Waterberg Plateau National Park, Namibia

Waterberg Plateau National Park – As if highlighting their invulnerability, this location stands as the exclusive breeding ground for Cape vultures in Namibia, safeguarded by the vigilant presence of Verreaux’s (black) eagles. It’s a remarkable and awe-inspiring sight to behold.

With a history dating back around 200 million years, the sandstone core of the plateau bears ancient dinosaur footprints, etching its prehistoric legacy. Open grasslands and rich woodlands intersect with deep ravines, while springs at the foot of the escarpment sustain the surrounding plains.

A diverse array of antelope, ranging from the majestic eland to the tiny Damara dik-dik, thrives in this secluded haven. The reintroduction of white rhinos, as well as the presence of roan and sable antelope, adds to the sanctuary’s biodiversity. Amidst the classic leopard habitat, both cheetahs and brown hyenas vie for their share of the bounty.

Waterberg stands out among Namibian national parks due to the restriction on self-driving. Guided morning and afternoon drives, including cultural visits to Herero villages, are available. However, the plateau primarily caters to hikers. There are marked trails offering a gentle introduction to the terrain, but for avid hikers, the highlight lies in the exceptional three- or four-day wilderness trails.

Bird enthusiasts will find themselves captivated, as Waterberg hosts over 200 bird species. Additionally, a poignant feature is the military cemetery, a somber reminder of the German casualties from the 1904 Battle of Waterberg against the Herero people.

Yet, above all, Waterberg provides an opportunity for visitors to explore this unique destination at their own pace. It’s a place where one can immerse themselves in innate natural beauty, harmonizing with the surroundings and experiencing the tranquility of this remarkable landscape.

Flora and Fauna

Waterberg National Park, despite its relatively small size, boasts a rich tapestry of diverse environments. The plateau’s summit features a blend of wooded areas, primarily broadleaved deciduous forests, interspersed with expansive grasslands. Descending to the foothills and flats near the escarpment’s base reveals a dominance of acacia bushes, scattered amidst evergreen trees and lush undergrowth, especially around the springs on the southern side. This varied landscape contributes significantly to the park’s ability to sustain a wide array of wildlife.

The park actively participates in various conservation initiatives, playing a pivotal role in relocating endangered species such as white rhinos, roan and sable antelopes, aiming to establish viable breeding populations. These additions complement the existing game, which includes species like giraffes, kudus, leopards, brown hyenas, cheetahs, and, as reported, wild dogs.

Waterberg boasts an impressive avian population, with over 200 species documented. Notably, the magnificent Verreaux’s (black) eagles and Namibia’s sole breeding colony of Cape vultures stand out. However, conservation efforts by REST (Rare and Endangered Species Trust) are vital due to a recent decline in raptor numbers. Environmental changes and increased use of farm poisons, intentionally or inadvertently through fertilizers and pesticides, have contributed to this decline. To support these imposing raptors, a novel approach involves a “vulture restaurant” open once a week, on Wednesday mornings, where prepared carcasses are left out to encourage their feeding.

Things to do

Waterberg National Park stands out in Namibia due to its unique regulation disallowing self-driving within the park premises. Visitors must either hike or join one of the park’s organized drives accompanied by their driver/guides.

Enthusiastic hikers often pre-book excellent wilderness trails. For those without prior bookings, the camp area offers well-marked trails, some leading up to a lookout point on the plateau.

The organized drives, lasting approximately three hours, operate in the morning and late afternoon, focusing on touring the plateau to spot game and visit permanent waterholes and hides. Although the guidance is usually commendable and sightings of rare sable and roan antelopes are possible, the thicker bush and lower game densities compared to places like Etosha can lead to some visitors finding the game-viewing experience underwhelming. An alternative for the committed enthusiast is to join the morning trip onto the plateau, disembark at a hide, and spend the day observing wildlife. Visitors should carry provisions like food, water, and reading material but can return to the camp with the afternoon drive.

Organized nature or cultural tours are also available, where a guide accompanies visitors in their vehicle. These tours typically last three to four hours and include visits to a traditional Herero village, community centers, or schools, providing an opportunity to sample local cuisine.

A side road between the reception and restaurant leads to a war cemetery honoring German soldiers killed in the Waterberg Battle during the 1904 Herero uprising led by Chief Samuel Maharero. Notably, there are no similar memorials commemorating the Herero.

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