Many of you have been asking, “Who won the Share My Namibia Grand Prize?” Well – we’re sorry, but unfortunately it wasn’t you.
Our lucky winner is Vivienne from Boston, Massachusetts. A life coach and lifelong environmental activist, she is serendipitously on a year's sabbatical. Vivienne chose her sister Jane, a potter and graphic artist, to travel with her, and the two will take a 12 day road trip through Namibia in mid-April.
Vivienne (left) and Jane are excited about their trip to Namibia
Vivienne says, “My sister and I are just so thrilled about this trip!” The sisters have traveled to three continents together, and it will be their first trip to Africa.
Vivienne and Jane will travel to Otjiwarongo, Etosha, Damaraland and Swakopmund. We look forward to hearing about their trip when they return!
For anyone with hard-to-please relatives, in search of last-minute stocking fillers, or simply trying to shop in a more ethical way this Chrismas, a little shop in Swakopmund may just have the answer.
Kubatsirana Arts and Crafts shop sells a range of unique products, including natural creams and salt scrubs made from locally-sourced !nara seeds (used by indigenous people to soothe thhe skin for generations); !nara seed cooking oil; hand-stitched dolls; unusual Chrismas decorations; cushions; silkscreened t-shirts; jewellery; and beautiful lino prints.
But as well as being able to pick up something truly original for friends and family, shoppers at Kubatsirana are also supporting a variety of social projects based near Windhoek and Swakopmund. Kubatsirana means "helping each other", and every dollar spent here contributes to inproving the lives of the craftspeople who made these gorgeous items. Here are some of the projects supported by Kubatsirana:
- Over 4000 people live in the Democratic Resettlement Community (DRC) outside Swakopmund. This residents of this informal settlement have few work opportunities, but women from DRC are taught to make crafts from recycled materials such as newspaper and bottle tops. These are then sold to provide a small income. A soup kitchen now also feeds 120 children nutritious meals twice a week.
- Oasa Taradi means "busy women", and this group of needlework experts provide beautiful, hand-stiched and embroidered items to Kubatsira. Many are single mothers or the main income providers for their family.
- Katutura is the large township in Windhoek. Kubatsira supports various community projects here, including the Opongande Centre for disabled children; Dolam Children's Home for kids with AIDS and tuberculosis; and 40 creches which care for over 2000 children.
- Address: Libertina Amathila St and Brucken St, Swakopmund
- Telephone: +264 64 404806
- Email: email@example.com
- Monday-Friday: 9am-1pm, and 3pm-6pm
- Saturday: 9am-1pm
- Sunday: 4pm-6pm
The new summer edition of Travel News Namibia magazine is live on our Namibia Info app - with lots of ideas for ways to spend your coastal holiday away from the heat of the interior!
Feature articles include a trip to Sandwich Harbour; information about the Desert Dash - the ultimate mountain biking challenge; Tsumeb - a hidden jewel near Etosha; the Living Desert Snake Park; and a recipe for the rare omajova mushrooms.
The app is available in Apple, Samsung and Android stores - download your free app today! Alternatively, download a free pdf here.
Paola Sartori is a guide with Canada's Gray & Co, who has led tour groups on cycling trips around the world. She describes her traveling style as "curious, active, engaged; I want to see it all, to experience everything." Paola came to Namibia in November for a ten day introductory tour of the country, and says it is a "vast, passionate, surprising" country. Here she shares some of her thoughts about Namibia:
For me, the highlight of the trip was the overall experience. Every day offered a surprise. It is a country of a beauty that is not obvious, it takes time, observation and patience to get it. Flying in a tiny airplane so close to the ground that you could spot animals. Seeing the landscape change from the air, from urban to harsh dry desert to rich orange dunes. Finding exquisite accommodation with everything the modern traveler needs but respecting the environment. Visiting schools where teachers devote their lives to create better future citizens with opportunities, seeing the joy in the faces of children when they dance or sing. Observing a small example of the daily life of the Himba, their talents, their ancient rituals and traditions. Walking in search of a rhino knowing that an organization is there fighting for their right to continue being on this Earth.
Headteacher and pupils of Grootberg Primary School
And the views. ...the glorious views of dunes, valleys or roaming animals, what a joy to wake up to this amazement! Exploration with the field guides awakens us to the reality of the Namibian people, wild life, flora, the political situation. They are the ones that can transmit that to the visitor and is their responsibility to do it in a sensitive way.
Flying over Sossusvlei in a light aircraft
Prehistoric engravings, oversized boulders that magically balance and frame scenery and lodges. The continuing efforts of devoted people to defend big cats, creating tools for locals and foreigners to understand their fragility and absolute need to preserve them to keep the balance of life.
Ancient rock engravings at Twyfelfontein
The innovative ways lodge staff find to exploit their properties (in a good way!): enjoying unique sunrises and sunsets during breakfast or a cocktail; the hidden nook for a boma (a corral) that blew people’s mind with the warmth of the fire and of the staff, with candlelightand the traditional flavors.
Observing my own thoughts, I guess I come to realize that the country’s beauty is undeniable; but what makes it touch the heart of those who visit is the passionate, friendly, open spirit of their people.
What surprised me most about Namibia was the vastness; the colors; the friendliness of the people; the not-so-used-to-seeing-people animals; the incredible lodges lost in the middle of nowhere; the commitment to conservation.
People should come to Namibia to respectfully and carefully appreciate and enjoy one of the last countries where the experience is truly close to the wild, without a dozen other vehicles waiting their turn. Where travelers can learn about conservation and conscience, about the importance of the efforts to keep these animals around. To experience the traditions of the native groups. To realize that Namibia is a country on its own with a rich history and natural beauty that can be enjoyed as simply or as luxuriously as the traveler demands.
Plan your own trip to Namibia today - use our Interactive Map to calculate your route or contact a Namibia specialist on our website!
Located between Namibia’s national capital - Windhoek - and adventure capital - Swakopmund - is the small artists' community of Omaruru. Turning off the highway, visitors are immediately greeted by twisting knots of wood, several meters high, carved into elephants and giraffes; photographers' galleries; and pleasant, shaded cafes. Omaruru is a unique Namibian town with a not-so-well-kept secret: a picturesque vineyard with internationally renowned wines and spirits.
Kristall Kellerei is tucked away in a grove of tall trees, a few minutes drive from Omaruru town center. The winery was founded in 1990, the first year of Namibian independence, and yielded it’s first bottle of wine five years later. Since 2008, Kristall Kellerei has been owned and operated by Michael and Katrin Weder, both self-taught wine makers.
As you can expect, winegrowing is not the easiest task amidst a landscape known for dryness and extreme fluctuations of heat and cold. The Weders believe, however, that this Namibian environment makes the wine unique: “the grapes are fighters.”
Along with a red blend of Ruby Cabernet, Cabernet Sauvignon, and Tinta Barocca called “The Paradise Flycatcher”, the idyllic 4 hectare vineyard produces a crisp, white Colombard grape, traditionally used in parts of France for distilling of brandies. Kristall Kellerei’s bottled Colombard is light and dry with spicy fruit notes. It’s been a hit with wine lovers the world over: about 10,000 bottles of red and white are produced each year. The grapes are harvested from January-March, and the small staff of locals – including the Weders - completes every aspect of the distilling process by hand.
Kristall Kellerei’s products don’t end with wine. Those looking for something stronger will be pleased to sip on the local spicy nappa ("Namibian grappa") or the prickly-pear schnapps called Matisa (“how are you?” in the local Nama language) derived from the fruits of the cacti on the property.
Kristall Kellerei is open from 8am to 4:30pm Monday-Friday, and on Saturday from 8am to 12:30pm. All winery tours are personally given by Michael or Katrin, and include a walk through the grounds; an in-depth explanation of the growing process; a peek into Namibia’s only wine cellar; and – if you’re lucky – some quality time with the pearl-spotted owl that watches over the place. Tastings of both the wine and spirits are available at the end of the tour, and light lunch of local meats and cheeses can also be prepared with advance request.
For those unable to make the journey to Omaruru, Kristall Kellerei’s products are available at bottle shops (liquor stores) throughout Windhoek and Swakopmund. Their handy 500ml size makes a perfect portable gift.
Contact Kristall Kellerei for more information about the tour, seasonal activities, or to arrange a longer stay at their self-catering accommodation located onsite.
"More than an endurance mountain bike race, the FNB Desert Dash is a wild beast that lures you, challenges you and allows only a few to stay on its back. It's a 369km, 24 hour fight between human and nature, body and mind." - www.desertdashnamibia.com
Photo from Desert Dash
Tomorrow, 14th December, around 450 hardcore cyclists will be strapping on helmets, stretching calves and pumping up tires in preapration for Namibia's eighth annual Desert Dash - one of Namibia's most intense mountain biking events.
Desert Dash covers 369km on a mainly gravel road between Windhoek and Swakopmund, and must be completed within 24 hours. It starts at 3pm on Friday, and the cut-off time is at 3pm on Saturday. The race is covered in six stages, and riders can participate in teams of two or four. The first and final stages must be cycled by all team members, while the teams take it in turns to cycle the middle four stages. There is also a tandem category. But all eyes are on another, much tougher category - the individuals. These reckless racers cover all six stages alone, and astonishingly the current record across all categories is held by a solo cyclist, Namibian Mannie Heymans, who completed the race in just 12 hours 13 minutes!
Photo from Desert Dash
So whose crazy idea was it? Some years ago, a group of friends including founder Aidan Delange decided to cycle from Windhoek to Swakopmund for fun. They made the journey over a couple of days, camping along the way, and on their return had the idea of turning it into a 24 hour race to be completed in teams. When the idea of solo racers was initially proposed, they were told it was impossible - but there is nothing that Namibians like more than an endurance challenge - and Desert Dash was born. There were so many applications from solo cyclists that the number had to be limited to 100, and this year's online bookings sold out in just 38 seconds!
Money raised by Desert Dash participants goes to support Children in the Wilderness, a Wilderness Safaris initiative that sends rural children to Wilderness Safaris camps for the week, to teach them about the bush, the environment and wildlife; as well as health and sanitation issues. The children are able to play, learn and discover the possibilities of life outside their villages. The experience has been described as life-changing.
Children in the Wilderness takes over Andersson's Camp, near Etosha National Park
Namibia is known as the "Land of the Brave" - but that's not the way many people would feel if they found themselves lying face down at the top of an enormous sand dune, preparing to whizz down it on a piece of waxed hardboard at a speed of up to 80 kilometers per hour.
But if you ever find yourself in Swakopmund - recently voted one of Africa's Best 25 Destinations in Africa on TripAdvisor - this is just the position you may find yourself in. Swakop is one of Namibia's best sandboarding destinations, and as well as traditional stand-up boarding, adventurous visitors can try the much faster option of lying on the board.
Silvanus Imongua, the owner of Swakopmund's Ultimate Sandboarding, shared with NTB his knowledge of this emerging sport. Silvanus - known as Pally - was born in the township of Mondesa, just outside Swakopmund, and grew up in towns across Namibia. His first time on a board was in 2005, during his final year of school.
"I remember I was so nervous because I though I was going so fast!" he laughs. Watching him whizzing down the dune, switching direction, barely wobbling, he doesn't seem like someone who is afraid of speed.
Fortunately, this initial fear soon wore off. After mastering his technique on the dunes of the Namib, the world's oldest desert, he began working as a boarding instructor for another operator. He founded Ultimate Sandboarding in 2010 with a just a few donated boards from European and American snowboarders, and has since amassed a collection of 15 boards and 13 pairs of boots - enough to fit all ages and sizes. Now, he says, "I can't picture doing anything else!"
Sandboarding has several advantages over snowboarding and skiing. Firstly, it is considerably cheaper. Secondly, it is not seasonal. Thirdly, dunes exist all over the world. And finally, it does not require expensive, specialist clothing. The main disadvantage, however, is the lack of "ski lifts" - hiking up the dunes is hideous on the legs. But on the plus side, you really feel like you've earned a bowl of oysters and a chilled Windhoek lager or three at the end of the day!
Pally holds up a rectangular piece of hardboard.
"This" he said "is a low-tech speed machine."
He explains how it works. You lie on it face down with your hands gripping the corners, to curve the front edge up, like a sledge. Then you bend your knees to keep your feet off the ground. As the board can apparently reach speeds of up to 80 kilometers an hour, you must avoid at all costs the front edge digging into the dune, as you will flip over, and you will eat a lot of sand.
So why not give it a go?! Those who race to the bottom are sure to end up exhilarated, exhausted, and very, very happy.
In fact, as Pally said: "I don't think I can ask for more. It's the coolest thing I've ever done."
Facts about Sandboarding and Sand-skiing:
- Henrik May, a German living in Namibia for some 10 years, set a Guinness World Record in speed sand-skiing on 6 June 2010. He reached a speed of 92.12 kilometers per hou.
- Though considered an emerging sport, sandboarding has been around since the 1940s, and was popularised in the 1960s.
- The sandboarding world championships take place annually in a man-made sand dune in Bavaria, Germany.
- For more information on this and other thrilling activities you can enjoy in Namibia, download our Adventure Travel Planning Guide!
Did you know that today, 4 December, is International Cheetah Day? Namibia's own Cheetah Conservation Fund hopes the day will "increase worldwide awareness about Africa and Iran’s most endangered cat.” Namibia's commitment to conservation has provided a healthy environment for studying about the cheetah population and how to strengthen its numbers. To help you mark International Cheetah Day, here are some FAST facts about the world's FASTEST land animal!
- The cheetah is the fastest land animal in the world. They can achieve speeds of 112 to 120 km/h (70 to 75 mph) in short bursts.
- Most car dealers would be envious of their acceleration skills - the cheetah can go from 0 to over 100 km/h (62 mph) in just three seconds!
- So how does the cheetah have to power to sprint so fast? Partly because of its ability to increase circulation of oxygen as a result of its unusually large heart, wide nostrils and increased lung capacity.
- A cheetah's breath will increase from 60 breaths per minute to 150 when moving at top speed!
- Other adaptations include a flexible spine and thin, muscular body with long legs - a bit like an olympic athlete!
- Despite moving at incredible speeds, the cheetah is able to make swift, sharp turns to keep up with its prey - thanks to its tail which it uses as a rudder.
- The cheetah's characteristic black "tear marks" that run from the inside of its eyes down to its nose help keep the sun's glare out of its eyes - aiding the big cat while it hunts.
Dr Laurie Marker with volunteers and cheetahs at CCF
Dr. Laurie Marker, founder of CCF, says: “The threat of extinction to the cheetah, other big cats and many other species of wildlife worldwide is real and looming. Increased awareness of the plight of these creatures, as well as greater support of conservation efforts, is vital if we hope to ensure their survival.”
Do your bit and donate to one of Namibia's wildlife foundations today! You can download our Wildlife Experience Travel Planning Guide to see how you can make your dreams of meeting a cheetah come true!