Where is the Quiver Tree Forest in Namibia?

Linking nicely with last week’s Giant Playground…the Quiver Tree Forest is a great tourist attraction in Namibia. Located just north-east of Keetmanshoop, this attraction can be found nice and close to the playground.

Rights to Joachim Huber/Flickr

Rights to Joachim Huber/Flickr

Please remember that this is no storybook forest, however it is still quite a sight to see. Around about 250 quiver trees can be found in this area. Scientifically named Aloe dichotoma, this unique tree has a funny story behind its name.

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Rights to Amusing planet

The San people who used to populate the area, once used the branches from these trees to make their quivers. The tree was named by Simon van der Stel in 1685, after he heard the story about the quivers.

The forest grew spontaneously and the oldest trees are estimated to be around two to three centuries old. This African forest was declared a National Monument on 1 June 1995.

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Rights to mezzotint.de

Something that makes this tree very interesting as well, is the fact that it looks like they grow upside down. This is because of the leaves that look very much like roots. It is also believed that these trees have a ‘holy’ status in some local religions.

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Rights to Info Namibia

These unusual-looking trees can reach heights anywhere between three and nine metres and only bloom once they are between 20 and 30 years old. Quiver trees are endemic to the Nama Karoo in the south of Namibia and along the Great Escarpment in the west.

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Rights to Pinterest

They have successfully adapted to the fluctuating annual rainfall in these areas, and commonly occur on the slopes or tops of hills and scattered across rocky plains.

The tree’s stem and branches consist of a spongy fibre that can store large quantities of water over long periods of time. Their leaves have a smooth and waxy surface that prevents moisture from evaporating.

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Rights to Pinterest

A vertical stem protects the tree from direct sunlight during the hottest hours of the day and the yellowish bark and thin layer of white powder on the branches reflect most of the sunlight away from the tree.

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Rights to mitchellkrog.com

The rough and scaly bark is thought to be an additional and remarkable internal cooling adaptation to cope with the harsh surroundings.

Quiver trees were declared to be endangered by the International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources (IUCN) in 2010.

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Rights to Outdoor photographer

This is mostly due to climate change and the increasing heat and decreasing rainfall in southern Namibia. The trees grow in generations, with each generation potentially reaching between 100 and 120 years.

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Rights to Fourcorners Photography

The younger trees however need to get sufficient water for several consecutive years for them to mature successfully. With the long drought that has plagued the region, there has been little opportunity for young trees to reach maturity.

Subsequently, as the older trees are dying out and with younger trees not growing optimally, their numbers have decreased.

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Rights to Pinterest

But we hope to keep this from happening! When you find yourself in that part of the country again, make a point of checking out the Quiver Tree Forest and enjoy the sight of hundreds of trees growing ‘upside down’.

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Rights to 1photo1day.com

If you would like to go visit the Quiver Tree Forest , you can start by heading north-east for about 14km from Keetmanshoop. It will cost you about N$50.00 per person for admissions for the day.

Keetmanshop in Namibia - www.namibiabookings.com

Keetmanshop in Namibia –
www.namibiabookings.com

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Rights to www.namibia.org

The best time to enjoy this sight is during the winter months when it is not as hot. The Gondwana Canyon properties are a fantastic base camp to use when viewing the surrounding areas.

If you have any stories or information of the Quiver Trees and Forest, please share them with us in the comment section below.

Author – Jescey Visagie is a proud Namibian and is passionate about writing and language. Tag along for the ride as she tries to uncover new insights into Namibia and explores what the country has to offer.

Jescey Visagie

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Fish River Canyon – Traces of a Death Struggle

Once upon a time a giant snake dwelled in southern Namibia. Every so often it devoured the sheep and goats of the people and finally they decided to kill the snake. Armed with spears and accompanied by their dogs the men set out for the hunt. They encircled the snake, kept it at bay with torches, shot arrows at it and thrust spears into its body. Even though it was a giant snake it stood no chance against the superior numbers. In its death throes the snake tossed and turned, tearing deep furrows into the ground.

Nama legend about how the Fish River Canyon was formed. Source: mural in the Cañon Village

Nama legend about how the Fish River Canyon was formed. Source: mural in the Cañon Village

An old Nama legend explains in this vivid manner how the Fish River Canyon was formed. Geologists offer a more prosaic but no less fascinating explanation. It also involves an epic death struggle – though not of a snake but of a super-continent and it does not happen overnight but goes on for hundreds of millions of years…

Once upon a time in the area of today’s canyon there were deep fissures in the earth’s crust. Some 350 million years ago part of the surface caved in along those fissures and a rift valley, about 20 km wide, emerged. The Fish River chose the rift for its bed. Due to the low gradient the river meandered through the valley in wide loops – also called a meander belt.

The ancient southern super-continent of Gondwana disintegrated some 120 million years ago. South America and Africa drifted apart. The rims of the African fragment rose – Namibia’s interior is a high plateau even today – and with it the drop to the sea level. Starting from its mouth, the Gariep (Orange) River dug deeper into the earth and the Fish River, its tributary, followed suit on the high plateau in southern Namibia. Thus its shallow meander belt turned into the Fish River’s winding system of gorges.

Fish River Canyon, (5 Cent), issued in 1981

Fish River Canyon, (5 Cent), issued in 1981

Standing at one of the viewing points on the edge of the canyon you are able to visually relate to the geological explanation. You are on the shoulder of the rift, looking onto a plain below – the floor of the rift valley. The plain is also termed the ‘upper canyon’ and the meandering gorges that have been cut into it are the ‘lower canyon’.

In total the Fish River Canyon is about 160 km long, up to 27 km wide and 500 m deep. It is seen as the second largest canyon on earth – after the Grand Canyon in the US. Hot springs are found in some places on the canyon floor: at Sulphur Springs, several kilometres south of the main viewing point, for example, or at the Ai Ais spa.

The canyon is situated in the Nama Karoo on the western fringe of the summer rain area. Rainfalls are unreliable and limited to small areas at a time. The annual average is around 80 to 100 mm. Thus the gorges of the Fish River and its tributaries have served local inhabitants as lifelines for hundreds of years. Rock engravings testify to the presence of people in ancient times. In the 19th century missionaries wrote about groups of Nama living there. From 1890 onwards the Nama were displaced first by German settlers and later by South Africans. Now they live in places like Warmbad, Keetmanshoop and Bethanien. Efforts to protect the canyon started relatively late, if compared to Etosha National Park in the north, for example. The canyon was proclaimed a national monument only in 1962 and a nature reserve in 1968.

'Hell’s Bend' in the Fish River Canyon at the main viewing point. Photo: Gondwana Collection

'Hell’s Bend' in the Fish River Canyon at the main viewing point. Photo: Gondwana Collection

Looking at the canyon landscape it is hard to believe that is was – and still is – utilized for livestock farming. Many farmers, however, were forced to give up due to overgrazing and a prolonged drought. As a result a private nature reserve, Gondwana Cañon Park, was established on the north-eastern boundary of the national Ai Ais Richtersfeld Transfrontier Park.

The famous 80 km canyon hike from Hiker’s Point to Ai Ais (5 to 6 days) is part of the national park. In Gondwana Cañon Park hiking tours with or without mules are offered in the wilderness of the canyon landscape some 40 km north of Hiker’s Point.

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