The landscape of Namibia's Central Highlands is a mix of commercial farms and rolling mountains.
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Central HighlandsBetween Windhoek and Etosha lies a region of gentle rolling hills, where many of Namibia's larger farms and ranches can be found – the Central Highlands. In this part of Namibia, the attractions are the guest farms and small lodges, rather than the area itself. Some protect their own private game reserves; for others their unique environments are the attraction; whilst some are simply comfortable places to stop when passing through.
Namibia's guest farms and small lodges are all different, reflecting their individual hosts and locations. All offer comfortable accommodation with en-suite facilities, and most organise activities around local points of interest, such as unique rock formations and cave paintings. As you will be staying in someone's home, you will often dine with your hosts; an opportunity to gain an insight into their personal views of Namibia.
Some of the main towns and points of interest here are:
OkahandjaThis small town, north of Windhoek, has some reasonable shops and two of the country's best open markets for curios. Add to this a reputation for excellent biltong (dried meat), and quite a lot of old buildings and history, and it's worth breaking your journey here.
Historically, Okahandja has long been the administrative centre for the Herero people, despite being considerably southwest of their main settlements. Missionaries first reached the area in the late 1820s, but it wasn't until 1849 that the first of them, Friedrich Kolbe, settled here.
Von Bach DamJust south of Okahandja, Von Bach Dam supplies most of the capital's water, and is surrounded by a nature reserve. The environment here is thorn-scrub and particularly hilly, supporting game including kudu, baboon and leopard, as well as Hartmann's mountain zebra, springbok, eland and even ostrich. However, with only one road through the park, they are all very difficult to spot – so very few of our travellers come here; and none come here just for the game.
Gross Barmen Hot SpringsAbout 25km west of Okahandja, Gross Barmen's main attraction is its mineral spring and swimming baths. The spring here, clearly visible, wells up at about 65°C. It feeds the inside 'thermal hall' with its sunken baths for overnight visitors, as well as the cooler outside pools (for children and adults) which are used mainly by day visitors, who are especially numerous at weekends.
Additional attractions are some gentle walks in the surrounding hillsides and, especially for birdwatchers, a good little path cut right through the reedbeds. These all make pleasant strolls, and a couple of benches make good vantage points over the dam while you rest.
OmaruruOmaruru is a green and picturesque town astride the (usually dry) river of the same name, in a gently hilly area. The town has acquired something of a reputation for the creative arts, with many artists settling here to work. Many of the farms around it have turned to tourism, which is on the increase, so there is no shortage of lodges or guest farms in the area – and most of our visitors to this area head for...
Erongo Wilderness ConservancyThe Erongo Conservancy is a private conservancy encompassing about 30 landowners and their farms and lodges stretching over 2,000km² (200 000ha). All fences have been taken down between these farms in order to conserve and protect the area. As proof of its success, white rhino were released here in 2009 and the first calf was born in 2010, although they are rarely spotted.
The Erongo Wilderness Conservancy centres around the Erongo Mountains which consist of huge boulder and granite formations on the outskirts of an ancient volcano. They are bordered by the Namib Desert to the west and a mixed, woodland savannah to the east. This rare confluence of ecosystems is home to a vast array of plant, reptile, mammal and bird species, some endemic to Namibia.
The Conservancy's mission includes the preservation of the rich cultural heritage in the form of rock paintings and engravings that are found throughout the area, such as at the Paula's Cave rock art site. This is found at Erongo Wilderness Lodge, which was one of the founding members of the conservancy.