What activities can I do in Epupa?

What exactly can I do in Epupa?

The are is, firstly, famous for the Epupa Waterfalls. This makes it a superb location for photographers and hikers. To the latter, the area is a world of discovery. Since the Himba still mostly travel by foot, there are more paths and trails to hike than can be put down on maps. It is also very safe as long as one stays away from the river.

As the Epupa area forms part of the greater Kaokoland, it is also well known for its Himba. So visiting the Himba is a natural choice for most guests.

Along with the hiking and photography, the area also boasts prolific bird life. A birder’s paradise to be honest with a few species endemic to the area to put the proverbial cherry on the cake.

Do you offer game drives?

As the area is very much used by the Himba for their cattle and goats, we sadly have very little game left in the area. So game drives are not really an option around here.

What about rafting?

Since Epupa Falls Lodge is literally on top of the falls, this is not something we offer. Another reason is that, due to the high risks involving rafting in a river littered with crocodiles, and virtually no proper medical facilities in an area of about 500km, we’d rather just enjoy the river from the safety of our deck.

 

 

 

Electricity? Wi-Fi?

Does Epupa Falls Lodge have electricity?

No. Epupa as a town is not on the electricity grid in Namibia and to be honest, we prefer it that way. As soon as the area joins the electricity grid, the Himba will be westernized within a matter of years. It is not that we don’t want the people to develop, it is that so much of the Himba culture will be lost with the transition. A debate worth publishing I’m sure.

However, Epupa Falls Lodge & Campsites have solar power. Continuously adding panels to accommodate the growing needs of our guests, we can assure you that you will be able to recharge your phone and camera while staying with us.

What about Wi-Fi?

Many people seem to forget that they are traveling in a third world country when it comes to Wi-Fi. We do have Wi-Fi, but it is not something that we advertise. The service providers in Namibia is incredibly unreliable and so we have had several complaints on Trip Advisor that we advertise our Wi-Fi but we don’t have. Ladies and Gents – you are in Namibia to experience the country. Not to stay connected with your friends back home – you can do that when you are back in your country. Secondly, you are in a third world country where everything, and I mean everything, comes down to the service provider. We poor souls on the ground can do nothing when the Wi-Fi is down; for three days in a row.

So yes, when you happen to find Wi-Fi, thank your lucky stars that something is working!

 

 

Self-Drive or Public Transport?

I often get asked the question; can you arrange for public transport? The answer is a resounding ‘No’. But why?

It is a known fact that Namibia has the unsafest roads in the world – per capita that is. Most of these accidents involve Namibia’s biggest source of public transport – Taxis. These are not the Yellow Taxis of New York or the stately cabs of London. These are 16 and 32 seater buses traveling up and down between the north of Namibia and Windhoek and between Windhoek and the coast. These Taxi Buses are often carrying more people than the law allows and are sadly more often than not, not road worthy.

So why are they still allowed on the road? Well, that is a debate for a whole different Blog, but mostly because if you take the Taxis off the road, thousands of people will be stranded. Buses and Trains take too long, though infinitely safer, and planes are too expensive.

Would I take a Taxi? No. Not only do you entrust your life to a driver that may or may not have driver’s license, chances are you will have to share your seat with 2 other people also trying to get to the next stop.

But doesn’t a self-driver use the same roads and are therefor also then unsafe?

Yes and no. By driving your own vehicle, you get to decide what time of the day you want to travel. Early mornings are usually the quietest. Also, self-drivers touring the country will mostly drive the back roads of Namibia – the more scenic gravel roads. These roads do not carry high volumes of traffic and you will be much safer on them. When you do have to drive the B1, alertness is key. And try, if at all possible, to be off the main roads during rush hour (7 – 8am and 16 – 18pm and Sundays). Driving after dark is also not save. Not because of people, but because of the prolific wild life in Namibia.

Considering all of the above, Namibia is a fantastic country to self-drive as long as one remains on the back roads and only use the B1 when absolutely necessary.

Safe drive!

Do I need a 4×4?

We do not have a 4×4? Will we be able to reach you?

This is a simple question with a complex answer.

The straightforward answer is that you do not need a 4×4 to travel the main roads in Namibia. These include the maintained C and D-roads. If you plan to travel deep into Kaokoland (Purros, Marienfluss), then you obviously need not only a 4×4 but also 4×4 skills and experience as these roads are not for beginners. But if you plan on driving to the tourist destinations like Sossusvlei, Swakopmund, Etosha National Park and hopefully Epupa, then technically no. These are all gravel roads that are mostly well-mantained and do not require 4×4.

However, we still recommend a high-clearance vehicle or an SUV. Why? Well firstly, I am a woman and to any other woman out there – it is NOT comfortable to drive in a small car for 300km on a badly corrugated gravel road. Besides comfort, there is also the very technical truth that few people will tell you. A car with smaller tyres will get flats much more often than not. And… after one flat, you might need to buy new tyres… and these small towns charge exorbitant fees for tyres.

So basically the question boils down to this – do you want to save money by renting a small vehicle and pray for 14 days that your wife doesn’t ask for a divorce by the end of the trip (or that you have to change 4 tyres in 3 days and buying a whole new set for the rental company) or do you rather pay the extra bit for a SUV or 4×4 (if you really want to show off), and travel comfortably with no or little hassle and a wife that smiles every time you give her THE look?

The answer is simple lads…

Accommodation en-route to Epupa

Are there any accommodation available en-route to Epupa from Opuwo?

This is a question I get asked very often. And the answer will have to be no. Most of our clients do not overnight in Opuwo, but drive straight through from wherever they are coming and stay 2/3 nights at Epupa Falls Lodge.

However, from Opuwo one can take the C41 & C35 to Ruacana and overnight at Kunene River Lodge – another hidden gem in Namibia. From here, the D3700 will take you in less than 4 hours to us. This road has been rebuilt and can now be easily driven in a SUV or high clearance vehicle.

Is Epupa a Town?

Is Epupa a town?

Epupa is more of a township with three lodges situated along the edge of it on the river bank and one behind the township on a small hill. Apart from the lodges there is a police station, a mobile hospital for the local people and several shebeens. So unless you count a shebeen as a shop, then there are also no shops.

What is a Shebeen?

A Shebeen is basically a shack or tin house modified into a bar or liquor shop. In some cases, you can find a few extras here – goods like chips, chocolates and maybe even a few over the counter medicines.

How far are the lodges, including Epupa Falls Lodge, from the Epupa Falls itself?

Epupa Falls Lodge & Campsites is located right in front of the falls. If you sit on our deck, the spray of the falls will more often than not, cool you down.

Omarunga Camp, is situated on the border of Epupa Falls Lodge – about 500m upstream. Epupa Camp is situated about 1.4km upstream from the falls on the banks of the Cunene river.  Kapika Waterfall Lodge is situated the furthers away about 5km from the falls on a hill overlooking Epupa town and valley.

All three lodges are privately owned and managed by hired managers, making Epupa Falls Lodge the only Lodge with the owner residing in camp and managing his own lodge.

Epupa Town lies to the right of photo with the three lodges hiding underneath the canopy of palm trees.

Epupa Town

©Dieter - Epupa Falls Lodge

Epupa Falls Lodge and Omarunga Camp just visible between the trees.

 

 

A Himba Tour

Reflecting on an earlier piece, Photographing the Himba, Photo Etiquette – I think it is fitting to discuss what a Himba tour entails.

Firstly, when you are staying at Epupa Falls Lodge & Campsite, you can either pre-book your tour or book it in camp. If you book it in camp, please make sure that you have enough cash.

Secondly, Epupa Falls Lodge & Campsite offers two types of Himba tours.

The Traditional Himba Tour

This is the tour that most tourists will go on. You book your tour as per above methods and you will go out with a local Himba guide to a village we frequent.

Although this all sounds very “normal” this tour is also unique. You see, the guides we “use” and highly recommend, are local Himba from the very village you will be visiting. These guides, though English speaking, do not own a vehicle and certainly don’t have a driver’s license. This means that they will go with you in your vehicle to the village. Now don’t stress – these are westernised Himba and very well trained.

This means that you won’t share your Himba Tour with other guests. You will go out alone with your guide on a private tour. You can also decide when you would like to go and for how long. As you are not bound to wait for other guests, this tour offers the most flexibility.

The Himba Alzheimer’s Project

During this tour, you will go out with Lodge owner, Koos Verwey, to visit the Himba Village of Chief Kapika and the Alzheimer’s Village next door.

During this tour you will not only learn about the Himba while visiting Chief Kapika, you will also learn about Chief Kapika’s sister, Ndjinaa and the Himba Alzheimer’s Project. (Read more about Ndjinaa here.) This is quite a fascinating story and a must if anthropology and/or religion fascinates you.

However, this tour must be pre-booked to ensure that Koos is in camp during your stay.

black bean productions

Exceptions

Professional Photographers, anthropologists etc. who wishes to spend more time with the Himba, always need to specify their specific fields of study or interests when booking a tour. These tours are hand-made accordingly and are charged differently.

For more information, please feel free to contact me at bookings@epupafallslodge.com

 

Photographing the Himba

A Tough Question

I have always wondered how you ask someone, that doesn’t understand a word of what you are saying, to pose for you. For free. As the person being asked to pose, this must be really awkward? I mean, how would you feel if you are sitting watching CSI New York, and here walks in Mr & Mrs Tourist, snapping away… I don’t think I’d be too impressed. And yet, somehow, there are thousands of people who just assumes it as their right to take photos of the Himba – or any other African tribe for that matter.

Is there a right way?

I am a huge fan of Christopher Rimmer’s work (https://christopherrimmer.com/spirits-speak-exhibition/) and have often wondered how he does it. Then, I learned that he takes a local guide with him to help with translation etc and spends hours with his subjects. In using a guide, one subjects oneself to the rules set by the specific tribe. The Himba for instance, prefers to receive food and beads for being photographed. Using a guide and obeying to the rules of the said tribe or village, amounts to quite a few bucks and very few people want to pay for the right to photograph the traditions of a tribe. But again – wouldn’t you also want to be paid?

On this note, I have to add, that I don’t think paying with sweeties is a fair trade. This has not only lead to a nation addicted to sugar, but also to a lot of begging. Ever noticed all those little kids begging for sweeties (or even money) whenever you pass through a village? This is not part of the African culture. This is a classic case of the foreigner attempting to please without considering the long-term effects.

mariette du toit

Unfortunately the whole “Pay for a Photo” also has a downside. Not too long ago we visited Etosha National Park and upon entering the park, I wanted to take a photo of the entrance gate. Incidentally a group of Himba ladies were sitting there, trying to sell their goods. As soon as they noticed my camera, they started screaming at me – apparently I needed to pay to take their photo. Now what?

Firstly I think this behavior is as a result of either being photographed once and paid an exorbitant fee or the result of never being asked for permission to be photographed. Like with everything in life, once we recognise something as a source of income, we can, if not trained, milk our source until it runs dry. And these Himba ladies, I strongly suspect, were in it for the latter.

mariette du toit

How to go about photographing traditional tribes?

Never, as in never, attempt to visit a traditional tribe without a local guide. It doesn’t matter if you are from the same continent or country, if you are not part of that tribe you are a foreigner. You cannot begin to understand their traditions – no matter the amount of books you have read. A guide will help you get a glimpse of the true side of the tribe you are visiting and also translate what your reason for visiting is. Always try to and find a local guide who is one of the tribe or village you are visiting.

If you are staying at a lodge or camp in the area, ask if they offer a guided tour. If you are more than just a tourist, specify your interest so that they can cater for that. For example, a photographer will need to spend much more time with the people than a tourist. A photographer will also need different permissions and therefore be willing to pay more.

Never undervalue the service or privilege that the tribe / village offers you. Put yourself in their shoes and ask yourself how much do you think you are worth.

Conclusion

During my last visit at Epupa, I had the opportunity to photograph two Himba girls. Though they agreed and offered to sit in different poses – I was really uncomfortable. I kept wondering how I would feel if I was in their shoes. Remember to always respect your subjects. Ask their permission and pay them accordingly. Respect comes a long way. Not just for you, but for every photographer that will follow in your shoes.

Disclaimer:

The above is merely my, (Mariëtte du Toit) own opinions and does not represent the views of a lodge or group of people.