Namibia: Kansimba Game and Hunting LodgeSeptember 3, 2012
Terra Africa Guesthouse – Windhoek, NamibiaSeptember 3, 2012
Treat the senses in southern Namibia
by Ron Swilling
Occasionally you reach a place that feels like the pot of gold at the end of a rainbow.
No matter how driven you are, it’s a place that demands release. It makes you want to luxuriate in a hot bath and the perfume of Africology bath salts, don the Sandfontein gown and pad around the bungalow or lie in the white softness of your bed eating a Lindt chocolate and watching the orange sun peep over the mountains as a group of gemsbok walk through the colours of the morning landscape.
Sandfontein Lodge in southern Namibia, named after the spring (fontein) that still provides sweet water for the lodge, is situated in the extreme southern section of Namibia. It has had a significant and sizeable turn-around of purpose, as it was initially a hunting lodge and was then transformed into a conservation area. It also has a place in history as the location of the one-day Sandfontein battle that took place between German and South African troops in 1914.
Sean Gilbertson, London businessman and one of the co-owners of Sandfontein, is quoted in The Times as answering the question “What do you do in your free time?” with the reply, “ I visit southern Namibia to listen to the silence and the wind.”
Tame cheetahs and superb scenery
After sitting around a fire on a perfect Namibian evening with friendly hosts and part owners Willie and Rodica Agenbach, we move to the outdoor dining table lit with candles, where supper is served by immaculate staff. A wholesome element- of home-liness is apparent at Sandfontein when one of the tame cheetahs, Timon, comes up to Rodica purring loudly for his evening affection. The couple tells me that they welcome people into their kitchen, some evenings pulling chairs in for chats into the night.
In the morning a delicious breakfast is served on the wooden deck. Flowers and a selection of delectable fruits and cheeses, home-baked breads and honey-seeded bowls of yoghurt fill the table. While Rodica and Willie sit smiling and chatting, Timon lies purring next to them, and the view of the land shines before us.
At Sandfontein, with only five bungalows (the larger honeymoon bungalow comes highly recommended to enjoy your Sandfontein stay to the utmost), the guests have the exclusivity of the experience. They shape their days by choosing from various options on how to do just that.
Choices include absorbing the striking scenery, which forms a basin edged in the distance with mountains and the Hom riverbed; spending the day at the sparkling L-shaped turquoise pool lounging on woven cane chairs or wooden couches; sitting in the warm and stylishly furnished central thatched area; or enjoying the privacy of your own bungalow. The only request is that you close your fly-screen doors so the two tame cheetahs don’t come in and curl up on your bed.
The bungalows have high, thatched roofs, slasto floors, wooden furniture, beds furnished with mosquito nets, long linen curtains that blow in the wind and a wall of monochrome wallpaper featuring photographed animals. The natural and neutral tones of the room contrast with cool lime greens. Glass sliding doors open out onto private verandas, where two wooden chairs with thin, luxuriant auburn blankets are placed for you to sit and soak up the superb Sandfontein scenery.
A wide choice of activities
There is an array of interesting excursions for exploring and appreciating the wilderness that provides sanctuary to four black rhino translocated from Damaraland and western Etosha as part of the Namibian govern-ment’s custodianship programme to increase the numbers of this species, which hovered on the brink of extinction not so long ago.
Rhino-tracking excursions are offered to view these massive and prehistoric-looking creatures, which thankfully, due to the conservation efforts of certain individuals, still grace our planet. Given that one of the bulls has been named Takamissa, an Oshiwambo word meaning ‘be careful’, this is an activity best undertaken with precaution and sensitivity. Scenic drives to take pleasure in the land with the chance of seeing the abundance of animals are offered in the early mornings or late afternoons, as are nature walks to fill the lungs and feel the Earth underfoot.
A sundowner canoe trip is a gentle paddling experience to balance- the beauty of the land with the celebration of water from the large section of Sandfontein that borders the Orange River. Horse riding and fishing trips are also offered. Scenic flights (to be booked in advance) over the canyon, following the Fish River until it meets the Orange, enhance the Sandfontein visit and give guests the viewpoint of the gods and an appreciation of the beauty and geological diversity of the area.
Drumbeat of Africa
With all these options and the allure of simply spending time at the luxurious lodge, I opt for rhino tracking. We have a view of a rotund Suzi trotting off into the hills, then make a brief stop at the old amethyst mining area to pick up a few purple stones, followed by an afternoon paddling trip.
The joy of being on the water surrounded by greenery and mountains strikes a chord of harmony deep within my cells. A goliath heron takes off from a rock in the river, hovering low over the water with its wide wings outstretched. Egyptian geese call and fly past, and the world is quiet, rich and colourful as the sun sinks behind the mountains. After toasting the day on a riverbank, we paddle a short distance to the awaiting vehicle and drive back up to the lodge, using a spotlight to light up nocturnal animals along the route.
As I make my way back to my bungalow past the bush lights enchantingly lighting up the path, I find my room bathed in the dancing light of tea lights and a hot bath drawn for me. The evening continues with drinks at the outside fire under the sparkling blessing of winter constellations and an impromptu song and dance given by the lodge workers, bringing the rhythm and drumbeat of Africa into the night. Supper is once again a delicious array of dishes, revealing Rodica’s culinary skill and chef’s training.
With all the senses satiated, the soft bedding and luxury of my room is extremely enticing, for the sleep of the fortunate and the anticipation of once again watching the dawn greet the land in the morning.
This article appeared in the Feb/March 2011 edition of Travel News Namibia.
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