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Walks in the Wild

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VIEWS
Story and photos by Pat Farmer

Ameib Nature Camp Namibia

As I stepped off the plane at Windhoek, the unique scent of Namibia hit me, the wonderful aroma of dry, spicy desert lands. Namibia has such a lovely climate, and you’re virtually guaranteed sunny days. In no time at all I was in holiday mode. My Namibian family had organised a camping and lodge trip, and our first stop was a place new to all of us – Ameib Nature Camp. What a start it proved to be to the holiday! The scenery here is spectacular: a photographer’s dream and a birding paradise, with beautiful walks among the wildlife and wonderful rock paintings. The Ameib Guesthouse and Camping Site is situated at the foot of the Erongo Mountains, where the Rhenish Mission set up a station in 1864. It’s part of the larger Erongo Mountain Rhino Sanctuary Trust, which aims at protecting rare and endangered wildlife, such as black rhinoceros, black-faced impala, leopard and brown hyena. ‘Ameib’ means ‘the green place’ in Nama, and, with its beauty and bizarre rock formations, it’s a true natural paradise.

Ameib lies approximately three hours’ drive from Windhoek and two hours’ drive from Swakopmund. The roads are tarred all the way until Usakos, from where you are on a fairly reasonable gravel road. (Remember, though, to always check ahead, as conditions change rapidly in Namibia, especially if there’s been heavy rain.) On this trip in mid-April, however, our only concern was how to keep cool. It was hot! Just before the entrance we spotted a hornbill that wasn’t the usual local Monteiro’s hornbill. To my delight, I’d seen my first ‘lifer’ for the trip – the Damara hornbill. This was followed by a feast of endemic birds, from rosy-faced lovebirds to booted eagle (the dark type), Hartlaub’s francolin, white-tailed shrike and crimson-breasted shrike. There was even a pearl-spotted owlet that called during the day.

By now it was very hot, so we headed for the cooling waters of the swimming pool and lounged in the reclining chairs sipping gin and tonic while gazing wistfully at the surrounding mountains. Surely it doesn’t get better than this? But it did. After a good night’s sleep we were up early and caught the morning light to photograph Bull’s Party and Elephant’s Head. These features are in an area consisting of gigantic boulders scattered alongside vast granite fields, and it’s really an awesome sight, with the early morning sun catching the soft colours of the rocks. I could have sat there for hours contemplating the universe, but my very active daughter was keen to hike to the top of the mountain to see the cave with its bushman paintings. This walk is rated as appropriate for those who are moderately fit … and that’s pretty accurate, in my view. Nonetheless, the effort was well worth it, as the cave paintings are fascinating and the view spectacular.

Regrettably, our very tight schedule made our stay far too short. Although we saw plenty of game on our way to the Bull’s Party, we could have done with a few more days, as there were huge areas that we just did not have time to explore. All sites in the camping ground have views of the mountains, and the area is fenced to keep wild animals out. There’s plenty of room for many more tents, but at the moment they’re using just 10 sites as the (spotlessly clean) ablutions are small. However, there are plans to build a larger ablution facility. The sites have shade, braai facilities, a very welcome swimming pool and good drinking water. If you don’t feel like cooking, then you can, by prior arrangement, have your meals at the lodge. Ameib does have cellphone reception. The accomodation rates are R120 per person per night.

All Ameib’s power is generated from the sun, but I only realised that afterwards, because everything worked so efficiently and there was plenty of hot water and lighting. The lodge does have limited refrigeration space, if you need it, and it also has its own landing strip. There are several walking trails for the moderately fit hiker, and also climbing trails – ones that don’t need special equipment – for the more experienced and adventurous. Because there could be potentially dangerous animals around, you are asked to stay on the official walking trails. All in all, it’s an unspoiled wilderness. I loved my stay at Ameib and will definitely visit again.

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