Etendeka Mountain Camp is one of the gems in the Big Sky Lodges offerings and also offers two incredible hiking trail camps dramatically set in the foothills of the Grootberg massif.
This award-winning eco-friendly camp bears testimony to her many riches with the emphasis here being on nature itself. Etendeka Mountain Camp has been designed to fit into the landscape both aesthetically and environmentally. Etendeka was one of the 1st Namibian lodges to receive the full Five Flower Award from the Namibian Eco-Awards for its commitment to reducing the footprint on the sensitive environment in which it operates.
Dennis Liebenberg has been at Etendeka since the early 1990s and established the camp in the middle of a very dry period, so he has learnt the hard way. That meant he needed to be clever to create a sustainable environment and make sure they could harness all the natural elements of the area to make Etendeka Mountain Camp work like a well-oiled machine.
“We are fortunate to have natural springs that support the wildlife with drinking water. In order not to take a rare resource away from the area it was imperative that we use as little water as possible…” explained Dennis. One of the many special things about Etendeka is its famous bucket showers. You use the pulley lever and the bucket comes down where you can fill it with water at a temperature to your liking, and then raise it up above you again. Having a shower like this in the middle of Africa is such a pleasure – and you will be surprised at just how long a bucket of water actually lasts!
Etendeka is completely off the grid due to its remote location and they have proven that the natural elements of the area can be harnessed to make sure all the needs of the staff and guests are met without fault.
“I have used solar power for 32 years for water, heating, lights and communications and we use fires and bottled gas for cooking. The first solar systems we installed in 1991 and upgraded in 1999. They are still going strong, even the laundry works off solar as well.” says Dennis.
Another big environmental factor that they have worked on over the years is the elimination of invasive alien plants. They have two that they have been pulling out by hand over the years. The Caster Oil bush and a very aggressive and tough plant called Flaveria. In the past six years, they have seen only a few individual plants sprouting in the rainy season.
Recently Dennis received a call from MEFT Senior Forester, Leevi Nanyeni to ask if they would be happy to be the custodians of 54 Elephant Foot plants (Adenia Pechuellii). These plants had been confiscated by law enforcement officers, their origin being north of Puros in the far northwest of Namibia. They are desert plants that have a strange growth form and a big base with finger-like green stems.
Another conservation project that has been supported by the Etendeka Concession recently is the protection of the last remaining individuals of the Ringwood Tree (Marua Schinzii). These are one of two species that used to be common in the Palmwag and Etendeka concessions and in the whole of the North- West of Namibia and far into the desert. Through over-browsing in the past 25 years the population has crashed. These are evergreen trees and winter flowering trees that along with the Shepherds Tree (Boschia Albitrunca), are used to support the large browsing animals and many insects through the dry period and deep into the desert.
Etendeka, together with their JV Conservancy partners, Omatendeka and Anabeb Conservancies, are committed to work together with a number of organizations, like Save the Rhino Trust, in order to protect all the rare and valuable species of animals and plants found in the area.
“So through various projects, we feel that we are promoting a positive conservation ethic, not only to visitors but also to our joint venture partners and all the people around us.” explains Dennis.
“This is my favourite place in the world,” says Boas Musaso who has been a guide at Etendeka for over a decade and is from the Anabeb Conservancy. His wife and sister also work at the camp. “This area has been the same for thousands of years and we want to keep it that way. It is a long-term relationship, that benefits us now and that will serve our children in the future.”
A detailed Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) has been incorporated in the joint venture agreement between the operator, Etendeka Lodge Company, and the community represented by Omatendeka and Anabeb Conservancies, detailing how the land should be utilized and protected. With a large percentage of Namibia’s wildlife living outside of National Parks, on private land and on concessions like Etendeka, managing the Human-Wildlife Conflict is an important aspect of sustainable conservation. Etendeka has no fences and wildlife moves in and out of this 50 000 ha piece of wilderness depending on the season and the availability of food and water.
At Etendeka, one is reminded that we are all guests of Mother Nature.