Bushmanland in Namibia

Ins and outs

Some 57 km north of Grootfontein there is a turning east (C44) for Tsumkwe (222 km) and Khaudum Game Park. When you look at a road map of Namibia there is a large blank area in the northeast with very few roads or settlements. This is the region commonly known as Bushmanland. Like Kaokoland in Namibia's northwest, this is tough part of the country to travel in - you should not even consider exploring here unless you are familiar with 4WD in soft sand and off-road. There are no facilities for tourists and visitors must be completely self-sufficient: food, water, tents and so on must all be brought with you. There is no petrol available so you need to carry extra jerry cans of fuel. On Namibia's border with Botswana is the remote and little-visited Khaudum Game Park. Visitors to Khaudum should be in a convoy of at least two vehicles. Elsewhere in the region it would also make sense to travel with another vehicle.

Tsumkwe

Tsumkwe may be the regional administrative centre, and the largest settlement in the region, but it is no more than a crossroads with a ramshackle collection of shops, trading stores and bottle shops. You may find Bushman art for sale in stalls or small shops: ostrich egg bracelets and necklaces and colourful beaded bags are the most common items. If you plan to explore the area make sure you have sufficient fuel for your planned mileage. There is a police station and
Nature Conservation office
, which is useful for anyone travelling on to the Khaudum Game Park; the office will be able to advise on the condition of the roads and location of the wildlife. Look out for a large baobab tree close by. The options from here are to go east for 57 km on a sandy road to the remote border post with Botswana at Dobe (open 0700-1500), or head north 78 km to the unmanned gates of the Khaudum Game Park .

Nyae Nyae Conservancy

The Nyae Nyae Conservancy is 9003 sq km in size and stretches from about 30 km west of Tsumkwe and 55 km east to the Botswana border. From north to south it extends for about 100 km. It was registered in 1998, giving the Ju/'hoansi Bushmen the right to utilize the wildlife in the area by receiving the income from a hunting concession. The fewer than 1000 members of the conservancy (total number of Ju/'hoansi residing in the area are about 3000) receive US$10,000 a year from the concession. They may also hunt traditionally in the area. The WWF (Worldwide Fund for Nature) has sponsored the reintroduction of game such as eland, springbuck, blue wildebeest and oryx to increase game numbers.

The Ju/'hoansi have always lived in the Nyae Nyae area as well as across the border in Botswana, north in what is now the Khaudum Game Park, and south in what is now Hereroland. Archaeologists claim they've lived here for at least 40,000 years (ash from their fires have been found below the calcrete layer). Tsumkwe lies in the centre of the Nyae Nyae Conservancy, but is not part of the conservancy. This means that people from any language group can live in Tsumkwe, but not inside the conservancy borders. Since the 1950s the Ju/'hoansi have had contact with the outside world, and they no longer wear traditional clothes. They are also now settled in about 37 villages in the conservancy, each with its own borehole.

In recent years simple campsites have been developed close to these villages for tourists and visitors; you can camp here for a small fee which goes back into the local community. A few years ago you could camp for free anywhere in Bushmanland; these days this is discouraged and it's very important that the local people benefit from tourism to the region. Employment opportunities in the area are limited and most people don't have any income. They receive a yearly payment from the hunting concession and also earn money from the selling of crafts; those over 60 get a government pension. However, people still collect food and hunt game to supplement their modern diet of maize meal porridge.

If you are interested in learning about the Bushman culture - tracking, bush food, hunting and traditional dancing - you can enquire at the Nyae Nyae Conservancy Office. It can arrange a guide from the community. Always arrange payment before going on an outing; the office will give you an idea of fees. Expect to pay around US$10 per person for a guide on a short walk or US$3 per person for a demonstration of traditional dancing. Crafts are also usually for sale. If you do come into contact with the Bushmen communities be courteous at all times and respect their traditions. Tourism has only just started to find its way into this region, the first people who pass through must be careful to leave the right impressions.

This is edited copy from Footprint Handbooks. For comprehensive details (incl address, tel no, directions, opening times and prices) please refer to book or individual chapter PDF
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