GREATER WINDHOEK

Windhoek is encircled by mountains, and within this greater area one finds many commercial farms, as well as guest farms and lodges. It is typified by bushland savannah, with rocky slopes, hardy bushes, amplified by gorgeous sunsets.

Northern Part of Greater Windhoek

The Northern part of greater Windhoek consists of a 70 kilometer valley some 50 kilometers in diameter that stretches up to Okahandja, which used to be a giant lake many Millions of years ago. The western side of the valley is dominated by the Khomas Hochland (Khomas relating to the indigenous word for “mountainous terrain” and “Hochland” referring to the high plateau in the German language), while the eastern Mountain range consists of the Otjihavera Mountain range, demarcating the last real mountain before the land drops to form the Kalahari Desert. Some of Namibia’s largest non-perennial rivers originate in both these mountain ranges, the largest of which reach the Atlantic Ocean, such as the Swakop and Omaruru Rivers. The area directly surrounding Windhoek is made up of Mica Shist, a very brittle type of rock which does not retain water. For this reason Windhoek’s main storage dam, von Bach dam, is situated 65 kilometres north of Windhoek close to Okahandja. This is also one reason why Windhoek residents pay more for water than any other city in Namibia – not only does the water have to be pumped to Windhoek over a stretch of 65 kilometers, the difference in altitude of 420 meters means additional effort and costs (Windhoek is situated on one of the highest points in Namibia (1650 asl). The northern part of Windhoek consists of typical Mountain Savannah interspersed with dry riverbeds. The entire area is private farmland, where some farms have either partially or completely reverted from cattle farming to guest farms or game lodges. The area is, and always has been, very rich in a variety of game species due to the availability of water and so many different types of habitat. While the mountains support one of the richest population of leopard in Namibia, the grass plains are famous for large herds of Kudu, gemsbok, springbok, blue wildebeest, plains zebra, giraffe and hartebeest. The area is excellent for birding and is further accentuated as an ornithological paradise with the presence of Windhoek’s sewerage works about 10km north of the city, where birding is amazing. Recently a large poultry farm opened its doors just 10 kilometres north of Windhoek. It is the first large-scale poultry meat producer in Namibia that covers the entire Namibian demand.

The Eastern Part of Greater Windhoek

The Eastern part of greater Windhoek is at first dominated by undulating Mountain savannah before the vegetation as well as the landscape suddenly changes into the sandy Kalahari Desert, a phenomenon that can already be seen just east of the International Airport. As the annual rains predominantly arrive from the east, and because the area is not subjected to huge mountain ranges that affect the immediate rainfall patterns, the area constitutes excellent farmland for cattle and sheep, but also for free-roaming game species. A large number of guest farms are found in this area, but in comparison to the Northern part of Windhoek these are still very much involved in traditional farming activities. The “Sandveld” area north east of Windhoek is one of the few places in Namibia where agricultural farming is practiced as the rainfall is reliable and higher than in most central regions of Namibia. Huge maize plantations of a few thousand hectares can be found here, but also more specific plantations such as potatoes, olives, lucerne and dates are grown. En route to the international airport Windhoek residents and accommodation establishments have access to a vegetable farm where fresh vegetables can be bought directly – usually, due to the lack of rain in Namibia, vegetables are imported from South Africa. Besides the guest farms and lodges found in eastern greater Windhoek, guests can visit Arnhem cave, which is the longest underground cave system in southern Africa. The area is also well-known for the karakul sheep and a karakul factory can be visited in Dordabis where carpets and wall hangers made from karakul wool can be purchased.

Hosea Kutaoko International Airport

The Hosea Kutako International Airport is Namibia’s largest airport as well as the countries only direct link to Frankfurt, Germany. It connects flights to and from Johannesburg and Cape Town (South Africa), Harare and Victoria Falls (Zimbabwe), Maun and Gaborone (Botswana), Luanda (Angola) as well as Accra (Ghana). It is situated approximately 45km east of the capital city of Windhoek, as the latter is situated in a valley where the construction of a large airport was not possible due to space limitations, but also because of the moutains around Windhoek and the strong winds that blow through the Windhoek valley, making the landing of large airplanes impossible. With an altitude of 1750 meters above sea level, the airport is situated on one of the highest points of the Namibian central plateau – due to this altitude and resulting thinner air the main runway has a length of over 4,5km, making it the longest runway in southern Africa. A number of high quality guestfarms and lodges are situated in the proximity of the international airport, and a variety of transfer services offer transport to travelers from and to the airport as well as to other locations in Namibia. The airport itself does not offer accommodation service. Inside the building guests have access to a coffee bar as well as to a small number of shops, while all major car rental companies are represented inside the main building. During South African administration (Namibia used to be a mandate of South Africa between 1915 and 1990), the airport used to be named J.G. Strijdom Airport, after the Nationalist party Prime Minister of South Africa. After independence in 1990 the airport was renamed to Hosea Kutako international airport.

Chief Hosea Komombumbi Kutako (1870 – 18 July 1970) was an early Namibian nationalist leader and founding member of the South West African People's Organization (SWAPO). Today Hosea Kutako is regarded as one of the biggest national heroes of Namibia. His name is honoured together with an engraving of his face on heroes acre, a real-life bronze statue was erected in the parliament gardens in Windhoek, one of the largest streets in Windhoek has been called after him while his residential house in the Omahake region was declared a national monument.

Hosea Kutako, alongside Rev. Michael Scott, led several petitions to the United Nations to oppose the Apartheid scheme and to push for Namibian sovereignty, which eventually led to the recognition of Namibia's status of independence in 1988. 2 years later, on the 21st of March 1990, Namibia gained its independence under the presidency of SWAPO leader and founder, Dr Sam Nujoma. Even though Hosea Kutako was of Herero descent while the SWAPO leaders originated from Ovambo descent (two tribes that were in constant disagreement and perpetually stole cattle from each other), the struggle for independence and the liberation of black people united the leaders to fight for the same cause. In 1920, Hosea Kutako was officially appointed as leader of the Herero by Frederik Maharero. Frederik had been empowered to transfer power by his father, Herero chief Samuel Maharero, who had been exiled after the Herero War and was since banned from entering the country by the South African Mandatory Administration. Hosea Kutako took over his role as a commitment to preserve the memory of the glorious times of the Herero before and during the German colonisation as well as of the atrocities in the battle of Waterberg. Already in 1920, he founded the Green Flags, an association to keep up the Herero tradition, and went on by founding the Red Flags in 1923, after Samuel Maharero’s death. Kutako prompted and organised the transfer of Samuel Maharero’s body and its funeral on Okahandja next to the grave of Jonker Afrikaner. Along with Nujoma, Hosea Kutako founded the South West African National Union (SWANU) in 1959 (the year black residents were forcefully relocated to Windhoek’s township of Katutura), an organisation that was to merge into SWAPO a year later. It later re-emerged as a separate political entity. Despite his age, Hosea Kutako particularly engaged for the independence of future Namibia.

The Southern Part of Greater Windhoek

The Southern part of greater Windhoek is at first demarcated by the Auas Mountains, the second highest mountain range in Namibia (app 2300m above sea level), before the area flattens out towards Rehoboth. This is one of the few areas in Namibia which is demarcated by the camelthorn savannah, and when driving through the area guests come across endless forests of the camelthorn tree (Acacia erioloba). It is one of the oldest-living acacia species and can easily reach an age of 1000 – 1500 years. With its elongated tap-root system that reaches 50 meters below the earth’s surface to access the underground water, this tree is made for any type of environment and is found plentifully in the Namib Desert. The farmland south of Windhoek is unique, as it is nearly completely owned by Rehoboth Basters rather than any other race in Namibia. The Basters are a race on their own and originate from a mixture of the indigenous Khoi-Khoi that intermarried with white settlers in the Cape Province during the 19th century. Their arrival in Namibia dates back as far as 1842, when the Basters were awarded a large tract of land in the Rehoboth area by the then German colonial government. Since their occupation of the area in the 1840’s, the basters have led a lifestyle of farming and were resolute to not be included in the overall picture of then German South West Africa, but rather be treated as a Republic on its own, as they strictly lived according to their traditions and rules, something that was accepted by the Germans as well as the South African government after German capitulation. Their struggle for independence since 1978 was not related to being freed from the Apartheid system and South African domination (as was the case with all other non-white citizens in Namibia), but rather to be excluded from the struggle of Namibian independence and officially be declared a Republic within a Republic. This demand carried on until 1989, one year before Namibia officially became independent from South Africa, their plea however was not agreed to and Rehoboth turned into a normal town open to all citizens. Today, 22 years after independence, the matriarchal system of the Rehoboth basters remains unchanged and the close-knit community is still headed up by a “Kaptein” and his sub-kapteins, they however have to abide under the judicial system of the Namibian constitution and have lost their separate rights. Traveling south from Windhoek takes the traveler through the heights of the Auas Mountains and into a scenically beautiful grass landscape that is interspersed with camelthorn forests and magnificent granite Inselbergs. Oanob Lake, situated just outside of Rehoboth and which provides the town with water, is a popular destination for locals and tourists alike, as wide variety of activities are on offer. Some of these consist of motorboat cruises on the lake, fishing, birding, fun water activities and the resort also offers excellent campsites that are situated directly along the water.

The Western Part of Greater Windhoek

  The Western part of greater Windhoek demarcates the highest points of the Namibian central plateau (approximately 2000 - 2500 meters above sea level), and this is also the area where the height of plateau is most noticeable when traveling down one of the scenic passes into the endless plains of the Namib Desert. The Khomas Hochland, the mountains found west of Windhoek and after which the central region has been named, consist of rolling hills rather than the steep cliffs one would find in the Auas Mountains for example. The area consists of private farmland – while the areas closest to Windhoek can support cattle farming due to the higher rainfall and availability of grass, the western parts of the Khomas Hochland are better suited for sheep and goat farming, as here the rainfall is less and grass cover is very much reduced. The mountains support a very healthy population of Namibia’s endemic Hartmann mountain zebra, which are specially adapted to survive in a more arid environment and also have specially adapted hoofs in order to negotiate the mountainous terrain. A number of scenic passes (of which all are gravel roads) lead down the escarpment into the Namib Desert:

The Bosua Pass is situated on the C28 and offers the shortest, but not the fastest route from Windhoek to Swakopmund, as it contains a high number of twists and turns that forces a slow traveling speed. As one of the steepest passes in Namibia it is also one of the most scenic and more rewarding when traveling it in a westerly direction. The C28 takes you directly to the turn off of the Welwitschia plains and Moon landscape, both situated about 30km west of Swakopmund.

The Us Pass is situated on the D1982, and is the shortest route between Windhoek and Walvis Bay. At times this pass is extremely corrugated and the roads wash out during the rainy season. The pass travels through the area where two geologists, Henno Martin and Hermann Korn (their adventure documented in the book “The sheltering desert”) escaped the Second World War by hiding in the Kuiseb Canyon. The Us pass is the oldest pass in Namibia and was built by the Oorlam Nama in the 1840’s, who needed a direct route from Windhoek to Walvis Bay in order to sell their (mainly stolen) cattle for export to South Africa. The Us Pass is the “old Baaiweg” historical books very often refer to.

The Gamsberg Pass on the C26 between Windhoek and Walvis Bay is Namibia’s longest and highest pass and looks out over the flat-topped Gamsberg, Namibia’s own Tafelberg. It is interesting to note that the flat surface of this mountain represents the original surface of Gondwanaland, a supercontinent that broke up at a later stage to form the different continents such as Africa, South America and Australia. It was only after the break up that the descending landscape was eroded into its present shape by gigantic geological processes.

The Spreetshoogte Pass, situated on the D1275, leads down the escarpment of the Rand (translated as “edge”) Mountains and is Namibia’s shortest yet steepest pass, while it also the pass with best view onto the Namib Desert plains some 1500 meters below. Due to its gradient the pass may only be attempted in a westerly direction, no busses or vehicles with trailers are allowed to descend it and special care needs to be taken in the rainy season when the road washes out dangerously in places. The steepest parts of the pass have been stabilized with interlock bricks.

The Remhoogte Pass is situated further south of the Spreetshoogte pass and twists along the D1261 between Windhoek and Solitaire. It gives a scenic view onto the Naukluft Mountains when traveling towards Solitaire and it is normally the least affected pass in regards to flooding, seeing that it has a steadier gradient. Guests need to take special care to keep on the left hand side when traveling this pass, as some curves are extremely narrow and sharp.