Grootberg: So Much More Than Just a Pretty View

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As humans living in concrete jungles we are permanently boxed. We have learnt to accept this as the norm. We forget about the healing properties of simply having space. An endless view that is liberating and allows our souls to breathe. In the heart of the unforgiving yet endlessly beautiful Damaraland, set on the highest mountain top in the area is a place where the heart can relax and the mind can wander.

Grootberg Lodge is situated on the edge of the Etendeka Plateau, affording a spectacular view of the Klip River Valley spread out underneath. The view is so enticing that it is easy to spend an entire day staring into the expanse far below.

Managed by Journeys Namibia, Grootberg Lodge in ≠Khoadi //Hoas Conservancy is the first lodge in Namibia to be wholly owned by the community. The conservancy covers more than 3 000 km2 and is mainly inhabited by Damara people. Before it was established they mostly relied on subsistence farming or had to find work in other parts of the country. With the idea of creating shared wealth through tourism, registering a conservancy made the community the overall custodians and beneficiaries of the land. By reforming conservation efforts and educating the community on the potential benefits of being part of a conservancy, the success of this new undertaking was put into the rural people’s hands. Grootberg Lodge has created employment and also a regular income for community members. Furthermore, revenue generated through the lodge allows investment in social initiatives and provides means to assist the community.

Apart from its unrivalled views, Grootberg Lodge offers a variety of activities which venture into the 12 000 hectares area of the Klip River Valley that has been set aside by the conservancy for conservation and tourism purposes. Guests can explore this unspoilt wilderness on guided elephant and rhino tracking excursions or a relaxing scenic drive across the plateau in the morning or evening. Those who prefer to maximise their rest and relaxation can book massages or other beauty treatments while at the same time enjoying the vista.

The latest activity at Grootberg is the Damara Cultural Tour that informs guests about the ≠Khoadi //Hoas Conservancy and its people. Guests are driven through the surrounding conservancy farms while one of Grootberg’s excellent guides tells them about the area and how people go about their daily business. The first stop is at a replica of a traditional Damara homestead. Guests are able to ask questions and are shown through reenactment how daily life was for this tribe of former hunter-gatherers and herders of livestock. Through interaction and spending time with their hosts, guests are afforded an exclusive opportunity to understand their origins, history, culture and traditions.

Included is a visit to the ≠Khoadi //Hoas Conservancy office to meet the staff and gain knowledge of the conservancy’s structure and role in the community. The conservancy office is not only the heart of conservation efforts but it is also responsible for the wellbeing of its members. While a conservancy is great for the protection of natural resources and earning money from tourism, farming in an area where

predators and elephants roam free is far from easy. The excellent efforts by the conservancy staff, however, play a large role in finding ways to mitigate human-wildlife conflict and educate people as well as provide compensation for lost property, livestock or crops.

Close to the conservancy office is a new Journeys Namibia venture: it empowers the local community and also adds value to what otherwise would be seen as trash. Glass bottles are recycled by crushing them into tiny fragments, which are melted in a wood-fired oven. The ‘new’ glass is used for making beads. The oven was built thanks to the funding and technical support received from MYEISHA, a Namibian company that produces high-end handmade leather handbags, and eight young people were taught in the art of creating glass beads. The collaboration with MYEISHA goes full circle, as the company buys the beads from the conservancy and uses them on the handbags as well as a jewellery line. Guests at Grootberg are shown the glass recycling process and have the opportunity to make their own beads.

The Damara Cultural Tour is the best way to experience something out of the ordinary and gain a clear insight into the positive impacts and benefits that the conservancy enjoys as a direct result of owning Grootberg Lodge.

A place to rejuvenate the mind, body and soul, explore the area’s nature, wildlife, meet its resilient inhabitants and learn from them: Grootberg Lodge will make you part of the community.

This article was first published in the Summer 2019/20 issue of Travel News Namibia.

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