For most people, the words "Namibian cuisine" probably conjure up images of a succulent springbok steak, a bag of cured kudu biltong or perhaps even the infamous fried mopane worm - chewy and spicy. But one of Namibia's greatest culinary treats is surely more associated with Parisian restaurants and Champagne than with Africa: the oyster.
However, visitors to our coast would beg to differ that the French have all the fun when it comes to the original aphrodisiac. Served in beachside restaurants from Swakopmund to Lüderitz, the fresh, local oysters are best eaten raw, with lemon, pepper or a few drops of tabasco to truly appreciate their subtle marine flavour. Slightly more squeamish customers can try a cooked dish, such as oysters Rockefeller.
But the best oyster experience has to be out at sea, within sight of the oyster "nurseries" themselves. Boat tours leaving daily from Walvis Bay cruise past the seal colonies, hungry pelicans and playful dolphins to the mouth of the bay, where blue flotation barrels bob in the waves. Tied beneath the barrels are baskets filled with succulent oysters. A single oyster can filter an incredible 30 liters of water an hour to feast on plankton, so it is essential that the seawater can circulate freely. For this reason, the baskets are raised and thoroughly washed every six weeks, removing algae, barnacles and limpets which can stop the oysters feeding. On board, the captain serves trays of fresh oysters with lemon wedges - which spoiled passengers can wash down with glasses of ice-cold sparkling wine, surrounded by views of the bay and leaping dolphins. The bracing sea breeze certainly helps work up an appetite!
Passengers enjoy a tray of fresh oysters on Mola-Mola's boat tour of Walvis Bay
So how did a species which can only breed in warm water come to thrive in Namibia's chilly seas, with an average temperature of just 14 degrees centigrade? Originally, the oysters were all bred in and then imported from Chile, and allowed to mature in Namibia. More recently, a heated aquarium in Swakopmund means that they are now bred locally, before being transferred to the ocean baskets.
But why go to all that effort to farm oysters outside their natural habitat? It turns out that Namibia's cold Benguela Current is the secret... While a classic French oyster takes three years to grow, Namibian oysters can be harvested after just eight months! The cold water contains more oxygen and plankton, allowing for super speedy growth. Our oysters are exported across the globe - but there's nowhere you can eat them quite as fresh as in Namibia - on a boat, a jetty, or during a romantic sunset meal.
A bowl of oysters is served in a Swakopmund restaurant
Join a tour in Lüderitz to find out what happens before the oysters reach the table. Tours start at the processing factory and end with an optional tasting with wine at the Oyster Bar.
Take a boat tour in Walvis Bay - see the barrels where the oysters grow, and eat fresh oysters on board your boat as it bobs around in the ocean breeze.
Enjoy a sunset meal at Swakopmund's Jetty 1905 restaurant - live and cooked oysters are a specialty along with other seafood treats. The restaurant is at the end of the pier so diners will enjoy glorious views as well as the sound of the waves crashing beneath them.
The Lighthouse restaurant overlooks the beach in Swakopmund, and also serves fresh oyster platters in an informal setting.
December 4th marks the second International Cheetah Day. As you know, we in Namibia are passionate about these graceful big cats, aprobably something to do with having the largest population of cheetahs in the world - around 2,500, out of a total population of 10,000!
This is partly thanks to our fabulous big cat conservation organisations such as AfriCat, N/a’an ku sê, and the Cheetah Conservation Fund (CCF). CCF's Founder and Executive Director, Dr. Laurie Marker says of this day:
“We stand at a moment where this amazing animal could disappear in less than 20 years if we don’t do anything to stop it. International Cheetah Day serves to remind us that the cheetah, like all wildlife, is a treasure of our planet. Wildlife enhances our landscapes and can support livelihoods when utilized in a sustainable manner. When a species becomes extinct, everyone loses.”
Unfortunately, while many people have come together to try and protect the cheetah, the greatest threat to this animal's survival still comes from humans. Farmers may kill cheetahs because they believe they pose a threat to their livestock, while others capture cheetahs to be sold as illegal pets.
One of CCF's creative solutions involved breeding livestock-guarding dogs for farmers. The dogs' presence can reduce predation rates by 80 percent. CCF has also worked tirelessly with a network of individuals and organizations to combat the illegal pet trade.
How to support International Cheetah Day:
Donations to support CCF’s work are always welcome - why not start a funraising activity with your friends, kids or local school? Visit www.cheetah.org to find out more.
Spread the word! Conservation starts with knowledge - download an excellent cheetah information pack and educational aide.
If you are in the US, the Elephant Bar restaurant chain, with 46 locations across the country, will donate 20% of participating sales to CCF on December 4th, 2012. Download a flyer here.
Or... be a hands-on conservationist! Come to Namibia, and spend time volunteering at one of our fabulous wildlife conservation organisations!
How can 44 people in Switzerland spread a message about conservation in Namibia?
1) Give them matching shirts – because matching shirts mean togetherness.
2) Give them music.
3) Make sure they are from Namibia!
Team Destination Namibia recently took the Adventure Travel World Summit in Lucerne,
Switzerland by storm, with their simple message: 42%.
42% is the amount of land under conservation management in Namibia – more than
any other country in the world. This number is a testament to Namibia’s innovative
conservation policies that put conservation in communities’ hands.
Team Destination Namibia sported t-shirts with 42% across the front, and were armed with
maps to show delegates from around the world exactly what 42% looked like and meant to
Namibians. The Director of Tourism, Mr. Sem Shikongo, was right, when he invited the 700
delegates to Namibia, and said “I know we can inspire you.”
Namibia’s passion was contagious, and on the closing night, hosted by Namibia, when the
choir performed, the music literally brought tears to peoples eyes. Not just the Namibians,
but delegates from Egypt, Mexico and Switzerland said they were moved by the authentic
voices resonating through the concert hall.
Watch a video about the 42% here.
Remember our first campaign, Conservation Destination? Where we followed the exploits of Dara the Damara Tern, Chase the Cheetah, Roger the Rhino and Holden the Golden Mole, just a few of the endangered (but awesome!) species in Namibia? Well, Rob Sambrook from Vancouver Canada was the lucky winner of our grand prize and he and his wife Natasha recently spent ten days exploring Namibia's conservation successes!
Here's what they had to say about their trip, along with some of Rob's incredible photographs:
We were absolutely thrilled to win this trip to Namibia, courtesy of the Namibia Tourist Board. Even so, the experience exceeded our expectations. The itinerary, with our excellent local guide Perez, included two days at the Cheetah Conservation Fund (CCF), just outside Otjiwarongo, and a few hours North of Windhoek. Here, Dr Laurie Marker and a committed group of volunteers and staff run a program which seeks to rehabilitate and release captured or orphaned cheetahs back into the wild; one of the biggest challenges being to find suitable habitat to do this. Therefore there is a lot of outreach work with landowners, as well as the care of the cheetahs themselves. Dr Marker and all the staff made us feel very welcome, and we had a full programme of activities, including feeding the cheetahs, attending their exercise sessions, visiting the genetics lab, and a couple of sundowner drives, where we saw oryx, warthog, hartebeest, baboons, mongoose, numerous birds and a very inquisitive honey badger.
From CCF we drove north to Etosha National Park. It was the end of the dry season, so it was a great time for wildlife spotting, as the animals were drawn closer to the watering holes. We saw many giraffe, zebra, wildebeest, impala, oryx (gembsbok) and springbok, as well as the small and elusive dik-dik and steenbok. We were fortunate to see a leopard on two occasions, as well as herds of elephants cooling off in a watering holes, and on day two, a solitary black rhinoceros doing the same. Numerous hyenas and jackals were on the prowl, and we also watched hyenas, jackals, marabou stork and vultures squabbling over a recent kill.
Driving west through the park on the third and final day, we saw lions on two occasions, including a pride of about dozen, including five cubs. We watched them for about an hour as they played right on the edge of the shimmering white Etosha pan - wildebeest, zebra and ostrich all watching cautiously.
Accommodation was two nights at Mushara Bush Camp, a luxury camp with permanent, spacious, ensuite canvas tents, and one night at the similarly appointed Andersson's Camp. Here, we sat on the terrace and watched and photographed black rhino and giraffe at the floodlit watering hole while a thunderstorm provided a dramatic backdrop.
From Andersson's Camp we drop to Swakopmund, on the Atlantic coast, where we relaxed for the afternoon, and photographed the dramatic sand dunes, which come right up to the edge of town. The following morning consisted of a sandboarding and sand-tobogganing excursion to the dunes. Hard work, but a lot of fun. A spot of shopping, and selection of great seafood, then we were off south-east towards the Namib desert.
The last two nights were spent at the Namib Desert Environmental Education Trust, which offers programs for school children in environmental education, energy and water conservation, as well as desert ecology. We were fortunate to be there at the same time as a school group of around 40 girls and boys, and participated in a number of their activities, including dune walks, scorpion hunting, setting traps for night-active creatures and watching the beautifully clear night sky. We also had a sundowner drive, where we were fortunate to see a pair of wary bat-eared foxes, and to watch the sun setting over the brilliant red dunes.
Overall impressions of Namibia were that it is a safe and welcoming country with a harsh, but spectacularly beautiful natural heritage. It has good infrastructure, with range of accommodation for all budgets. We feel that we have only just scratched the surface, and would certainly like to go back, and explore some more.
Thanks for sharing your travel tales, Rob and Natasha! We're sure you've inspired our readers. We hope you can come back and explore someday soon too!
Lüderitz, on Namibia’s southern coast, is sandwiched between baking desert and cold Atlantic. This leads to some seriously strong winds… and, for those brave enough to take to the waves, some serious speed.
The Lüderitz Speed Challenge is an annual competition held on the waters off of this remote town – and since this even started just five years ago, dozens of national and international speed records have been broken by windsurfers and kite surfers who flock to the fastest place on earth for six weeks each year.
Bruno de Comarmond, marketing manager for the Lüderitz Nest Hotel (one of the Challenge's sponsors) and committed speed fan, reports for us from the ground on what promised to be the fastest, most exciting year yet!:
13.11.2012 - MORE RECORDS TUMBLE - YET AGAIN!
Day 4 of the 2012 Lüderitz Speed Challenge was the most amazing day so far, as every single record was broken!
Both Anders Bringdal from Sweden and Cedric Bordes from France have broken the world windsurf record today, reaching over 50 knots, but Antoine Albeau from France improved both their records, with an incredible 50.59 knots!
Anders again created a new world record for production boards - now 50.46 knots.
Zara Davis (UK) improved her own world record for women again - now standing at 44.69 knots.
The world record for tandem windsurfing (one board, two sails and two riders) was also broken: 38.12 knots. What at a sight to see!
Multiple national records were broken, including Swedish, French, Turkish (women), South African, Namibian, Dutch, Swiss, Greek, German and British (men and women). There was literally not a single windsurfer today who did not break a record! Proof that Lüderitz is the premier windsurfing and kite surfing spot in the world.
The international windsurfing community has never had such an onslaught on records on one day!
More to come – we are certain!
Thanks Bruno - we hope so!
Find out more:
Watch a video of the incredible speed kitesurfing at Lüderitz.
Follow Bruno’s regular updates on the Speed Challenge and new records being broken.
Find out more about Lüderitz – its past, present, and how you can visit.
Imagine if the responsibility for protecting Yellowstone National Park was taken away from the government and put into the hands of the local residents – that’s what a communal conservancy is.
A communal conservancy requires a majority of people in an area to agree to its establishment, with agreed boundaries. A constitution must be drawn up; annual meetings must be held with a proper quorum; and the conservancy can then be gazetted by the Ministry of Environment and Tourism (MET). Conservancies exist in order to protect wildlife and habitats. Game guards from the community are employed by the conservancy to patrol the area, deter poachers and assist the MET to monitor wildlife numbers during annual game counts. The MET sets a quota for hunting so that wildlife populations are stable or can grow.
Conservancies have rights over tourism operations, so if an investor wants to open a lodge in a conservancy, he or she has to make a deal with the community. If it’s a good deal, both sides will benefit. For the conservancy, the benefits will include a share in the income from the lodge, as well as valuable job opportunities.
What does this all mean? It means that gone are the days when the tourist bus whipped past the farmer with a wave at best. Now the farmer is likely to have a stake in the lodge the bus is bound for. His kids may be working as tour guides, cooks or even lodge managers.
When you come to Namibia, be sure to visit a Communal Conservancy. Ask the members of the conservancy about what it means to them – it’s a great opportunity to learn about what makes Namibia’s conservation policies so unique.
Does it work? Read just some of the impressive Namibian conservation facts
Crowds flocked to Windhoek's Hage Geingob stadium on Saturday to enjoy the first Windhoek Jazz Festival - which showcased singers and musicians from Namibia and South Africa.
Namibian singer and guitarist Shishani, winner of the country's "Battle of the Bands", was one of the festival's highlights as she took to the stage in an elegant dress modelled on the Namibian flag. She also dueted with South African singer Lira, whose incredible vocals delighted the crowd during her hour-long set.
The headliner was South African singer and guitarist Selaelo Selota. Anyone who had resisted the urge to dance throughout the day was unable to stop themselves moving once Selota flung off his jacket and lost himself in his unique blend of traditional jazz and African rhythms. He sang in his native South African language of Sepedi while the audience danced along energetically on the warm Namibian evening.
Other local acts included Lize Ehlers, Adora, Ugly Creatures, and Major 7.
Listen to Shishani's song Windhoek online and see her video of our tranquil, sunny capital city!
Windhoek's first annual Jazz Festival kicks off in the Hage Geingob Stadium
South African singer Lira charms the crowds with her astonishing voice
Lira takes over the stage as the crowds cheer
Namibian singer-guitarist Shishani perfomed in a dress based on her country's flag
She performed songs about Namibia's culture, conservation and capital city - Windhoek!
South African jazz singer and musician Selaelo Selota getting into the music during his first song
The crwds loved Selaelo Selota and danced wildly in the stadium below
Windhoek was flooded with the sights, sounds, and tastes of Germany last month when it hosted one of southern Africa's largest Oktoberfests. The event featured stein lifting and wood sawing competitions, traditional food including sauerkraut and bratwurst, and - of course - beer. Lots of beer.
Women wore colourful dirndls - with tight bodices and full skirts with petticoats, while brave men wore authentic lederhosen and felt hats - definitely more designed for an Alpine winter than the heat of a Namibian summer!
Traditional German musicians filled the big yellow tents that dominated the Sport Klub Windhoek grounds with drinking songs, German classics, and a few Top 40 standards. The final night featured a marathon set by the Kirchdorfer, one of Munich Oktoberfest's official bands.
Over 3,000 people attended the celebration of German culture.
Namibia's historical ties to Germany are strong and still boldly evidenced throughout the country in its attractive architecture; enticing bakeries filled with strudel, pretzels and rye bread; and the babble of the German language on the streets.
A German woman in a traditional dirndl participates in the stein-lifting competition
A man competes in a traditional wood-sawing competition, as the lederhosen-clad crowd looks on!
A couple in traditional dress hold their beers at Windohoek Oktoberfest
A barman pours a cold beer at Namibia's Oktoberfest
Partygoers show off their empty steins
A couple dance to the traditional German music
Kirchdorfer - Munich Oktoberfest's official band - perform in Windhoek in traditional costumes
A young German girl in a dirndl enjoys the music at Oktoberfest
Crowds enjoy the marathon set from Oktoberfest's official band - Kirchdorfer