Nhoma Camp is a small tented camp in Bushmanland.
Nhoma Camp: Our full report
Nhoma Camp is a small tented camp in Bushmanland that takes its name from the nearby Bushman village of //Nhoq'ma. The camp is run by Arno and Estelle Oosthuysen who have worked with and to the benefit of the Bushmen in this area for about 16 years.
Nhoma Camp and village is within Bushmanland adjoining the Nyae Nyae Conservancy, the home of the Ju/'hoansi Bushman. Established in 1998 at a size of about 9,000km², this conservancy allows the Ju/'hoan people to hunt for food using their traditional methods and with tools created in the traditional way. They also derive income from trophy hunting in a concession that makes up part of the Nyae Nyae Conservancy and from tourism to the area. A portion of your accommodation fee at Nhoma Camp goes directly to //Nhoq'ma Village.
Time at Nhoma Camp and with the Bushman that live here is a unique experience: and often an amazing one. Visitors can participate in day-to-day village life in a sensitive way. In addition, tourism has significantly helped //Nhoq'ma Village. Apart from their significant material gain, it has increased the importance that the people place on their own traditional skills and cultural heritage – as they now see these as passports to earning money, rather than as anachronisms. Visitors should plan to stay here for at least three nights, preferably more, as you can't do justice to the experience in less time.
Nhoma Camp has 10 tented rooms each built on wooden decks and with a delightfully simplicity and rustic feel – it’s very close to the village. These are made up of a walk-in Meru-style tent, with an en-suite bathroom and private veranda. All the furniture is made by Arno with the help of the community; throw rugs cover the floor, and linens in creams and browns with a bushman motif cover the beds. We found these to be some of the most comfortable beds that we've ever slept on!
Nhoma Camp has a pole-and-thatch shelter which is used as the dining area. Here, tea and coffee is available throughout the day. Beyond this building is the campfire. During the day it is possible to relax here enjoying the views or watching a variety of birds come to drink at one of the two man-made bird baths on the perimeter.
The camp is set on a hillside overlooking //Nhoq'ma Omarumba (river valley). At the highest point is the thatched dining area, where buffet meals are served. Beyond this is the camp fire, a gathering point for pre- and post-dinner drinks and to discuss the day's experiences. Due to the lack of light pollution in the area, the night skies seen here are some of the clearest that you'll ever find.
Activities at Nhoma Camp centre around the Bushmen and the village. During a stay at Nhoma Camp, it is usual to spend most of your activities following the village's hunters – three or four men whose job it is to hunt in the traditional way and provide meat for the village. What hunting foray is planned for the day, or indeed if one is planned, depends on recent events and what the village needs. The decision is made by the hunters. During our last visit, we spotted a porcupine on our way to camp and after telling the villagers, they decided to delay their plan to harvest a known bee nest and to track the porcupine instead.
A hunt can last anything from two hours to most of the day. In our case, the porcupine eluded us. So after a few hours the Bushmen gave up and went in search of spring hare instead, a nocturnal rodent that sleeps in its burrow during the day. For visitors staying a number of days, a hunt for bigger game such as kudu or wildebeest is possible. First you stalk the prey and shoot it with a poisoned arrow. Then you rest whilst the poison takes affect before you track it to where it has fallen – such a trek can take most of the day so a good level of fitness is recommended.
When following the hunters, you’ll always be accompanied by a guide; crucially he speaks Africaans and English, so can interpret what the hunters say. This is usually Arno or Kaece G/aq'o (aka ‘Bertus’), the son of one of the village’s elders (now deceased). Along the way the Bushmen stop to point out various plants and explain their traditional use for food or medicine. This is often an interactive experience with the chance to taste or imitate.
Unlike activities at most conventional safari camps, where you go and shat you see on these activities isn’t determined by your wishes; the guide gives no instructions to the hunters. Instead the hunters just carry on as they normally would – and you have the opportunity to either follow or, if it’s particularly long and arduous, to turn back to camp with your guide.
The village eagerly awaits the return of the hunters to see what they bring back. Afternoons are often spent here with the community watching them process any meat, berries or nuts brought by the hunters. The villagers will demonstrate the ancient skills of fire making, creating rope and setting traps. The woman and children will often initiate games such as the monkey orange game or hyena game. Games are usually accompanied by much merriment and singing.
During dinner at Nhoma Camp, singing is often heard coming from the village. If this happens, then visitors have the opportunity to wander over to the village, and watch dances performed by the Bushmen – like the traditional giraffe or elephant healing dance. If you are lucky, you will see one of the participants fall into a trance where he believes he is being spoken to by his ancestors. Again – these are activities which go on at the village, you have the opportunity to join, or the choice not to.
Giving something backThe work Arno and Estelle are doing with //Nhoq'ma Village and the surrounding area is not charity work – as Arno and Estelle are the first to state. This is not a ‘project’; they are business people and the camp is a commercial venture, albeit a very small one. However, just as they depend on and trust the community, so the community depends on them and trusts them. Arno and Estelle help the community in many ways on a day-to-day basis, going far beyond what they might be expected to do, so that today they and the community seem to us to be mutually dependent.
Visiting Nhoma Camp gives the //Nhoq'ma community a real income in an area where jobs and cash are very hard to find. The villagers are paid by the camp for allowing guests to accompany them as they go about their daily life. Having specifically asked the village’s elders about this, we are sure that the community is happy with how this arrangement works – and that’s a large part of why we are happy to encourage our travellers to visit and support the Camp.
For anyone who wishes to help the village even further, Arno runs a small fund which is used for various ways of helping the village, including school supplies, clothes for the children, blankets, mosquito nets and fire prevention in the surrounding area.
Our ViewNhoma Camp offers a unique and incredible experience. Visitors can participate in village life in a sensitive yet authentic way, and learn about a hunter-gatherer culture that is totally unlike our own. However, what you get out of the experience will depend on your approach to the Bushmen.
We've been sending visitors to Nhoma for about the last ten years, and we've learnt a lot. We've found that the experience can be amazing, even life-changing, if you can put your inhibitions aside. It'll work best if you’re happy to try to communicate – perhaps to use sign language and mime, to try everything that you're offered, to ask questions and to joke with the villagers. Then you'll usually find them to be very open, demonstrative and often very happy people – who often use jokes to communicate a point, and live very much in the present. Then you may come away with everlasting memories from this incredible experience.
However ... we've also found out that the Bushmen just don't understand visitors who remain aloof, nervous or stand on the sidelines. This kind of behaviour just isn't normal in their culture ... so they don't know how to deal with it. So if you come to Nhoma feeling insular, or you don't want to get involved, or interact ... then your time here could be quite disappointing.
Ideal length of stay: Ideally stay here for at least 3 nights to do the experience justice, preferably four nights. It is possible to combine a stay at Nhoma Camp with a night or two fly-camping in Khaudum National Park with Arno as an expert wildlife guide.
Directions: About 60km north of Grootfontein turn east onto the C44 gravel road. After approximately 185km turn north at the sign that reads Nhoma/Aasvoelnes onto a relatively good track. From here it is 40km to Nhoma. The last 40km to Nhoma Camp is sandy so only recommended for 4WD vehicles. If traveling in a 2WD vehicle arrangements can be made for a transfer from the main C44 road to the camp.
Owner: Arno and Estelle Oosthuysen
Food & drink
Usual board basis: Full Board
Food quality: The meals at Nhoma Camp are hearty and fresh. Don't expect gourmet food but you can expect fresh ingredients and a variety of dishes.
Breakfast is served as a buffet before the morning activity. This usually includes cereals, fruit, yoghurt, juice, toast, eggs, bacon and porridge with tea and coffee (filter or instant).
Selections of cold dishes are usually served for lunch. Home-made bread is accompanied by salads such as tuna, cheese and tomato or bean salad and cold meats such as ham and chicken legs.
Dinner is usually a choice of meat, vegetables, starches and salads. During our stay we had lamp chops with baked potatoes, polenta and salad on one night and Eland steaks with mushroom sauce, corn on the cob, rice, vegetables and salad on the second. After the meal we recommend you say “yes" to one of Arno's delicious Amarula coffees!
Dining style: Group Meals
Dining locations: Outdoor Dining
Cost of meal e.g. lunch: Included
Drinks included: A good range of beverages are available and included in the price. There is a choice of water, soft drinks, juices, wines, beers and local spirits such as gin and whisky.
Family holidays: Spending time with the Bushmen during a stay at Nhoma Camp is an experience for the whole family. Not only is it a sensitive and insightful introduction to a different culture, it is also the chance to learn more about nature in the best classroom – the bush. See Will Gray's article 'Kalahari with kids', on our press page.See more ideas for Family holidays in Namibia
Traditional Cultures: At Nhoma Camp you're staying right by a Bushmen village. Here, the Ju/'hoan people have been a part of the camp's setup from the beginning, and benefit substantially from your visit. Time with these people can offer amazing insights into a hunter-gatherer culture that's very different to our own.See more ideas for Traditional Cultures in Namibia
Attitude towards children: Children of all ages are welcome at Nhoma Camp.
Generally recommended for children: We can highly recommend Nhoma Camp and Bushmanland to families with interested and enthusiastic children of all ages. Not only is this a wonderful, genuine cultural experience for everyone, but the bush is a virtual classroom offering countless opportunities for new experiences.
Power supply: Solar Power
Communications: Communications with Nhoma Camp are erratic. Sometimes there is cell phone reception around the camp, at other times there isn’t. There is no WiFi or email in camp for the use of guests.
Health & safety
Malarial area: Yes
Medical care: There’s a simple clinic in Tsumkwe, and an hour’s drive away Mangetti Hospital often had a doctor. However, if you encounter any serious medical issues, then use in your travel insurance and go to the private hospital in Grootfontein – about three and a half hours' drive away.
Dangerous animals: Moderate Risk
Security measures: Arno is armed with a rifle during any walking activities in the unlikely event of suprising an animal such as an elephant and being faced with an adverse reaction.
Fire safety: Arno and Estelle, with the help of the community, regularly maintain fire breaks around the camp in case of bush fire.
Disabled access: Not Possible
Laundry facilities: A laundry service is included. Please be aware that clothes will not be ironed.