“ Grootberg Lodge is the only place in Namibia where you can sit with binoculars and watch Black Eagles from above,” says Danie.
Gertrud and Danie Piek are keen bird watchers and were thrilled to win a visit to Grootberg Lodge, high in Kunene Region, at last year's Tourism Expo. They had visited the lodge three years before, but only for one night. The two night prize enabled them to take in a game drive and, of course, the magnificent view down the Klip River Valley.
“You could see the eagles make a huge dive from the plateau,” said Danie. “Magnificent.”
NACSO, the Namibian Association of CBNRM Support Organisations, asks lodges run as joint ventures with communal conservancies to donate prizes at Tourism Expo, where the Community Conservation stand demonstrates why Namibia is a premier tourism destination, with conservancy based tourism in the first division.
Danie and Gertrud are pensioners who worked in accountancy until they retired with the goal of seeing as much of Namibia as possible. “We don't visit the same place each time,” says Gertrud, “We have a huge and beautiful country, so we visit Tourism Expo to see where we can go.”
Last year's visit paid off with a prize to Grootberg, which is the crown jewel of #Khoadi-//Hôas Conservancy. The lodge is wholly owned to the conservancy thanks to an EU grant, and income from the lodge supports conservancy efforts to protect wildlife through anti-poaching patrols, and community initiatives including student bursaries, a soup kitchen for pensioners, and water holes for wildlife that help keep elephants away from farms.
It was the conservation efforts of the conservancy that impressed Danie and Gertrud almost more than the birds and wildlife on offer. On an early morning game drive their tour guide explained in detail how the conservancy works to protect wildlife. During the drive they saw giraffe, oryx and mountain zebra. But just as important was the guide's evident knowledge of local plants and how they are used in Damara culture for healing.
Danie said that people in #Khoadi-//Hôas have realised the value of their flora and fauna and have learned to transform it into income. “They have taken ownership of their resources and manage it so well,” he said.
He was talking about the lodge as well as the wildlife resources. Both Danie and Gertrud were keen to say that they have never had a lodge dinner as good as at Grootberg, where the friendliness of the staff made a good meal perfect.
Any complaints? Well, the price of drinks was as steep as the hill you have to climb to get to the lodge, but otherwise only praise. It was a real African experience say the two Namibian pensioners who met another senior citizen at the lodge: an old oryx which grazes around the luxury rooms.
Gertrud and Danie will be visiting Tourism Expo again this year, and will certainly make a turn at the Community Conservation stand.