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A wonderfully varied haven for hikers
by Luise Hoffmann
Situated on the south-eastern slopes of the Waterberg Plateau is Waterberg Wilderness, one of Namibia’s most diverse destinations for hikers. This private nature reserve comprises a secluded valley, the spur of the mountain and a large swath of plains.
Waterberg Wilderness is a hiker’s haven. First and foremost is the guided hike onto the Waterberg Plateau, an official wilderness area proclaimed in 1984. Negotiating a difference in altitude of about 150 metres, the hike leads past the spring up the tip of the valley and through fascinating sandstone pillars onto the top of the Waterberg Plateau, from where you can enjoy spectacular views. Up on the plateau you may encounter buffalo, rhino, leopard and various antelope. However, the vegetation is quite dense and while you may not be lucky enough to see these animals, your guide will almost always be able to point out their fresh tracks, droppings or other indications of their presence.
For a walk under shady trees—a rarity in Namibia—choose the Fountain Trail, starting from Waterberg Wilderness Lodge and returning via the Porcupine Highway. In addition to sycamores, you will see, amongst others, leadwood trees, African wattles and, on a promontory, carrot trees with lovely smooth and almost white trunks and delicate foliage. The western half of the Andersson Trail from the campsite of the same name to the lodge is equally shady. Following this trail towards the east will take you into drier country. Here there is thorn bush, purple-pod terminalia and large patches of the so-called oryx-horn, a succulent plant with rigid fleshy leaves ending in very sharp tips at about knee height.
This and the Dassie Trail on the opposite mountain slope provide many lovely views of the valley and surrounding red cliffs. Giraffe Crossing and Missionary’s Path meander through thorn-bush savannah, featuring interesting remains of San burial mounds and ruins of a mission station where Missionary Olpp assembled and cared for many Herero people after the devastating Battle of Waterberg.
The seven spacious chalets of the Waterberg Plateau Lodge are strung out along a terrace about halfway up the red sandstone cliffs encircling the entire Waterberg. A recent addition is an open-air coffee terrace under shady trees and a beautiful pool, while a restaurant is under construction near these chalets.
Campers can now choose between the existing Waterberg Plateau Camp Site and the new Andersson Camp Site about halfway along the road from reception to the lodge, situated under tall acacia trees and offering four spacious secluded stands. Each stand is equipped with a roofed shade structure, its own grill facility and a tap. Drinks and meat for braaiing are available at a thatched bar, while there is also a scenic spot for sundowners. Campers may also sign up for meals in the restaurant. Both campsites have their own beautifully appointed swimming pool.
Plant and game species
Waterberg Wilderness valley receives a relatively high rainfall, supporting many different habitats and species-rich vegetation. More than 60 species of trees and shrubs along the trails to the west of the reception area have number tags with botanical names on the reverse side. At reception you can collect a sheet listing the numbers and the botanical, German, Afrikaans and English names of these plants. Take along your own tree book or ask at reception for literature that provides details of these plants. The many colourful lichens growing on the red sandstone and many tree trunks are enchanting features of the area.
Nature drives in an open-topped vehicle take you into the plains of the nature reserve to view various antelope, white rhino, plains zebra, giraffe, springbok, impala, klipspringer, steenbok, Damara dik-dik, warthog, jackal, ground squirrel, yellow mongoose, banded mongoose and (with a bit of luck, since they are nocturnal) porcupine, brown hyaena and even leopard. Your guide will also take you game watching on foot, if you are so inclined. A nature drive offers many unexpected views, not only of big game but also of small creatures such as the bright scarlet sand mite, flying ants, termites shortly after the rain, bright yellow and black baby locusts, and dung beetles playing their important role in fertilising the soil by digging animal droppings into it.
Waterberg Wilderness warrants a stay of at least a three nights and is an expertly run establishment. Staff members are well trained, friendly and unobtrusively helpful. The cuisine is excellent. Tap water comes directly from the spring in the valley and electricity is gene-rated by solar panels, backed up by a diesel generator.
This article appeared in the Aug/Sep ‘10 edition of Travel News Namibia.