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Gondwana Collection Namibia congratulates the NTB (Namibia Tourism Board) and MET (Ministery of Environment and Tourism) for bringing the 2013 Adventure Travel World Summit to Namibia!

Below you can read the official press release by the Adventure  Travel Trade Association:

Seattle, WA – For its 10th Adventure Travel World Summit, the Adventure Travel Trade Association (ATTA) has selected Namibia – one of the few countries in the world with conservation and environmental management mandated in its Constitution – to host the 2013 Adventure Travel World Summit (ATWS) set for 26-31 October in Swakopmund and Windhoek, the first time the ATTA has placed its global gathering in Africa.

The Adventure Travel World Summit has become the industry’s marquee event for networking, discussion and collaboration around industry best practices and global tourism issues affecting adventure travel. For 2013, the ATTA will introduce a new Summit format for its 600 delegates, which will occur over a five-day period, including in-field sessions in real-world situations providing unprecedented learning experiences in a destination whose stark challenges are shared by many other destinations worldwide.

“In Chiapas, Mexico, at the 2011 Adventure Travel World Summit, Namibia boldly said, ‘let us bring the Summit home’,” said the Honorable Minister of Environment and Tourism Netumbo Nandi-Ndwitah. “Today I am happy to report that the efforts of our strong public-private partnership have resulted in Namibia being chosen as the FIRST African country to host the Summit.  We are justly proud of our tourism industry and our conservation initiatives that have made this selection possible.”

In selecting Namibia, the ATTA in part is recognizing the developing nation’s achievements in becoming one of the world’s most progressive destinations working to find the most effective balance between conservation, tourism and community development.

“Namibia offers one of the most compelling success stories in tourism today, one of joint venture tourism and partnerships between communal conservancies and tourism enterprises,” said ATTA President Shannon Stowell, who returned from Namibia in June 2012. “Namibia’s model of conservancies, joint venture partnerships and conservation is a model that we should put on display. It’s a story that should be told.  I’d previously heard the discussions, watched the films and I still didn’t understand it fully it until I came and saw it in action. Our delegates are sure to gain immense insights from their experiences in Namibia.”

Namibia, a nation committed to ensuring tourism benefits reach everyone, has a proactive community tourism policy and recently gave tourism concession rights to communities that border state protected areas. Namibia also is a nation committed to conservation and has, since its independence in 1990, expanded from 13% to an outstanding 42% of land area under some form of conservation management. Furthermore, Namibia recently established the largest national park in Africa, and is the only country in the world with an entirely protected coastline.

“As Namibians we are ready for the challenge of hosting the Summit and are thrilled to welcome the Adventure Travel Tribe to the land of endless horizons where wildlife and humans are free to roam and still experience true nature,” added the Honorable Minister. “Together with the ATTA and the overall Adventure Travel Trade, Namibia is ready to showcase to the world the spirit and essence of a nation committed to conservation, community empowerment and social and economic transformation through partnerships and innovation.”

The ATTA’s Summit conferences engage and energize the leaders of the adventure travel community with networking, business and professional development programs, educational seminars and emerging adventure destination product review opportunities. In addition to the keynotes, a cadre of experts covering core business disciplines of the adventure tourism industry will deliver two key content tracks over the course of three days, one designed primarily for adventure tour operators and the other primarily for tourism boards.

Registration for the 2013 ATWS will open September 17, 2012, at www.adventuretravelworldsummit.com.

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This morning, Wednesday 15th of August 2012, the small town of Aus in the south of Namibia awoke to a unusual weather phenomenon. It was snowing!

Have a look at the pictures below taken by Piet Swiegers owner of the Desert Horse Inn in Aus:

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To read more about the town of Aus, follow this link: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Aus,_Namibia

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Defying the elements, Felsenkirche (the Church on the Rock) has been overlooking the small harbour town of Lüderitz for exactly 100 years.

The German evangelical church in Lüderitzbucht. Source: 25 Jahre deutsche evangelische Kirche Lüderitzbucht, p. 20 (DELK/ELKIN archive, photo: J.C. Hubrich)

The church is an architectural gem, built onto the granite of Diamantberg (Diamond Hill). Whether the patrons wanted to express that the Christian church is based on the belief in Jesus Christ as firm as a rock is subject to guessing. Probably Saint Peter the Apostle also acted as godfather when Felsenkirche was given its name, because Peter is derived from the Greek word ‘petros’ which means rock or stone.

When Felsenkirche was consecrated on 4 August 1912, Lüderitz was a thriving little town of some 1,100 white inhabitants, most of them German. Diamonds had been discovered four years earlier during construction work on the narrow gauge railway line to Keetmanshoop. Since then Lüderitz had rapidly developed from a modest settlement with a few barracks into a rather prosperous town with a flourishing commercial harbour. Diamond mining increasingly turned into an industry, fortune hunters flooded into the country and Kolmanskuppe was built close to Lüderitz as a result of the diamond rush.

At the foundation assembly of the Evangelical Lutheran congregation on 10 May 1909 the 42 parishioners confirmed their membership in writing. In the months which followed there were heated discussions about the costs of building a church for themselves until the opponents finally gave in to the advocates of the construction project. The church was to become the colonial congregation’s refuge in Lüderitz. On 19 November 1911 the first stone was laid with a ceremony and a prayer service: “(…) We are building this house of worship to bear witness that we have not forgotten what our prosperity and our fortune is based on; that we are aware of our responsibility to provide a haven for the sons and daughters of the German home country where heart and soul look for tranquillity and are able to find peace in God (…).” (Rust, p. 15)

The church was designed and built by German architect Albert Bause. Shortly before laying of the first stone he was instructed to save costs by reducing the overall height of the church and keeping the interior somewhat smaller. Despite the saving efforts Felsenkirche turned out as a formidable building with seating for 140 worshippers. This church has a natural air of exaltedness about it because you always look up at it from below, no matter from which side you approach.

The architectural style is neo-gothic with Victorian elements which Albert Bause probably became familiar with while living in Cape Town before moving to German South West Africa. Total construction costs amounted to 46,000 Goldmark.

A large part of the costs was covered by donations, mostly from Germany, which Pastor Alexander Metzner gratefully acknowledged in his consecration service 100 years ago. By then, within just two years, his congregation had increased to 800 members. “Associations and private individuals have generously provided for us. […] How richly the interior of our house of God is furnished; […] each single piece of the furnishings represents experienced brotherly and sisterly love, from the precious gifts of German princes and benevolent friends of considerable means to the donations which accumulated from small amounts.” (Sörries, p. 38)

Some of these gifts can still be admired in the windswept church today: the large stained-glass window at the altar, portraying ‘Jesus calming the storm’, was donated by Emperor William II. His spouse, Empress Augusta Victoria – colloquially nicknamed Church-gusta – because of her dedication to working for the church – sent a valuable, richly ornamented altar bible with a personal inscription to the faraway colony in southern Africa.    The stained-glass triptych Luther window was donated by Prince Joachim Albrecht of Mecklenburg. At the time he was president of the German Colonial Society which in turn had donated the site for the church.

The generous donors not only provided material support with their gifts but also spiritual support for the colonialists’ difficult mission. Living conditions in the thriving harbour town wedged between the desert and the ocean were tough. Either the sun beat down relentlessly or a storm was howling, flies were a pest and so were sand fleas. In a letter which Pastor Metzner wrote in connection with construction work on the parsonage in 1910 he mentioned that conditions were “the most awkward imaginable,” especially for children. “No water, no milk and subsequently a high rate of child mortality. And given the exorbitant prices a family with many children simply would not be able to make it here (…).” (Kauffenstein, p. 79)

Even though the congregation still had to pinch and scrape, congregational life began to flourish. Soon enough it all came to a sudden end, however, when the First World War broke out in 1914 and German South West Africa was invaded by South African troops. The German colonial troops were outnumbered by far and capitulated in July 1915. Administration of the former German colony was taken over by the Union of South Africa.

The pastor and the congregation were deported, most of them lost all their belongings. Part of Felsenkirche was ransacked. On his return in 1919 the pastor pressed charges for church robbery which came to nothing, however. That year the congregational council took stock and concluded that “as a result of repatriations the congregation suffered considerable losses in membership numbers. Numerous churchgoing public servants as well as many families and bachelors left the country either by force or on their own account. Rampant influenza has inflicted more losses on the congregation.” (Kauffenstein 1983, p. 82)

From 1920 diamond mining shifted further south and Lüderitz increasingly lost its significance as a commercial centre. The town had a modest fishing industry and several boat builders’ yards. There were also a few small carpet weaving mills which used the wool of Karakul sheep, then termed the ‘black gold’ of Namibia’s south. Despite these changes Felsenkirche maintained its exalted position as the landmark of Lüderitz. It witnessed the resistance that the pastor and the church council put up against the instructions received from the National Socialists in Germany, and how the congregation helped internees during the Second World War. Felsenkirche was declared a National Monument on 21 September 1978.

These days the German Evangelical-Lutheran congregation in Lüderitz has some 50 members and is part of the congregation in Swakopmund. A church service is held once a month. The centenary will be celebrated on 19 August.

Felsenkirche is open to visitors once a day for an hour before sunset (16h30-17h30 in winter, 17h30-18h30 in summer). Late in the afternoon the atmosphere is at its best when the setting sun is flooding through the precious stained-glass windows and illuminates the church with glorious light.

The Gondwana History series is a selection of memorable glimpses of Namibia’s history. Collections of the stories are also published as several small volumes in English, German and Afrikaans. The latest one, Gondwana History III, is available since early June at the offices of the Gondwana Collection in Klein Windhoek (42 Nelson-Mandela-Avenue), all the Gondwana lodges and in bookshops.

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The meteorite on the farm Hoba, some 20 km west of Grootfontein.

The meteorite on the farm Hoba, some 20 km west of Grootfontein.

“Beware of falling meteorites.” The warning on a sign next to the way to the meteorite on the farm Hoba, some 20 km west of Grootfontein, is a joke of course. It is almost 80,000 years since a meteorite last fell from the sky and hit this spot. But there is a grain of truth in the banter: according to estimates earth is hit by approximately 500 meteorites per year. Most of them are rather small, however, their size ranging from that of a glass marble to that of a basketball, and for the most part they go unnoticed. The Hoba meteorite, on the other hand, is a chunky fragment weighing tons. It is likely to have caused a violent tremor when it crashed into the ground…. Click here to continue reading this story

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Kalahari’s sands harbour unusual treasure. The Devil’s Claw is one such gem, known to indigenous people for centuries for its medicinal properties. Although its name stems from the claw-like hooks of the thorny fruit, it is the secondary tubers of the Harpagophytum procumbens that are harvested for their analgesic and anti-inflammatory properties.

Devil's Claw, issued in 2005, artist: Anja Denker

Devil’s Claw, issued in 2005, artist: Anja Denker

One of Namibia’s most famous plants, Devil’s Claw, called Kamangu by many ethnic groups, is known traditionally as an all-purpose tonic, assisting with ailments such as chest pains, emaciation, weakness, fatigue, urinary problems, digestive disorders and fever. The infusion is also taken as an analgesic, especially during pregnancy, and an ointment is applied to heal sores, ulcers and boils. It has become well-known in the western world in the last fifty years as a treatment for rheumatism and arthritis.

The creeping perennial with grey-green leaves and tubular mauve flowers that appear from November onwards is endemic to southern Africa, growing predominantly in the Kalahari sands of Namibia, Botswana and South Africa. It belongs to the Pedaliaceae family. The fruit is dispersed by attaching to animals’ fur and the seeds may remain dormant for decades. The cassava-like secondary roots are sliced and dried for medicinal purposes. Traditionally, an infusion is made by mixing the powdered material with boiling water. Capsules, tablets, tinctures and ointments are also now available.

In the 1950s, the medicinal value of Harpagophytum was recognised by a German farmer in Namibia and the first major commercial export of Devil’s Claw began in the 1960s. The international demand increased in the 1990s. Today, Namibia is responsible for a large percentage of the supply of Devil’s Claw, which is mostly wild-harvested by rural people. Devil’s Claw was listed as a protected species in Namibia in 1977 and permits are required to harvest and import the plant. Thousands of harvesters living in remote rural areas rely on the harvesting of Devil’s Claw as their sole cash income.

Leaves, blossoms and thorny fruits of the Devil's Claw. Photo: Wikipedia/CITES Secretariat (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Harpagophytum)

Leaves, blossoms and thorny fruits of the Devil’s Claw. Photo: Wikipedia/CITES Secretariat (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Harpagophytum)

A large amount of Devil’s Claw is harvested in the Nyae Nyae Conservancy in eastern Namibia. The conservancy works closely with the Ministry of Environment and Tourism to ensure the sustainability of Devil’s Claw. In the last few years, NGO funding enabled the Nyae Nyae Development Foundation of Namibia (NNDFN) to work with the Centre for Research Information Action in Africa – Southern African Development and Consulting (CRIAA SA-DC) to introduce and implement a sustainable harvesting programme. This also ensures quality of the product and prevents exploitation of the harvesters.

There is concern that Devil’s Claw is threatened by over-utilisation. Studies reveal a need for harvesting to be controlled and restricted to certain months of the year, so as not to disturb the plant during the growing season. It has also been ascertained that although the secondary tubers can be harvested, the primary tap roots must not be disturbed to allow plant regeneration and population growth, ensuring Devil’s Claw survival. Harvesting quotas and long-term monitoring of this valuable resource, which lies so unassumingly on the desert sands, are also recommended.

Resembling a weed, Devil’s Claw could easily be overlooked without its beneficial properties ever being realised. Thanks to indigenous peoples, like the San, we have been made aware of the untold treasures of the natural world.

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Among the people of Namibia various musical bows are known. Basic types include one-stringed, unbraced bows without a resonator, such as the ancient hunting bow, which is also used as a musical instrument; secondly, single-stringed, unbraced bows with a notched stave without a resonator; unbraced musical bows with a resonator; braced, mouth-resonated bows and lastly braced bows with a resonator. The okambulumbumbwa of the AaNdonga, which is also played by the HaMbukushu, BaYeyi and OvaZemba, forms part of the last group of musical bows.
Okambulumbumbwa (musical bow) player at Ondangwa airport (1975). Photo: Antje Otto, Collection National Museum of Namibia

Okambulumbumbwa (musical bow) player at Ondangwa airport (1975). Photo: Antje Otto, Collection National Museum of Namibia

The curved bow is made from a branch of the omuhongo tree (Spirostachys africana), while the string is made from sinew or wire. The bow and the string are braced together by a small piece of string whereby the string is pulled closer to the bow stave and is divided into two lengths. The resonator, which usually consists of a hollow calabash, is fastened in the center of the bow or closer to one side. It has a large hole on the one side and a tiny hole on the other, through which it is fastened to the bow. A small cloth pad is sometimes placed between the bow and the calabash to prevent rattling. A cracked calabash resonator can be mended by neatly drilling holes along the crack and sewing over the crack with sinew.

When played, the bow is usually held horizontally with the string facing away from the player. The bow stave and the open end of the resonating chamber are pressed firmly against the chest with the left hand while the string is played by striking it with a stalk of omaoloolo grass or a small wooden stick held in the right hand. Pressing the string with the first finger produces different tones, while the thumb nail works as a stop. Increasing or decreasing the pressure of the calabash against the chest can also change tones. By moving the brace slightly with the small finger ‘fine-tuning’ is achieved. The okambulumbumbwa is played by men only and is always used singly, accompanying a deep vocal drone produced by the player. Three or four different notes can be played on the instrument, and the rhythm can also vary. Although the sound is not very loud, it can be heard some distance away.

 Okambulumbumbwa, issued in 1985, artist: Jacobus Johannes 'Koos' van Ellinckhuijzen


Okambulumbumbwa, issued in 1985, artist: Jacobus Johannes ‘Koos’ van Ellinckhuijzen

Musical bows are often handed down from one generation to the next and old instruments are today highly prized. The National Museum of Namibia possesses one example of the okambulumbumbwa, which was collected by Sybil Bowker during the 1920s.

Another musical bow, played by women, is the so-called okayaya. The bow of the instrument is shaped like a hacksaw and it has notches cut into it. The string usually consists of a piece of palm leaf which is secured at the one end to the bow by a knot, while the other end is wound around the protruding point of the bow stave a few times until the tension is correct. During a culture festival in 1976 it was observed that the player had wound the end of the palm leaf around her thumb instead. The bow is played with a small stick, which is scraped across the notches. The mouth serves as resonator.

An unusual musical instrument, the so-called ekola, was only known from the AaKwanyama, where it was played by medicine men. It consisted of two or four hollow calabashes, which were glued together in sequence from big to small to form the resonating chamber. The largest calabash had a hole at the top. A curved stick of palm rib, which was notched, extended over the length of the calabashes. The sound was produced by rubbing across the notches with a short thick stick and a bundle of long very thin sticks alternately. Before 1940, the National Museum of Namibia managed to obtain a fine example of the ekola, consisting of four calabashes, which unfortunately became damaged. Another example with two calabashes can be viewed in the Swakopmund Museum. Other musical instruments used among the AaWambo include the big and smaller drums carved from wood of the omunghete tree, lamellophones, kudu horns blown during rites as well as gourd and ankle rattles.

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The black eagle or Verreaux’s eagle, as it’s officially called, is one of four large African eagle species – the others being the martial eagle, crowned eagle and our national bird, the African fish eagle – each specializing in a different ecosystem.

Black Eagle. Photo: Jutta Luft, Wikipedia

Black Eagle. Photo: Jutta Luft, Wikipedia

This king of the skies inhabits mountains, hills, cliffs and broken rocky habitats throughout southern and eastern Africa, from Table Mountain to Israel, excluding the Kalahari basin. There are about 500 to 1000 pairs of black eagles in Namibia, from the cliffs of the Orange and Fish rivers and the Karas Mountains in the south through the western escarpment belt, the Khomas Hochland, the Waterberg, Kaokoveld and to the Kunene River in the north.

Verreaux’s eagle, Aquila verreauxii, has a wingspan of about 2 m and like most birds of prey (‘raptors’) the female (±4.5 kg) is larger than the male (±3.7 kg). One of the reasons for this may be because smaller males are more agile and proficient hunters, while females need a good supply of body fat reserves to incubate eggs and brood small nestlings for long periods.

The eagle’s main prey is the rock hyrax or dassie. In some areas where hyrax are plentiful and readily accessible they may comprise 90% or more of the eagle’s diet while in other areas they comprise as little as 50%, with other medium sized mammals (e.g. hares, rabbits, small antelopes) and medium to large birds (e.g. guineafowl, francolin and bustards) making up the balance. Verreaux’s eagle will also scavenge. It sits imperiously on top of a carcass which, if it is a sheep, leads farmers to assume that the eagle killed the animal.

Seven such incidents were investigated with farmers and in six it was found that the sheep died of other causes, mainly predation by domestic dogs, birth problems or disease. In the 1970s and early 1980s farmers in the Karas Mountains, because of perceptions of small-stock predation, largely eliminated Verreaux’s eagles from the area. This resulted in an explosion of rock hyrax, which ventured out far from their rocky areas over the plains where they competed with small-stock for grazing. (Twelve hyrax eat the same amount of grass as one karakul sheep.) Once the Karas farmers understood this they started protecting Verreaux’s eagles and today the Karas Mountains once again supports a healthy population of this magnificent eagle.

Aquila verreauxii (Black Eagle), issued in 1975, artist: Dick Findlay

Aquila verreauxii (Black Eagle), issued in 1975, artist: Dick Findlay

The nest is a large stick platform lined with green leaves, usually built high on a ledge on a sheer cliff face, safe from baboons. Verreaux’s eagles are monogamous, forming lifelong pair bonds, and are territorial, defending their home range. Breeding starts in late April and May with spectacular courtship flights and displays. The peak egg-laying season in Namibia is June and most clutches comprise two eggs. The eggs usually hatch 2-3 days apart after an incubation period of 45 days.

On hatching, one of the most interesting biological events takes place. The first chick to hatch, which is larger and more developed, attacks the second in what has become known as the Cain and Abel struggle. Reasons suggested for this are that the second egg serves as a reserve in case the first is infertile and that one fit young eagle has a better chance of surviving and ultimately rearing offspring than two less fit young eagles. The fledgling leaves the nest for the first time at about 95 days after hatching, and is chased from the territory about 30 days later.

Verreaux’s Eagle is listed as ‘Near Threatened’ on the Namibian Red Data list because of persecution from small-stock farmers and because it is vulnerable to the use of poison, usually set to kill mammalian predators of small-stock. It is a sad fact that, for every target species killed in this way, over a hundred non-target scavengers are poisoned, most of them vultures and scavenging eagles. Fortunately, because of the remote mountainous terrain in which they live, the population of Verreaux’s eagle in Namibia is stable.

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