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.

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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


Our Himba

Our Himba by Annemarie Coetzee

Every now and again a client comes along with a special or keen interest to photograph our nomadic Himba people. This can be a relatively easy task if you are happy to photograph the Himba in Swakopmund, or the Himba group that quickly dress as Himba when the tourists come… but this is not what we offer. We take our guests out to one of the only remaining ‘kraals’ in the area where they spend time learning about the Himba and also about the Alzheimer’s Dementia Project that we support. If we have guests that want to spend several days with the Himba, then we take them into the valley where the Himba still live as Himba with little or no western influences.

Below are some great photos taken by one of our guests in 2014. If you are interested in visiting us or learning about the Himba, please feel free to contact us.Himba

Ndjinaa through the eyes of Koos Verwey – owner of Epupa Falls Lodge

Living 25 years in Kaokoland gives one a certain insight that would not have been acquired in any other way. And so my story and knowledge of Ndjinaa starts 20 years ago.

From the beginning I made a point of getting to know chief Kapika who is the Himba headman of the area. Once, while visiting chief Kapika at his Omuramba (kraal) I noticed her. She wasn’t allowed near visitors but from time to time I caught a glimpse of her. As the years crawled on and I became more familiar with the inner workings of the Omuramba, I got to see a bit more of her – but always at a distance. I tried to enquire about her, but did not learn much. I knew something was wrong, but not having enough knowledge about the Himba, I could not put my finger on it.

I did not give up on her and I kept on trying to get closer to her. I was told that she was bewitched and should stay away. Although she could not speak coherently, I knew that she wasn’t mad. Through her eyes I could literally see her soul. The wires and chains bounding her to whatever post the Himba could find could not break her spirit. Beneath the filth and dirt, the true woman was lurking; waiting.

But my lack of knowledge prevented me from intervening. I simply had no idea what was wrong. Too make matters more delicate, she was the sister of chief Kapika. I did not want to strain the very sensitive relationship between us. I only knew that everyone in the village was afraid of her and that they avoided her at all cost. I also knew that she was fed like a dog with only a bit of water and food. In days of draught, she was the last one to be fed.

The years passed and then my path crossed with Berrie Holtzhausen – an old school friend of mine from back in the seventies. I had no idea that upon meeting him, that freedom was in sight for this spirited lady. When I took Berrie to visit chief Kapika in October 2012, I still had no vision of the road before us. I did not, for one moment, think that she would be freed and would be given a chance to live like a real person.

Afterwards, back on the deck at my place, Berrie explained to me the symptoms of dementia. It was clear; Ndjinaa had dementia and was very far from being bewitched. We brainstormed throughout that Sunday afternoon. In November 2012, Berrie returned and we went to see chief Kapika about his sister. I was worried that he would take our plans the wrong way, but he completely surprised us and agreed that Berrie could come back and take the chains off Ndjinaa and arrange for caretakers at his Omuramba.

Berrie returned on 12 December 2012 and in a very emotional moment, cut the chains from Ndjinaa’s feet. She was given a bath and clean clothes to wear. When she came out from behind the bush, walking upright – my heart jumped – she was human again. Her spirit was set free.

On the evening of 31st December 2012, I invited chief Kapika’s village to our campsite here at the Epupa Falls for the yearly party. As the evening progressed and the party got livelier, I took Ndjinaa onto the dance floor. For a few moments the whole village came to their feet, in awe. Ndjinaa was reborn. A moment engraved on my mind.

For the first time in a very long time, she eats properly. She sleeps on a mattress and walks with the caretakers. Nobody is scared of her and the children of the village plays around her. Her own children are proud of her. To see her as one of the Omuramba, is incredibly special.

Not too long ago, I met up with a famous missionary here in Kaokoland. He knew about Ndjinaa and after I told him her story, he asked me: “What medicine are you giving her?” I smiled and said: “Love and proper care.” He was astonished and could not believe me.

Working with dementia in an African culture is a minefield. There are no handbooks to help us on this learning curve. Ndjinaa is the first person to come from the African bush with Alzheimer’s. The first, on my long road here in Kaokoland. I came to love this woman. Through her so many more gates have opened for me. Her story deepens and enriches my life.