by Samuel Linyondi
The Saatago Rest Camp on the edge of the Kalahari Desert is a quiet and relaxing place where you can get away from the urban hustle and bustle by pitching your tent and enjoying a more basic way of life. Saatago means ‘we rested’ in the local San dialect.
The rest camp was established in 1990 to generate funds through tourism for the local community. Situated on Corridor 17 about 210 km south east of Gobabis in the Omaheke Region, this remote camp not only offers the tranquil marvels of the Kalahari, but also gives the traveller the opportunity to enter the world of the San community that manages and benefits from the rest camp, and to gain a glimpse into the lives of the community members.
After we pitched our tents, the rest camp manager and local community member, Joseph Isaacs, who is partially blind and is guided by his small daughter, gave us a tour of the camp site and surrounding San homestead. While dusk settled over the quietness of the bush, we were guided back to the campsite for the evening’s entertainment around the crackling campfire.
When darkness had settled beyond the bright blaze of the fire, San dancers performed traditional dances and told tales of ancients and animals, while Joseph Isaacs quietly translated the meanings and lessons contained in the stories and gyrations.
While the performance was in full swing, one of the tour guides prepared dinner for the touring party, which consisted of three Italians and one German, all of whom were over-awed by the performances, as they had been earlier by the guided tour. Afterwards, by the light of the moon and smouldering fire, we played guitar and sang songs to round off the evening’s entertainment. Having been entertained and fed, the touring party turned in with the promise of further adventures the next day.
Bright and early the next morning we headed into the bush guided by Isaacs, his daughter, a local San hunter and Martin Ilonga, our tour guide from Thimbi Thimbi Adventure Safaris cc. In the course of the morning, our San guides pointed out various roots and herbs used in traditional potions and demonstrated their hunting skills. The demonstrations included how to set a trap for prey, how to treat snakebites, which wild fruits were edible and what grass was used to build traditional homesteads. In the early afternoon we headed back to camp to prepare for the 436-km drive back to Windhoek.
“To learn how the San live and how difficult it is to integrate their traditional way of life with modern lifestyles is most interesting – quite something to experience,” said German tourist, Sabine Achtel, on the drive back, summing up the sense-impressions of the others in the tour group. “I would say this is an ideal place for people who want to escape the frenetic life of cities to come and relax for a while.”
Apart from generating income from the rest camp, women from the community also make handicrafts, such as traditional beads from ostrich eggshells, which are sold to visitors. With their free-roaming and hunting days long behind them, the community has had to adapt, but without entirely abandoning their roots and traditional ways.
Saatago Rest Camp caters to the adventurous traveller as it is fitted with only the most basic of facilities. Travellers should come well prepared and fully equipped. As the camp can be reached only by gravel roads and tracks, 4×4 vehicles are recommended.
Thimbi Thimbi Adventure Safaris cc has an agreement with the local San community under which it offers guided tours to Saatago Rest Camp and surrounds.
This article was made possible by Cymot Namibia
This article appeared in the Aug/Sep ‘07 edition of Travel News Namibia.