I have dreamed about visiting Serra Cafema for the past 6 years and was so excited to finally reach this special destination on our trip. I could feel the excitement and anticipation from three of the other agents who had already visited Namibia but not yet reached the Kunene Region in the far northwest, bordering Angola. Our flight was delayed out of Desert Rhino Camp; however, this ended up being the best change because the late afternoon light created the most beautiful flight and drive into camp. If I thought our arrival to Desert Rhino Camp was remote, then the airstrip near Serra Cafema is on a different planet! Regardless of our remote location, we were greeted with snacks and champagne – nothing but the best!
Wilderness Safaris has installed a single flush toilet and sink with running water, which the guides told us were discovered by the local Himba women. They now stop at the toilet to “borrow” water from the sink instead of making the trek all the way down to the river for water – genius! I can only imagine the surprise of the first Himba woman who discovered the freestanding bathroom and how the women back in the village must have had a hard time believing her!
The scenery in the Kunene Region is simply breathtaking. The 45 minute ride to camp is one of the most stunning drives in all of Africa. Even the skinny, sickly oryx and springbok that lurked longingly near the road (it hasn’t rained in Kunene for 2 years!) were given a new beauty next to the gorgeous landscape. We sped down the sandy roads, traveled over a mountain pass, and slid down a steep sand dune (known as “The Entrance”) as the sky burned orange, yellow and purple, painting the most amazing canvas before us.
At the first sight of the Kunene River in the distance, we thought it was a mirage, having been in the desert for 4 days with no hint of water, but we reveled at this true oasis in the desert. Serra Cafema Camp is expertly hidden in the lush trees along the Kunene River, and we were warmly welcomed by the anxiously waiting staff. Everyone enjoyed a private dinner this evening with their travel companions, and John and I were treated to a romantic dinner in the wine cellar!
The next few days were filled with a balance of activity and relaxation – very different from a constantly busy safari schedule. We visited a local Himba village in the morning with grandma and her entourage of women and young boys from babies to teenage girls preparing for adulthood and from young mothers to the very experienced. We marveled at their beautiful, smooth skin well protected from all elements by the red ochre that covers their body – a distinguishing characteristic of this tough, nomadic tribe.
The women sport the long, red dreadlocks and elaborate jewelry, each which signifies their relative age (they don’t track birthdays) and social status in the family. The men were out tending to the goats and cattle on their daily trek down to the river to drink. I must say that the experience was not as interactive and jovial as I had hoped, but on reflection, I realize that their difficult lifestyle in such hot, harsh conditions doesn’t lend itself to a gregarious disposition. I did, however, get a slight smile from the young mothers and children, as John and I tried to play hand games with them in the sand.
Our lives are so different, but I’m always humbled by the stark similarities in all humanity. We picked up a few handmade baskets, beaded necklaces and carved palm nuts for souvenirs at the end of our visit, although I must note that there was absolutely no negotiating with these women, which was a different experience from other villages in Africa.
We enjoyed an al fresco lunch by the river, a leisurely evening boat cruise on the Kunene, sundowners on the opposite shore in Angola, an optional massage by the in-house masseuse, and an intimate last dinner under the stars.
Our farewell activity the next morning was an exhilarating ATV ride on quad bikes (aka 4-wheelers) through the rocky terrain and over slippery sand dunes. It was one of the most surreal activities on a blue bird sky day, surrounded by epic scenery…not to mention the adrenaline rush!
Apprehensively, we bid farewell to Serra Cafema, which I can assure you now has a special place in all of our hearts. If you have the time and means to include a visit to the Kunene Region during your visit to Namibia, then I attest that it is a spot not to be missed! Upon arrival back to Windhoek, the group also bid farewell to one another, as some of us were back at the Olive Exclusive while others headed for their last night at the Hilton.
The next day, some of the group was off to Cape Town, one agent headed for a stint at the AfriCat Foundation in Okonjima, and John and I were continuing on our honeymoon. Namibia is one of those destinations that combine well with other African countries on the same trip; however, after enjoying the riches of this diverse and beautiful country, Namibia is also a destination to visit all on its own.