A quiet retreat south of Sesriem
by Ron Swilling
In 1996, choosing to leave the hustle and bustle of city life behind them, Tony and Leny Rust bought the farm Hyas, its Nama name meaning ‘place of water’.
Hyas was a significant name in an area that was left bare after years of drought. Being well aware of the accommodation shortage in the area at the time, they began to establish a lodge, renovating the old farmhouse and starting small with five rooms in 1998, expanding over the years to their present size to accommodate individual travellers as well as groups. The name Betesda was chosen, an existing name on the northern reaches of the farm, and the name of the bath of healing water from the Bible, appropriate for land that is fortunate to have an ample supply of sweet water.
Situated 40 km south of Sesriem on the C19 and a further 5 km along the D854, Betesda Lodge and Camping provides a quiet accommodation option in the area. With its 17 spotless twin-bed rooms and four family rooms adjoining the large thatch and stone-walled central area and camping facilities, it is a convenient stop for local and foreign guests alike.
The stone-clad rooms, built in four blocks and forming a row, are positioned for their good views of the blue-purple mountain range in the distance, dressed in its best in the early mornings and late afternoons. With a gleam of love for the land in his eye, Tony says that the mountain changes colour five times a day. Each room has a slasto wall and floor that extends onto a small veranda through a sliding door, which can be left open at night, a rare opportunity in today’s world. A flock of sheep may be visible in the enclosure in front of the rooms in the mornings, and in the drier months gemsbok are often seen outside the main lapa area nibbling on the green lawn.
Breakfast and buffet dinners are served in the sprawling high-roofed central lapa area as popular melodies are piped through, and outdoor barbecues are prepared for groups if pre-booked. Guests are treated to fresh farm meat, milk and salad greens from the 9 800-hectare farm. Passersby are welcome to stop for a light lunch, and campers may eat dinners and breakfasts at the lodge if booked in advance. An outside pool area is enjoyed in the warmer months, as is the outside bar, open to lodge guests and campers, an appealing and cosy place to watch the latest sports or enjoy sundowners or an after-supper drink.
Guided quad-bike trips are conducted across the farm, as are sunset trips, with the possibility of viewing game along the way. Trips to Sossusvlei and Sesriem are offered by the lodge, leaving before first light and spending the morning visiting the red dunes. Hot-air balloons and scenic flights over Sossusvlei can also be arranged. Other activities include horse-riding, and guests are welcome to walk around the farm on their own, stretching their legs and breathing in the good desert air.
Betesda has a registered airstrip, as well as extras such as air-conditioning in the rooms and Internet access. The proximity of the lodge to the road makes Betesda an easy stop to include when visiting the famous dunes. Because the bedroom units are close to the central area, the latter is easily accessible for older guests and families. Four additional rooms are available for guides and drivers. A campsite behind the lodge has 15 sites, demarcated with low, rounded stone walls and trees, with braai (barbecue) and communal ablution facilities providing a safe home under the stars with all the basic amenities for travellers. Betesda is decidedly bird friendly, having 256 species identified on the farm.
Sossusvlei is a highlight on any and every visitor’s itinerary. For those wanting a peaceful and organised stay in the midst of a beautiful piece of land, continue down the C19 to Betesda.
Since this article was published, Betesda Lodge was renamed to Elegant Desert Lodge. Contact number: +264 81 145 5964.
This article appeared in the Dec ‘11/ Jan ‘12 edition of Travel News Namibia.