Waterberg Plateau National Park
Waterberg Plateau National Park was established as a habitat-friendly place to bring rare and endangered species, and it has worked. Rarities introduced or re-introduced in this 156-squaremile (400-km2) park include sable and roan antelope, white and black rhinos, buffalo, steenboks, elands, red hartebeest, blue wildebeest, and impalas. All are thriving. So are wild dogs, cheetahs, tsessebes.
No wonder. Waterberg—the name means “hill of water”—has plentiful rainfall which is stored in the aquifer-like character of its brick-red sandstone. It then flows down to springs at the plateau’s base, where frogs as well as plants have evolved independently from the surrounding area. This water is then pumped to the top to fill boreholes and ponds.
This water system with varied soils and elevations makes possible habitat ranges accommodating a great variety of flora and fauna.
The healthy grazing population attracts predators such as leopards—this is one of the best places in Africa to see these elusive spotted cats. There are also black-backed jackals, caracals, and a large and diverse bird population—more than 200 species, including black eagles, pallid flycatchers, hornbills, rockrunners, and short-toed rock thrushes.
Cliffs that rise 500 feet (150 m) above the surrounding bush-savannah are the only known Namibian breeding site for booted eagles. They also support a large population of peregrine falcons, whose main prey is the swifts, primarily Bradfield’s and cliff-dwelling alpine swifts but also smaller ones, which ascend in dense flocks each morning.
On the plateau’s western side is Namibia’s only breeding colony of Cape vultures, which enjoy (or seem to) effortlessly gliding on the early morning air thermals.
Barred owls and freckled nightjars call at night, usually audible from the camp.
Stunning views are all around the plateau, where lush tropical vegetation includes colorful specialties such as silver terminalia trees, flame acacias, yellow-flowered wattles, and purple-blossomed Kalahari apple-leaf.
Best time is May–October dry season. Emphasis is on hiking, with camps and overnight huts for hikers—but there are also good short tracks for casual walkers. Terrain is rough, requiring special heavy-duty vehicles; the Ministry of Environment and Tourism operates tours.
ALSO OF INTEREST
Fish River Canyon claims to be second in size only to the Grand Canyon—in any case it is enormous and spectacular: 100 miles (161 km) long, 17 miles (27 km) wide, in places almost 1,800 feet (550 m) deep. Some rocks are more than 2.6 billion years old. Natural life includes birds around water holes, also (less visibly) klipspringers, mountain zebras, baboons, rock rabbits. Hiking trails can be arduous. Luxury resort accommodations available.
Wildlife populations at Kaudom Game Reserve have been called comparable to Etosha, with 64 mammal species, including herds of elephants, buffalo, giraffes, blue wildebeest, red hartebeest, tsessebes, roan antelopes, gemsbok, kudus, and elands, as well as large predators. This1,480-square-mile (3,800-km2) park in extreme northeast Namibia is one of the country’s most recent official reserves, with at present only sandy tracks and minimal visitor facilities.