by Michaela Kanzler
Large basins of clear water sparkle among rocks polished to a velvety smoothness. Bright-red dragonflies sunbathe on the short brush lining the banks. Rocks impede the way into the valley. An uprooted tree wedged between them testifies to the force of the seasonal river rushing through where the gorge is so narrow that part of our hiking trail leads up the steep slope, past magnificent quiver trees. The gorge is named after them, and provides a perfect spot for a picnic.
Quiver Tree Gorge on BüllsPort Guest Farm is only one example of the many beautiful and varied hiking trails through the heavenly scenery of the Naukluft Mountains. The owners of the three guest farms – Ababis, Blässkranz and BüllsPort – are marketing the region and its attractions aptly as the Naukluft Experience. The farmers joined forces to promote the Naukluft, which has become unjustly eclipsed by the fame of nearby Sossusvlei.
Unspoilt mountain scenery
The Naukluft Mountains lie between the villages of BüllsPort, Solitaire and Sesriem in south-western Namibia. Even though the mountain range is a geological formation in its own right, it fits into the imaginary line of the Great Escarpment. The highest peaks are up to 1 970 metres.
The Naukluft is a typical karst landscape with a subterranean drainage and cavern system (see Mountain Range on the Move p 20). Rainwater accumulates underground and re-emerges on the slopes and in the gorges in the form of numerous springs that often feed small water basins, called ‘eyes’, throughout the year.
The source of the two large seasonal rivers, the Tsondab and the Tsauchab, is close to the Naukluft. Both played a significant role in shaping the mountain landscape and the surroundings. The Tsondab in the north cuts through the mountains and runs past Solitaire to a pan in the Namib. From there it continues underground and reaches the Atlantic Ocean at Conception Bay. The Tsauchab passes south east of the mountains on its way to Sossusvlei, where it is blocked by high dunes and continues underground to its mouth south of Meob Bay.
Even if Naukluft looks bare in places, it boasts a rich plant life. Small shrubs, euphorbias and grasses grow on the huge plateau, while quiver trees and moringa grow on the slopes. It is said that God did not want moringas in paradise because of their bizarre appearance. He threw them out in disgust, and they became stuck in the ground upside down and from then on grew that way. Dense acacias provide shade along the riverbeds, and on the plains the prickly hoodia is much in evidence. This succulent, a protected species, has become known for its appetite-suppressing properties. Phar-maceutical companies plan to produce suppressants from cultivated plants.
The Naukluft Mountains are known for their abundant birdlife. Both desert birds and water birds are found in the area. More than 200 species have been recorded, including several eagle species and lappet-faced and white-backed vultures. Occasionally the nest of a hamerkop can be seen. Scores of threebanded plovers and noisy lovebirds inhabit the gorges and river courses. Game such as kudu, gemsbok and especially Hartmann’s mountain zebra is also plentiful. When hiking, you usually become aware of these shy zebra only when they are startled and take flight. Countless game paths criss-cross the mountains.
Naukluft became a conservation area in 1968 to create a sanctuary for the threatened mountain zebra. Farm Naukluft was the first land the Government acquired for this purpose. After further purchases an area of just under 220 square kilometres was proclaimed a nature reserve. Today, the mountain range forms part of the Namib-Naukluft Park of almost 50 000 square kilometres, the largest conservation area in Africa.
A taste of Naukluft
The three Naukluft Experience guest farms are on the fringes of the park. They are easily accessible from the C14, which follows the Tsondab Valley’s winding course through the mountains. Each farm has its own special character; the scenic attractions and activities complement each other well. Guests are most welcome to use the services of all three farms. In this world of experience, visitors are spoilt for choice.
BüllsPort Guest Farm
This 10 000 ha farm lies on an elevated plain at the eastern slope of the mountains. At first sight BüllsPort looks almost like a tiny village. The focal point is a large old house surrounded by palms and other trees and flower beds. The guestrooms, swimming pool and paddocks are grouped around the house; the small houses of the employees are a little further off. There is even a petrol station and a shop – with the surprisingly large assortment of goods that is typical of rural Namibia.
BüllsPort has been in the Sauber family for three generations. This arid region, however, is only suitable for limited stock farming. Since 1993 Johanna and Ernst Sauber have concentrated on hospitality and the gentle use of the grazing areas. As half of the farm lies in difficult mountain terrain, game multiplied without disturbance, especially Hartmann’s mountain zebra. During nature drives it is often possible to approach them to within ten metres.
In 1999 Johanna started breeding the Namibian Crossbreed, which is registered in Namibia. Well-trained horses (for beginners and advanced riders) are available for excursions.
BüllsPort has wonderful hiking trails which you can tackle on your own or with a trained local guide (see article on page 24). The best-known trail leads through Quiver Tree Gorge: First you are driven on rough roads up to Naukluft Plateau, 400 metres above the farm. From here you walk slowly down the gorge and into the valley, to the remains of an old colonial police station. If pressed for time, you could join an excursion to Bogenfels. You will be taken up into the grand mountain scenery by four-wheel drive and can then walk the last short stretch to the photogenic rock formation.
Children are most welcome on the farms of the Naukluft Experience. At Ababis there is a swimming pool, horses, donkeys, goats and even an ostrich enclosure.
This article appeared in the April ‘05 edition of Travel News Namibia.