The striking sight of Waterberg Plateau's brick-red sandstone crowned with lush vegetation has supported a wide diversity of flora and fauna for thousands of years. Rising to 420m in places and enveloped by Namibian savannah, the untouched fortifications of this unmistakable feature have provided nature with the perfect wildlife sanctuary.
The Waterberg Plateua and 41,000 hectares of surrounding land was declared a Nature Reserve in 1972. The table land is largely inaccessible, enabling several of Namibia's endangered species to be relocated here to protect them from predators and illegal hunting. The reintroduction programme was so successful that surplus species are released from Waterberg to supply other Namibian parks with rare animals. Poaching has since been eliminated. Africa's largest antelope, eland, were the first and herds of up to 100 often congregate. Presently there are some 25 species of mammal including black & white rhino, Cape buffalo, giraffe, kudu, impala, warthog, tsessebe, sable and roan antelope and blue wildebeest. Sightings of the elusive leopard prowling along the cliffs, cheetah, caracal, black-backed and side-striped jackals have been seen on the plateau or in the savannah below. Rarer visits from lion and African wild dog have also been documented.
Evidence of early human occupancy can be established by viewing rock engravings at Okarakuvisa waterhole. The last remaining community of San Bushmen were still living here until the late 1960's. Previous residents of the region, the Herero, were involved in a number of military conflicts with the German colonial forces. One of their most significant events, which also changed the course of the Namibia's History, took place here on the foothills of Waterberg at the turn of the 20th century.
In 1904, the proud Herero people, led by Chief Samuel Maharero, were defeated in their final and most epic battle against the Germans. They were eventually forced from Waterberg and retreated eastward to British Bechuanaland (now Botswana). Thousands were killed by the ensuing Germans and many perished with their cattle in the barren and inhospitable Omaheke plains on the way. Estimates were that nearly two thirds of the Herero population lost their lives during this period. The graves of German soldiers killed in these hostilities can still be viewed in a small cemetery near the entrance to the park.
While visiting the Waterberg Plateau you will have the opportunity to note some of the 200 plus species of bird that have been recorded here. Black eagles, peregrine falcons and Namibia's only breeding colony of Cape vultures are amongst 33 types of birds of prey. The latter are the rarest birds in Namibia. Hartlaub's francolin, Rüppell's parrot, Bradfield's swift, Monteiro's hornbill, red-billed and violet wood-hoopoe, short-toed rock thrush, rockrunner and Carp's tit are included on your tick list. Migrants include yellow-billed kite, Abdim's stork, paradise flycatcher and European roller.
The geological arrangement and variation of vegetation of Waterberg can best be explored along a series of trails either on the base of the plateau (9 unguided hiking trails) or on 3 guided hikes accessible on the summit, led by a park ranger or warden. Keen hikers can also arrange to undertake a 42km self-guided trail. This adventure is 'strictly controlled' and participants are expected to be self-sufficient. There are some shelters and water but fires are not permitted. Your route meanders along well-defined tracks and through dry river courses. The scenery is fantastic and plant and wildlife can be viewed and photographed along the way at your leisure.
There are several privately owned lodges around the Waterberg Plateau and the Waterberg Rest Camp lies within the park borders.
A small private safari lodge north of Otjiwarongo
Lodging located on the property used by the Heetah Conservation Fund, this is an excellent option if you want to learn about cheetah conservation
A friendly well run guest house in the town of Otjiwarongo
Self catering units on a large, well stocked, private game reserve
Mid sized hotel in Otjiwarongo offering both lodge & hotel style accommodation. All the usual facilities including a pool, air-conditioned rooms and a restaurant
A large, well stocked, privately owned game reserve. Excellent for sightings of wild dogs and other endangered species
Situated to the north of the Waterberg Plateau (which is unusual as most lodges are toward the south) this highly recommenced lodge offers spacious comfortable rooms and plenty of activities
One of the oldest lodges in Namibia, Mount Etjo has seen several historic events including the signing of an agreement pivotal to Namibia gaining independence. Still offers good quality accommodation and game drives
Without a doubt one of the best lodges in Namibia, add leopard and cheetah viewing to stunning accommodation and well prepared meals and this place is a complete winner
A private two bed room suite, comes complete with own swimming pool, lounge and kitchen. Private chef and meals can be arranged or guests can visit Bush Camp
The 'entry level' camp at Okonjima offers all the same great cats experiences as the other lodges in the portfolio. A one of a type not to be missed Namibian experience
Large private complex, includes all modern luxuries. Enjoyed by international movie stars and corporate moguls - but available to any group wanting to stay!
a variety of accommodation options - ranging from large self catering villas to double rooms. Just a few kilometers south of Otjiwarongo
A large game farm which numbers the rare White Rhino amongst its species.
Small 8 room guest farm with an emphasis on conserving the natural eco-systems
The NWR run camp situated on the slopes of the plateau. Fairly standard and slightly overpriced accommodation, the old police station which has been converted to a restaurant is a scenic (if not taste) highlight.
Excellent choice for walking and visiting the highlights of the area
On the same property aw the Waterberg Wilderness Lodge but situated higher up the mountain offering excellent views
- Cheetah Conservation Fund
- The natural habitat of Cheetah in the wild has shrunk dramatically all over the world. Thus the fastest terrestrial animal on the planet has become a highly endangered species. With about 2,500 animals, Namibia boasts the largest Cheetah population on earth. In order to protect Cheetah in Namibia, the Cheetah Conservation Fund (CCF) was founded in 1990.
The CCF information centre is as entertaining as instructive and definitely worthwhile. Cheetah which no longer can be released into the wilds for various reasons, are kept in large enclosures next to the centre. You will be able to take stunning pictures of the big cats. On certain days visitors are also welcome to watch Cheetah at full speed during their sprint-training.
- Vulture Restaurant
- The Rare and Endangered Species Trust (REST), established in 2000, is mainly concerned with protecting the Cape vulture which is an endangered species in Namibia. Once there were seven colonies of about 2,000 birds in the country. Now, only one colony of eleven Cape vultures remains in the cliffs of Waterberg. For observing and studying the birds, REST set up a vulture restaurant with an observation screen. Carrion is regularly laid out at the restaurant, which does attract Cape vultures and hundreds of White-backed and Lappet-faced vultures.
The screen is very suitable for taking good pictures. Visitors can also get acquainted with Nelson, a flightless vulture which is kept in a large aviary. A host of interesting facts about these useful scavengers can be learnt at REST's research and study centre.
- Waterberg Plateau
- Thanks to rich springs, the eastern cliffs of 'Water Mountain' are characterised by an almost subtropical abundance of flora. The plateau of this table mountain was proclaimed a nature reserve in 1972. Animal species in need of protection - such as Sable Antelope, Buffalo and Rhino - were resettled there. Furthermore, Rüppell's parrot and other rare types of birds can be spotted. From the semi-state rest camp a path leads up to the rocks at the edge of the plateau where Rock Hyrax and Klipspringer are found. The historic police station now houses a restaurant with numerous pictures from the olden days.
- OvaHerero cultural centre
- Farm Hamakari is situated east of Waterberg, close to the little town of Okakarara. At Hamakari OvaHerero fighters suffered a crushing defeat at the hands of German troops in 1904. At the historic site a cultural and tourism centre is now being established, which will house an exhibition on the history and culture of the Ovaherero people; local arts and crafts will also be sold there.