In November 2016, Eddie Mudzimu, a manager at Ruckomechi Camp, realised a long-held dream – to visit Namibia and meet the OvaHimba people – after our Zambezi Region team decided to present him with an early Christmas gift!
It was always my dream to meet the OvaHimba people of Namibia and Angola in my lifetime so when an early Christmas gift was presented to me in the form of a trip to Namibia I eagerly undertook the long trip from Livingstone in Zambia to Namibia. From Windhoek it is a visually stunning three-hour light aircraft flight over the Kunene Region’s scenic mountains, hills, valleys and open areas (with barely any sign of life, but still spectacular) to Serra Cafema – considered by many to be the remotest camp in Africa.
A one-and-a-half hour Wilderness Air Cessna flight from Windhoek took me to Doro Nawas in Damaraland in north-western Namibia to refuel and pick up two other guests who were also going to Serra Cafema. Another 90 minute flight took us over spectacular areas of natural beauty and unsurpassed views of the rugged terrain formed by millions of years of geological activity: vivid brick-red sediment complemented by gray lava slopes, themselves punctuated by black fingers of frozen basaltic rock creeping down from the rocky horizon. Innumerable stones, great and tiny, interspersed with clumps of silvery-grey shrubs and pioneer grasses litter the unending slopes, hillsides and mountain faces.
A further 90-minute drive from the airstrip brought us to Serra Cafema Camp, an astonishingly different and dramatically-sited camp in the extreme northwest of Namibia on the Angolan border. What took my breath away as we came down a rocky pass through high sand dunes was my first glimpse of Serra Cafema and the sight of a river flowing in the desert. Built amid a grove of ancient albida trees on the banks of the Kunene River, here the nomadic Himba people share this area with Wilderness Safaris. The sound of the Kunene as she flows towards the ocean is very soothing and spiritually refreshing. The welcome in camp was beyond my imagination and I felt extremely honoured to be there. Determined to make the most of every minute of the time I had at Serra Cafema, I had just enough time for a quick shower and change of clothes and to get to the boat for my evening river cruise.
I had a sleepless night going over the next morning’s events: our trip to a nearby Himba village. I was a bit nervous as to how they would react, whether they would accept me, in particular, into their homesteads… for me, they were the entire reason for my trip. After breakfast we made our way to the nearby village and stopped briefly at a vacated homestead to learn about the culture and beliefs of the Himba, all of which I found absolutely fascinating.
Closer to the village we stopped for a briefing on how to interact and communicate with the Himba; my heart was still racing! After 30 minutes or so we drove into the village. Our guide Albert, though he is from Damaraland, could communicate with the locals we were visiting. The welcome we received helped so much to ease my fears and I found them to be a lovely and cheerful people. They just carried on doing what they do on a day-to-day basis. Despite the fact that I was visiting in my Wilderness Safaris uniform, the local Himba noticed something about me and asked who I was. Through our language barrier the guide explained who I was and after that it was all smiles as we interacted, Albert interpreting for me and the other guests, and this lovely family.
I had plenty to learn and was amazed by their lifestyle, and especially how they have remained strongly rooted to their culture and beliefs.
Driving back to camp, I could not help but marvel at what I had just experienced in the Himba village; it is almost beyond words to explain my feelings. Satisfaction, oh yes I felt that; awestruck, yes indeed I was awestruck beyond speech and just loved them; humility, of course I felt that… and also lots of respect.
The Himba left a lasting impression on my heart and mind. My trip was worth all the effort and I was very emotional; I left Serra Cafema with a heavy heart, wanting to stay just a little bit longer...
Written by Eddie Mudzimu, Wilderness Safaris Camp Manager, Ruckomechi Camp