Canyon Lodge, a place rich in history
Lodges don't look like this. Nor does this building have the appearance of an ordinary farmhouse. When you travel through the vast landscapes east of the Fish River Canyon on your way to Canyon Lodge and suddenly see the main building rise between massive granite boulders, you will marvel at the unusual architectural style. Once you have come close enough you will recognize the iron structure which adorns the ridge of the roof and seems to represent a bed. If up to this point you haven't sensed that the unusual building is part of an extraordinary story you will be certain of it now...
The story begins in 1877, more than 10,000 km away - in Margarethenberg, a small village in Upper Bavaria, some 70 km east of Munich - with the birth of Alfons Schanderl. He grows up as the seventh of ten siblings and becomes a blacksmith. But soon he feels that in the age of industrialisation he and his trade do not have much of a future in Germany.
Meanwhile, war breaks out against the Herero and Nama in the faraway colony of German South West Africa in 1904. Young men who volunteer for service in the colonial forces, the Schutztruppe, can look forward to farmland at special prices together with favourable start-up loans. And so it happens that 27-year-old Alfons enlists in the Schutztruppe and arrives in Lüderitz in the beginning of December 1904 where he is detailed to a supply unit in the fight against the Nama. During his deployment east of the Fish River Canyon he gets to know the country and falls in love with it.
After three-and-a-half years, when his compulsory period of service ends, Alfons quits the Schutztruppe, buys the 10,000 ha farm Karios and asks his youngest brother, Stephan, to join him. Together they develop the farm – and build the house which has become the main building of Canyon Lodge. They imitate the architectural style which they are familiar with from their home village in Upper Bavaria, of course. The iron bed on the ridge is an old tradition in that area: it tells the ladies that a bachelor lives under this roof, waiting for a bride. Evidently the adornment is the handiwork of Alfons, the trained blacksmith.
The two brothers' plans are abruptly overturned by the First World War. German South West Africa is occupied by the Union of South Africa, and in 1919 thousands of Germans are deported, among them Alfons and Stephan Schanderl. For years the brothers campaign for permission to return. When it is finally granted in 1925 they have emigrated from Germany to Argentina. They decide to stay and live there until their death in 1949 and 1962 respectively.
The Schanderl's farm, Karios, changes hands several times. In 1995 a group of businessmen with a love for nature in southern Namibia acquires several farms at the Fish River Canyon and establishes Gondwana Canyon Park. The group intends to finance nature conservation with income generated by the hospitality business, as the country is visited by increasing numbers of tourists since Namibia gained independence in 1990. Farm Karios becomes part of the nature reserve, the farmhouse is converted and becomes Canyon Lodge, the first guests arrive in November 1996.
Read more about the history of German settlers in southern Namibia at the start of the 20th century in the booklet 'Expelled from a beloved country', available at Gondwana Travel Centre in Windhoek (42 Nelson Mandela Avenue) and in bookshops.