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.

 

 

Epupa Falls Lodge | Child Friendly Facts

In light of a recent article whether Epupa Falls Lodge is child friendly or not – here are a few facts:

Epupa Falls Lodge has 5 twin chalets.

These chalets are big enough to allow for one additional stretcher. A stretcher is usually used while camping, but in our case, it allows for a comfortable bed without taking up too much space. However, we only allow children under 12 to make use of this facility. And only one child. If a family is bigger than 3, Epupa Falls Lodge requires the family to split up as the chalets are simply too small to allow for two additional stretchers. That said, if the fourth family member is an infant, we will provide a mattress or cot for the baby. Bedding is also provided for the stretcher and cot.

Any other types of accommodation available?

Other than the campsite where you have to supply your own tent, bed and bedding, no. But, this may change sooner than you think. So keep a close eye on the Epupa Falls Lodge Blog.

We are a family of 5? Can we stay in one chalet?

No, we will definitely need to split you up. I know, not ideal. But email me for more information and options as the split will depend on the ages of your children.

Can you add another bed and not a stretcher?

Unfortunately not. Not only do we not have extra beds, the chalets are simply too small for a third bed.

Epupa_Falls_Lodge_Chalet_Interior

 

Is Epupa Child Friendly?

When our little boy was about 11 months old we decided to be brave and take him along on our yearly trip to Epupa. Now first, any parent that travels with children be it babies, toddler or teens… you have my utmost respect. If you have a child that is a born reader – please share your secrets with me!

The road from Otjiwarongo to Epupa is about eight to ten hours – and we drive it in one go with the necessary pit stops in between. To keep a child happy for that amount of time, tied down in a car seat… well, it takes a lot of courage, prayer and conviction that this trip is going to be worth it.

As Epupa lies on the northern boundary of Namibia, it can be incredibly hot. We traveled in September, hoping for cooler weather, but instead we suffered a bit. Our little boy the most as heat is not something an eleven month old boy understands. We would have been better off leaving most of our clothes at home and bring along tons of water toys – as this is where our boy spent most of his time. We filled his bath every morning and he ended up spending most of his day there.

One our first afternoon at Epupa Falls Lodge, we walked to the waterfall view point. We were blessed with a rising river which meant that the water pushed into a small pool where our boy could safely play to his heart’s content. After the long day on the road, this was just what we needed. Perfect. Unfortunately the sluices closed again (The river is controlled by the dam at Ruacana and yet another dam in Angola) and we could not play in the river again. But we improvised and were rewarded for our efforts!

As our boy was still too small to hike with us, we had to split up and make turns to enjoy the scenery around the lodge. This mostly worked very well and when we felt like some family time, we drove the short distance up to the sundown hill overlooking Epupa where our little boy could safely play on the rocks while mom and dad enjoyed a much-needed cold beer.

The restaurant area is on stilts, and though there is a barrier surrounding the deck, a toddler can easily fall through. Children need to be kept under close supervision at all times. But the area between the chalets is perfectly save for children to play. In fact, there are few areas as save as just here. With most of the area covered in the shade of palm trees, the sun isn’t as fell here. The ground is also covered in sand from the river that allows for toddlers to play safely (and softly) and the area allows for ball games under supervision of an adult.

Would I go up to Epupa with our toddler again? Yes and yes. In fact, we are going up in July again, this time during the Namibian winter, hoping for cooler weather. This time around he can walk and run and we’ll probably face a whole different set of challenges but more on that after the trip. Would I recommend Epupa to other parents with children? Yes. Epupa Falls Lodge offers a great opportunity for kids to run around and play freely.

 

 

 

Kaokoland Tour | The End

Every now and then Koos, the owner of Epupa Falls Lodge, is talked into doing a safari. Whether it is a hiking safari or a driving safari, someone turns his pinky far enough to convince him this is the year!

In 2011 a group of friends (multiple-return-friends) convinced him to take them into Kaokoland. After many mails and phone calls, a tour was planned and they arrived by plane at Epupa.

And today we say good bye to a wonderful tour and even better memories. Have a good weekend chaps!

Kaokoland | Rare Findings

Every now and then Koos, the owner of Epupa Falls Lodge, is talked into doing a safari. Whether it is a hiking safari or a driving safari, someone turns his pinky far enough to convince him this is the year!

In 2011 a group of friends (multiple-return-friends) convinced him to take them into Kaokoland. After many mails and phone calls, a tour was planned and they arrived by plane at Epupa.

Over the next couple of days I will share the photos of one of the travelers with you as they drove through Kaokoland on tour with Koos.

As with the bugs, not all sighting are welcome. But, by the looks of these photos, certain people did enjoy seeing these well… snakes!

Photos | © Dieter – Epupa Falls Lodge

Tour Operator | Kaoko Himba Safaris