KEETMANSHOOP REGION

Keetmanshoop, translated as “Hope of Keetman” is the largest town in southern Namibia and also the administrative capital city of the Karas region. This region is called after the Karas Mountain found close by, the mountain constituting Namibia’s third highest elevation. In 1860 the Rhenish Missionary Society founded a mission station where Keetmanshoop is situated today, in order to spread the Christian faith to the local Nama tribes, being the most prominent tribe found in the Karas region. The first missionary, Georg Schröder, arrived in Keetmanshoop in 1866, which is now accepted as the founding date of Keetmanshoop. The town was named after the German trader Johann Keetman who supported the mission financially and who also financed the construction of the first church. This church however was washed away by a flash flood and a new church, nowadays the Keetmanshoop museum, was erected in 1895 and declared a national monument in 1978. Another notable building is the post office, dating from 1910. Keetmanshoop was known by the Nama as “Swartmodder” (black mud), which referred to the Swartmodder River that, when in flow, carried with it black granite slush. It was also known as Nu-gouses, which means “Black Marsh” and indicated the presence of a spring. Keetmanshoop is an important center of the Karakul sheep farming community. This sheep was also referred to as the “Black Diamond of the south”, as the Karakul farmers earned a fortune selling the skins of the unborn lambs to 1st world countries. The Naute dam, situated about 40 km further south of the city, is Namibia’s second largest lake and provides Keetmanshoop with water. In close proximity to the lake one also finds huge plantations of grapes, dates and different vegetables that are produced for export. In 2010 180 tons of dates were exported from this plantation alone.

Brukkaros Crater

When driving along the B1 between Mariental and Keetmanshoop, the Brukkaros crater dominates the landscape, as it rises some 650 meters from the flat desert plains. The circular, rimmed shape of Brukkaros resembles and is often described as an extinct volcano, which is not the case. Some 80 million years ago molten rock came into contact with groundwater. The water vapourized and expanded, causing the surface to bulge. This process continued until the pressure became too much and the top of the bulge exploded. The explosion caused more water to fill the empty space and come in contact with more hot magma causing subsequent explosions that send huge rocks flying – it is believed that some rocks found in in a circumference of 3km have been jettisoned here during these explosions.. The series of explosions ejected material from deep below, which formed a rim on top of the mountain. Over millions of years the softer upper layers eroded leaving a central hollow and a drainage valley. The crater has a diameter of about 3km and its floor lies about 350m below the rim. Traveling the last kilometres to the crater needs to be done in a 4x4 and a visit to the crater is advised for the early mornings or late afternoons, as the temperature inside the crater reaches scary proportions. There is a campsite, but as there are not many trees it is advised to take along own shade equipment. Travellers can hike into the crater, accompanied by community guides. The 3,5 km route into the interior of the mountain runs (walks) along the drainage valley. Some amazing crystal formations are embedded in the rock, along the route. Near the crater entrance, the trail traverses the wall of the crater's outflow canyon, above a 45m high seasonal waterfall. At the entrance, hikers can either head to the quiver trees and crystal fields on the crater floor, or follow the route to an abandoned research station on the rim. The walk takes about 2½ to 3 hrs each way.

Quiver Tree Forest

The Quivertree (Aloe dichotoma) belongs to the most conspicuous plants of the countries indigenous flora. The name derives from its traditional practical application: the hollowed-out pithy branches served as perfect quivers to the arrows of the ancient Bushmen! Despite its strange, even heroic appearance, closer scrutiny reveals that the “kokerboom” is nothing more than a tree version of the common aloe lily – a remarkable variant fashioned by the combined forces of nature and the Namib. The most striking characteristic of the Quivertree is the flared trunk armoured with coarse, drought resistant scales and the multi-branched candelabra topped with fleshy, tapered leaves that jab skyward. The trunk has the ability to collect rainwater and many a time the Bushmen used these trunks as their source of water in drought periods. In winter these aloes carry a striking spike of rich yellow blossoms that attract a vast variety of nectar-eating birds and insects. Usually the quiver trees are found as individual plants jutting out of the rocky surface of the Nama Karoo (an area jutting northwards from South Africa into Namibia, which includes areas such as the Fish River Canyon and Keetmanshoop), this is why a forest made up of over 2500 aloes has become such a great attraction.

Giants' Playground

This conglomeration of precariously balanced rock is situated a mere 5 kilometers from the Quivertree forest and has been dated to be over 180 million years of age. These dolomite rock formations, some of which belong to the most curious geological arrangements in Southern Africa, are the result of intrusion and erosion and do actually resemble a fascinating giant puzzle of irregular shaped building blocks! For best photography it is advised to visit this site when the sun is lower on the horizon. Walking through the dolomite forest at midday can be compared to being pushed into an oven, therefore guests should really consider their timing when coming here.