Meteorologically speaking, February was something of a waiting game. Change was imminent; we could feel it, and you could sense an urgency in the air. The Namib Desert is in many ways timeless, but it too can become impatient, and throughout the month you could almost sense a collective holding of breath… This breath started to be released towards the end of the month, a powerful exhalation that brought clouds into the sky – but no actual rain. Not until almost the end of the month did the waiting come to an end.
We woke to the alien yet welcome sound of raindrops on the morning of the 25th and rejoiced in delightfully cooler temperatures. The relentless sun of recent weeks was now covered by a thick layer of cloud, and the dunes had turned a darker colour as the sand soaked up the long-promised precipitation. The rain continued for the whole day and this was definitely not cricket as rain did not stop play – rather, the happiness and relief among all the human and animal and plant residents of Serra Cafema was visible in a certain exuberance of spirit, a playfulness, while the volume of rain was sufficient to cause the Kunene River to rise, as though from a long sleep as the desert awoke.
February saw some very special events at Serra Cafema, and the rain was not the only thing that descended from the sky to cause excitement here. On the 13th, a helicopter brought in an Electoral Commission team to ensure that all the staff members and people from the surrounding communities were registered to vote. The long arm of Namibian democracy reached out to this furthest corner of our country, and the central role that the camp plays in this remote district was brought home to us as Himba people from nearby villages began to gather from very early in the morning. They had their pictures taken and got their personal card to be able to vote in the future. This was an opportunity for our guests to spend some extra time with the local tribe and get more in touch with them. It was a different day at Serra Cafema, a day that no-one will forget.
The Himba are a proud pastoral people who have maintained the traditions of their arid homeland, whilst at the same time participating actively in the democratic process. They are perhaps some of the most distinctive people in southern Africa, with their dreadlocked hair and the red hue lent to their skin by the mixture of ochre and cow fat that they apply.
Serra Cafema is a place that steals many hearts, between the breathtaking scenery and the warmth of the people but this year we wanted to celebrate Valentine’s Day in a different way. With the light from a full moon shimmering on the river (astronomers have yet to fully explain why the moon looks bigger, brighter and more beautiful in Namibia than anywhere else on earth) we decided that the most romantic evening we could imagine would be a night boat cruise – with the opportunity to catch and release some of the Kunene crocodiles to add some extra bite to the occasion.
The guides succeeded in carefully catching three small crocs – reptiles whose presence in a desert many people find surprising – by using spotlights to identify the distinctive orange reflection of their eyes, and then gently (and gingerly) lifting them out of the water to show to the guests. Small crocodiles only have small teeth, it’s true, but they do have a lot of them!
Returning to camp after letting these lizards lounge again, we were lucky enough to spot an African wildcat stalking through the dunes in search of mice and other small prey. No red roses at Serra Cafema, but even after such an exciting evening, we all rose at dawn for a beautiful sunrise and the start to another day of anticipating, as the song says, waiting for the rain that never comes…
But come it did, with reflected light from the clouds giving us flaming sunsets the colour of a crocodile’s eye, and the raindrops giving us the promise of new life – much as the new electoral registration cards in each person’s hands give us the promise of change and growth in our beloved country.
"A wonderful few days in a magnificent environment. The staff could not have been more kind. A superb few days." David and Annette
"What a magnificent place. Thank you to all the staff here for looking after us so well. It has been an amazing experience and we hope to be back soon." Thank you! Julia and Richard
"We have found a beautiful place in Afrika. Many thanks to Alice and the whole team for the lovely work. We will remember the Serra Cafema Lodge for long time, especially the people. We wish you a healthy and lucky times! Thank you!" Prof Josef and Ute.
"We cannot find the right words to describe our 4 nights at Serra Cafema- a real joy. All the staff were welcoming, friendly and helpful. Gert was a fantastic guide and we learnt so much about Namibia. What a beautiful country. Peace, tranquillity and calm abound. We so enjoyed it all. A BIG, BIG THANK YOU to the whole team." Annie and Tony