Camp ChobeApril 20, 2013
Cheetah, cheese, conservation & dancing goatsApril 22, 2013
By Marita van Rooyen
“Autumn is a most rewarding time to travel in Southern Africa.”
We cornered local tourist guide, Kurt Schlenther, and asked him to tell us what makes autumn a good time of the year to explore the vastness of Namibia. And needless to say, which parts of the country he recommends for landscape, culture and wildlife enthusiasts.
What can we expect in autumn?
- During autumn the chances of rain are limited and because overseas tourists are ‘scared of the rain’ (that’s what Kurt says!) this is a good time to have a dry, but copper-coloured holiday.
- The temperatures are mild and pleasant. “The sun is still shining, but not as fiercely.” Thus you’ll have fewer problems with sunburn and heat exhaustion.
- There are no mosquitos around, so there will be less chance of contracting malaria.
- The opportunities for taking master photographs are good because the weather conditions are ‘prima’.
- The night skies are perfect for stargazing at this time of year.
- And what’s the best part? You’ll still spot as many animals as during winter and spring.
Why Namibia’s north-west?
Kurt likes Damaraland and Kaokoland. Why? “Because it’s the place for gazing endlessly into the distance.” These areas of Namibia are to a large extent pure and untouched. They are dominated by conservancies, bursting with unique species of wildlife (think desert-adapted rhino, elephant and lion), and here the people still live as they have for centuries.
Sossusvlei, of course, is always a highlight. But why not take a different route? Such as through Rehoboth? Stop at the Paulus Church, taste some homemade roosterkoek and learn more about the Basters.
Then there are the iconic Spitzkoppe and Brandberg and environs – always special in autumn. Why? The golden grass and sun-tinted boulders of Spitzkoppe show the true shades of the African landscape. And it is this time of the year when the Brandberg truly lives up to being dubbed the ‘burning mountain’.
And there’s so much more… Twyfelfontein, Palmwag, Sesfontein, Purros, Orupembe and the Kunene… all of these are terrific cultural eye-openers and scenically largely untouched. Apart from anything else, they’re just plain beautiful!”
The area between the Swakop and Kuiseb rivers is also a favourite. “This is the place for wild camping in the real sense. There are no facilities and whatever you take in, you as nature lover must take out.” Kurt is an avid camper and explorer himself. Actually, this is where his love for tourism started. He says with a twinkle in his eye, “I pitch my tent only when there are lions or hyaenas around. Otherwise it’s open-air camping for me!”
Kurt’s camping tips
- Never camp too close to a fountain or a waterhole, as you will prevent wild animals from reaching this precious resource, and you rather than the animal might come a cropper.
- Don’t travel in a convoy with more than three cars, as this spoils the pristine feel of the landscape.
- Don’t make too much noise; rather bask in the silence.
- Keep campfires to the minimum; light your fire only when absolutely necessary (maybe to braai that evening chop underneath the open skies).
Since all roads start and end in Windhoek, Kurt highlights his top stopovers in the capital:
- The historical German buildings are special in the sense that they all tell a tale. Think Alte Feste, Christuskirche, Tintenpalast…
- Street names like Fidel Castro and Robert Mugabe always make for interesting topics of discussion. Why Fidel Castro for example? Kurt says, “Because he was a man who didn’t only talk, but also did.”
- The old Hochland Park cemetery holds a great deal of important historical figures and their stories.
- In autumn the National Botanical Gardens is resplendent with the Windhoek aloe (Aloe littoralis) in full, red bloom.
- Katutura is always a must. “It’s an entirely absorbing and different world, but at the same time very much a part of our city.” Tourists are always keen to try kapana. They might well squirm while tasting mopane worms, but will enjoy the mahangu pap.
What, according to Kurt, makes a tourist ‘ideal’?
It’s simple. Someone who is enthusiastic, shows an interest in the country, accepts things as they are, is well read but not a know-it-all, and is tolerant and open-minded. Do you fit the profile? Then you’re ready to travel in Namibia!
Kurt Schlenther is a freelance tourist guide who’s been working in the Namibian tourism industry for the past 20 years.
He speaks fluent English, Afrikaans and German, a smattering of Damara, Herero and Kwanyama, and understands Dutch 100%. Kurt is an avid teacher and really enjoys being a tour guide. Study tours are his favourite and he strongly supports community-based campsites because of the benefit they bring to the local population. He was one of the founders of the Tour Guides Association of Namibia, as well as of the Namibian Academy for Tourism and Hospitality. Kurt is currently working on the Recognition of Prior Learning Project as part of the Namibia Training Authority’s vision to regulate vocational education and training.
Contact Kurt at email@example.com, or 081 248 9798
This article was originally published in the printed edition of Travel News Namibia Autum 2013.