Rhino Hunt results in the founding of Henties Bay - Namibia Safari and Lodges - Gondwana Collection

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Rhino Hunt results in the founding of Henties Bay

Avatar of inke inke - 05. January 2018 - Discover Namibia

Henties Bay in 2009. (Photo: Kirsten Kraft)

Inke Stoldt

Who would have thought that a rhino hunt in 1929 would result in the founding of one of Namibia’s most popular holiday resorts? The story of how Major Hentie van der Merwe discovered a deep valley of sand a few miles south of the Omaruru river mouth was first published on 29 April 1977 by the Brandwag magazine. It was a spot with more than enough fresh water and an abundance of game. Henties Bay was named after this Major. 

Major Hentie van der Merwe’s full name is Hendrik Stephanus van der Merwe. According to a report by well-known author Daniel Ferndinand “Doc” Immelman in the South West Africa Yearbook of 1974 the father of Major van der Merwe, a Captain, joined the British Army at the outbreak of World War I. He first served in Europe and then in South West Africa, where he settled with his family. Hentie van der Merwe attended school in Swakopmund and in Cape Town and then became one of the first students at Neudamm Agricultural College. In 1928 he became a car dealer in Kalkfeld, where he married Irene May McCulloch the following year.  

Hentie van der Merwe set out on a hunting expedition to Angola in 1929. There he happened to run into an American acquaintance of his, James A. Devilinger, who was a game expert. Devilinger told him that a museum in Pennsylvania was looking for a rhinoceros skeleton. They were prepared to pay up to 800 British Pounds. Hentie van der Merwe agreed to supply the skeleton.  

After his return to Kalkfeld he immediately started to prepare for the rhino excursion. He set off to Brandberg Mountain with a Ford bakkie and three Oshiwambo speaking helpers. After an arduous trip through wilderness terrain they eventually came across a rhino spoor. They bagged the animal with a well-aimed shot. They skinned and gutted it and scraped the meat from the bones. 

At some stage, however, their water supplies were so low that they could not remain at their ‘hunting grounds’ any longer. They loaded the smelly carcass onto the pick-up and drove on towards the coast. At Cape Cross they turned south to look for the mouth of the Omaruru River where they expected to find fresh water. But their hopes were dashed and they continued to struggle through the deep sand until at last they discovered a spring.   

The Brandwag quoted Hentie van der Merwe as saying: “Eventually we reached a deep sandy valley a few miles south of the [Omaruru] river’s mouth. I reckoned that this was a former riverbed. The carpet of green reeds immediately caught my eye, it was a sign of water. I liked this spot and so we stayed”.  

A few days later Hentie van der Merwe and his helpers continued on their way to Swakopmund. There the rhino skeleton was handed to a freight agency for shipping to the US.  

Around Christmas of the the same year Hentie van der Merwe returned to his sandy valley at the coast. He brought lots of boards and planks with him and built a hut for himself. He told others about his beautiful spot at the sea, where fish and game were plentiful. He took friends along on vacation, and over the years his holiday spot became popular with many others. Some followed his example and built little houses for themselves, others pitched tents or slept in their cars during summer. They called their holiday destination ‘Hentie se baai’ (Hentie’s bay). 

When World War II broke out Hentie van der Merwe joined the army and was responsible for recruiting and organisation in the 1st SWA Infantry Battalion. He was engaged in active service in North Africa and Italy and was promoted to the rank of Major. After winning a marksmanship competition in Cairo the ruler of Egypt and the Sudan, King Farouk I, asked him to teach his family the art of shooting. A close friendship developed between Hentie van der Merwe and Farouk I. The king was overthrown in 1952 and went into exile in Italy, where he died in 1965.  

Hentie van der Merwe was the mayor of Otjiwarongo from 1949 until 1952. In 1965 he retired and spent the last years of his life in Somerset West in South Africa.

Comments are disabled for this post.


Edwill Kurz

08. January 2018

Good day.


Thank you very much for this wonderful piece of history. I know that it was before my time and all, but people this has been bothering me every time that is read something about " Henties". Some parts of is this article is true and some parts not at all. Hentie van der Merwe was having an associate in this journey named " Hans Kurz". The vehicle they were driving and hunting with was my grandfather's. On the first expedition they came across the area where henties bay now is and on the second expedition they decided to go and put up a wooden hut.

I don't know the complete history of how everything played of and so on, but i know that these two friend discoverd Henties bay together and not only by Heniet van der Merwe alone.


Thank you.


08. January 2018

Me & Mrs

This story is a firm favorite in the McCulloch family lore.

A prized possession is Uncle Henties silver cigarette case and an accompanying letter from King Farouk’s emissary.


08. January 2018

Some places/town need to be renamed!


06. January 2018

Comants and thoughts

Wow now that is what I call history.The whole story is going through my mind like an storm.


06. January 2018

Comants and thoughts

Wow now that is what I call history.The whole story is going through my mind like an storm.

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