A Mountain Camp in Africa

A Mountain Camp in Africa

Vacation News » Middle East and Africa Vacation News | By Steve Winston | October 11, 2012 9:20 AM ET

Hidden away in its own private corner of Africa, away from the glamour spots and the business centers, the country of Namibia is filled with natural wonders quite different from most of the rest of the continent. It remains pretty much undiscovered by the travelers who've been everywhere else and done everything you can enjoy the memorable scenery and wildlife without a hundred other people snapping photos right next to you. (Indeed, there won't be a whole lot of Namibians next to you, either - there are only about two million of them, in a territory four times the size of the United Kingdom.)

Those two million spread-out souls (only six per square mile) inhabit a land of stark landscapes and sweeping vistas carved out by nature over the ages. In the past, much of the interior was inaccessible to foreigners. But not so much anymore. And one of the best places to see it is from the vantage point of a real mountain camp.

Etendeka Mountain Camp sits in the foothills of the dramatic Grootberg massif, amidst the ancient volcanic soil of northern Damaraland. The mountains here are flat-topped, and lava flows from the past couple of million years have left them strewn with boulders.

There are ten well-equipped tents at Etendeka, all scattered around (and connected by pathway to) the main dining tent. Each tent has recently been upgraded, with luxury mattresses and high-quality cotton linens, and re-done bathrooms. However, one thing hasn't changed - when you want to wash off the grime after a day of exploration, you'll be doing it in a traditional bucket shower.

The food is simple and wholesome, and based on local products and crops. It's cooked either on solar or open fires, and many guests enjoy it outside, under a star-filled sky. Dining is family-style buffet.

This is no jungle, but, rather, a collage of basalt mountains; undulating, desert-like sand dunes; and riverbeds shaded by the ubiquitous Mopane tree. The overwhelming impression, to the naked eye, is of a dry, unforgiving landscape. But you'll quickly discover that this landscape is very much alive, and host to a diverse collection of wildlife and vegetation.  Desert elephant and black rhino wander the boulder-strewn valleys along with cheetah and huge herds of oryx, who shake the ground when they run. Your guides will lead you out on exploratory hikes, as well as in open vehicles which afford up-close views of the wildlife. They'll point out the hoof prints of the mountain zebra...and the lions that are on their trail. Scorpions prowl behind volcanic rock shards, and snake eagles drift overhead, hunting for their evening meals.

Etendeka Mountain Camp is not for everyone. It's for the traveler who wants an off-the-beaten-path experience in the middle of nature at its most primeval. It's definitely rustic. It's a traditional tent camp, with the emphasis not on luxurious amenities, but on the natural surroundings - which look exactly as they must have looked thousands of years ago. And it's won numerous awards for its conservation ethic (such as using solar energy).

Dennis Liebenberg, co-owner of Etendeka, has been running the property for the past 20 years. He knows every inch of this rugged land. And his wonderful nighttime stories will remind you of scenes from the famous movie, "Out of Africa." 

Afterwards, you'll fall asleep to the sounds of authentic Africa.

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