“Here you are reminded that we are all guests of Mother Nature”, is how owner, Dennis Liebenberg, describes Etendeka Mountain Camp, in Namibia’s northern Damaraland. The Africa’s Finest team, David Bristow and Colin Bell, have classified this desert retreat as one of the leading eco-friendly safari destinations in Africa. After a thorough evaluation of its physical and operational impact on the pioneer ground it lies on, Etendeka has been congratulated for its undeniably light footprint and its warm embrace of raw Namibia.
What makes this faraway location so special is that it has never been tampered with, never run dry, and never replenished – a feat that deserves admiration considering Namibia’s typically harsh, dehydrated environment. Etendeka Mountain Camp, in its outstanding position at the foot of the Grootberg Mountains, enjoys 50 000 hectares of rugged terrain, topped with the common euphorbias and uninterrupted by boundary fences and manmade territorial markings. A lookout from the lodge presents unbendingly wide vistas of eroded basalt, revealing the earth’s rocky skeleton and a playground for some of Africa’s shyest animals.
The desert-adapted black rhino has evolved even more over the many years they have been roaming in the Damaraland region of Namibia – the largest, wild, safe haven for this prehistoric herbivore remaining in Africa. Due to the sparse availability of shrubbery, black rhinos have become resistant to the poisonous latex secreted from the euphorbia succulents that add texture to this desert horizon. Safari activities introduce guests at Etendeka to these prized mammals, as well as, the giants of the Namib, the desert elephants. Gemsbok and ostrich dress this deserted landscape with their iconic presence; zebras avoid both chancing cheetahs and their bigger cat cousins, the lions.
Trucking over a rocky road, leading visitors over the tip of the Grootberg mountain range introduces, after some indulgent rainfall, a wonderfully unexpected channel of water; the surging Ombonde River. Persevering further north will bring one onto the long-lived land of the Herero-Himbas and their cherished cattle. Etendeka Mountain Camp pioneered the land-levy system that has been widely integrated into the operation of Namibia’s desert tourism today. Concession fees are paid to Etendeka’s original neighbours and the opportunities of employment are offered to the people who know this land better than any outsider.
Something truly special about the lodge that has placed itself on this splendorous tract of Namibia’s most untouched northern territory, is that it doesn’t add any special effects. The only back up for the entirely solar-powered energy keeping the lodge running, is the charcoal cool room, rarely utilised in even eco-friendly establishments. Using only the elements presented by the earth, Etendeka provides all the amenities one would seek in order to be warm enough, cool enough and comfortable enough in this superbly isolated location.
Individual meru-style tents, 10 of them, are completed with characteristic open-air showers, familiar, flushing toilets and hot and cold running water. These ensuite units are connected by pathways to the main dining area, where wholesome meals are prepared either atop a gas stove or, traditionally, on an open fire. Privacy, comfort, and the silence of the desert are complimented by the decadence of the view that splays itself unapologetically before one’s eyes.
Considering the environment every step of the way, Etendeka Mountain Camp has eliminated the unnecessarily heavy tread marks of an unnatural structure on an untainted desert land. Not only this, but under Dennis Liebenberg’s dedicated ownership, the concession contributes to the area’s first inhabitants, the wildlife is protected and Mother Nature is celebrated in her most primeval form.