- with animals in the wild – Etosha Safari Lodge and Camp (and camping site)
- Twyfelfontein (World Heritage Site: rock art) and Petrified Forest – Damara Mopane Lodge (near Khorixas)
- endless red dunes in the Kalahari Desert – Kalahari Anib Lodge and camping site (in Gondwana Kalahari Park) as well as Kalahari Farmhouse and camping site (in Stampriet)
- Fish River Canyon – Cañon Lodge, Cañon Village, Cañon Roadhouse and camping site as well as self-catering Cañon Mountain Camp (in Gondwana Cañon Park)
- Wild Horses of the Namib and the ghost town of Kolmanskuppe – Klein-Aus Vista’s Desert Horse Inn and camping site, self-catering ‘Geisterschlucht’ Cabin and Eagle’s Nest Chalets (in Gondwana Sperrgebiet Rand Park)
- the highest dunes on earth at Sossusvlei – Namib Desert Lodge and camping site (in Gondwana Namib Park)
Built on three pillars
In southern Namibia four deserts overlap. Despite the arid conditions and sparse vegetation most of the land was used for livestock farming for decades. However, when tourism started to pick up after independence in 1990 an alternative form of utilization presented itself: the hospitality business. More income is generated with beds than with goats, more and better jobs are created, and much less of a strain is put on nature.
These are the very three pillars on which Gondwana’s philosophy is based: tourism, nature and people. All three pillars are essential for bearing the fruit of success. Without nature, no tourists; without tourists, no nature conservation and no jobs; without staff and the support of communities, no hospitality business and no game-keeping. At the Gondwana Collection each pillar is represented by a corresponding committee on the board.
The company philosophy has been implemented resolutely from the start – in Gondwana Cañon Park, established in 1995, and in the other three parks which became part of the Gondwana Collection in December 2004: Gondwana Kalahari Park, Gondwana Sperrgebiet Rand Park and Gondwana Namib Park.
Gondwana’s accommodation facilities just outside Etosha National Park in northern Namibia (since 2008) are situated on a comparatively small piece of land (4 km²). Therefore we do not engage in game-keeping there. Gondwana’s concept for environmental protection, however, shows in the way the accommodation facilities are built and managed. And it goes without saying that employees there are supported just as much as those at the other accommodation facilities.
Zebras instead of Sheep
All of Namibia is characterised by ecologically extremely delicate arid savannahs and desert landscapes. Rainfalls are scarce and annual fluctuations are considerable, temperatures are high and so is evaporation. Especially the south of Namibia, where four deserts merge, is rather unsuited for livestock farming. Even so, settlers have tried their luck with farming there, too, since the late 19th century. Fearing for their sheep and goats they drove away predators such as cheetah, hyena and jackal. Game species like elephant, rhino, giraffe, wildebeest, eland or hartebeest had already been wiped out by hunters before the settlers arrived in the south.
In 1995 Gondwana started to buy farms at the Fish River Canyon and transformed them into a nature reserve – Gondwana Cañon Park. Livestock farming was discontinued and hunting for animals like springbok, oryx antelope and kudu was stopped. Plants in former grazing areas recovered, game numbers increased. Gondwana also dismantled interior fences through which the land was parcelled out into pastures (‘camps’). In areas where rainfalls are low and often just scattered game needs to be able to move unhampered to places where food is available. Finally, watering places suitable for game were set up in strategic spots.
As a second step Gondwana launched a comprehensive game programme. Animals like zebra, hartebeest and wildebeest, which had once been indigenous to the area, were purchased and released in the park. By now the park covers an area of 1,260 km². Park managers and rangers monitor the condition of animals and plants, watering places and exterior fences; they conduct anti-poaching patrols and lend their support to research projects. They also organize and take care of the annual game counts through which the numbers of the various animal species are recorded.
In December 2004 another three nature reserves in Namibia’s south were added: Gondwana Kalahari Park (100 km²) northeast of Mariental, Gondwana Sperrgebiet Rand Park (510 km²) near Aus and Gondwana Namib Park (100 km²) north of Sesriem/Sossusvlei.
In all the parks only a fraction of the total area is used for hospitality purposes. Water is available in much larger quantities than needed; gardens are irrigated with water from treatment plants. Kitchen waste is also put to good use – as compost or to feed the pigs.
Education & Empowerment
Employees’ Ladder of Success
Nature reserves, accommodation facilities, activities and the Self-Sufficiency Centre provide both jobs and opportunities for Namibians to improve their lives – this cannot be taken for granted at all in Namibia where unemployment is estimated at 30 to 40 percent. The Gondwana Collection boasts a staff of 400 today. Gondwana’s salaries enable employees to feed their families and to send their children to school, too.
Gondwana has many faces – employees represent the many different population groups and regions of Namibia. Their friendliness and helpfulness makes them natural hosts. But even today, after many years of independence, few Namibians have benefited from a sound education and fewer still have had professional training.
Therefore Gondwana invests heavily into training. Our training department, established in 2001, offers a comprehensive programme, from computer and language courses (English, German, Italian) to service training and HIV prevention, family planning and old age provision. Any employee can take part, hundreds have benefited. For specialised training in areas such as vegetable cultivation, cheese-making and butchery we invite experts from Europe. Several of our leading staffers have completed internships in European hotels and restaurants – and thereby have been able for the first time to experience their guests’ way of life.
Take Nico Angula, for example: he is from the Oshikoto Region in northern Namibia and worked as a petrol pump attendant in Keetmanshoop. In 1998 he became a waiter at the Cañon Lodge, made good use of the training programme and worked his way up to the position Head of Guest Relations.
‘Help others to be successful and you will be successful yourself’ – with this principle in mind we support employees and neighbouring communities in their quest to become self-sustainable. One example is Mule Trails Namibia, a company which offers hiking tours at the Fish River Canyon.