odd or quirky but who are invaluable to the industry. They see possibilities, not obstacles, they are driven by passion and are fuelled by a ‘get up and go’ spirit. This defines Lesley Gariseb, entrepreneur, culturist, and environmentalist: a man with a vision and the conviction to make it a reality.


Aabadi, meaning calabash in the Nama/Damara language, is located in the Erongo Region between Okanhandja and Karibib off the main Windhoek – Swakopmund road.

His vision of a ‘walking safari’ and natural bush camp was shaped by his ten years in the tourism industry.  As a game guide, he travelled through central and southern Africa, turning his natural love of the veld into a deep-seated romance. Encounters with environmentalists cemented his convictions to preserve the environment, while time spent with indigenous San and Nama trackers drove him to question and discover more about his culture.

It would be four years before Lesley could take party of environmental enthusiasts on a bush trail from his Aabadi Bush Camp, four years of dreaming and planning that became a reality after a fortuitous meeting during a recent tourism conference.

At this conference established players in the tourism industry pledged through a charter to nurture and support new entrants. This meant that previously economically disadvantaged Namibians would be encouraged to enter the tourism sector.

Making a trap

Lesley took his cue, approaching Willie du Toit of Sossusvlei Lodge to back his business plan. Willie agreed but challenged Lesley to first revise his proposal in compliance with Sossusvlei Lodge’s capital terms. The business agreement includes staff training, ongoing mentoring, and ensuring that a high standard of service is offered to visitors at all times.

To complete the dream, Lesley needed land where his guests could learn practical lessons in nature. Freddy Hertzberg, the farmer he approached at Wilhemstal, saw the potential and the two agreed on a 10-year land lease. Today Freddy remains a strong mentor on issues of animal management and impact on the environment.

Aabadi, meaning calabash in the Nama/Damara language, is located in the Erongo Region between Okahandja and Karibib off the main Windhoek – Swakopmund road. Here Lesley built a pristine bush camp where a natural pool draws game and endemic bird species.

“We are committed to providing an experience that brings you close to nature, close to the origins and close to the cultures of Namibia,” Lesley elaborates. This refers to the wisened Nama bush trackers, /Kaub and Tsamxao, who share their indigenous knowledge and bush survival skills with visitors. Each walk is a lesson in tracking; participants are taught how to determine the age of the tracks and what constitutes the diet of the animal as shown by the droppings. Even the sex of the animal can be determined by its tracks.

The trackers demonstrate how water is stored in an ostrich egg and then buried underground. They show guests how to build a trap to catch mid-range game birds, such as the bountiful guinea fowl. If ‘wild poultry’ is not to your liking, the trackers will point out the tree that is favoured by the beetle whose larvae possesses the potent poison used on the tips of arrows, toxic enough to bring down a gemsbok. “This camp allows /Kaub and Tsamxao to be able to preserve their culture, to practise it and, importantly, in some respects to pass it on to us,” Lesley explains.

There is a souvenir shop at the camp where visitors can interact with the traditional jewellery makers, experiencing a lesson in resourcefulness as natural raw materials are transformed into beautiful pieces of art. The cuisine at Aabadi is another draw card. All meals are cooked on an open fire and the menu is inspired by the multi-cultural nature of Namibia’s people. You can enjoy wholesome Herero pot brood (pot-baked bread), preserved beef, Nama skaapkop (sheep’s head), moerkoffie (strong black coffee) and an array of delectable homemade preserves.

There are many winners in the story of Aabadi Bush Camp – the environment, the 10 people employed by Gariseb, the preservation of culture and ancient traditions and the guests who are privileged to experience Aabadi. On the macro level, the government’s call to make tourism earnings the leading source of foreign currency revenue is being heeded. Lastly, the Aabadi story illustrates that when determining the traits of entrepreneurship, the following must come to the fore: passion, independence, drive and the desire for success. Lesley Gariseb easily matches these. Shouldn’t those of his ilk be supported?

This article appeared in the July/Aug ‘05 edition of Travel News Namibia.

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