"A wonderful spot often overlooked by tourists" Waterberg Platopark by CatherineReichardt

Waterberg Platopark Travel Guide: 13 reviews and 26 photos

The Waterberg plateau is a splendid sight to behold, rising up in sheer 200m cliffs from the flat surrounding plain: maybe it's the sense of anticipation, but there's something particularly impressive about a place that you can see from literally tens of kilometres away. Yet although it is located less than 60km east of the regional centre of Otjiwarongo, it is often overlooked by tourists because it is perceived to be just that little bit too far off the main road between Windhoek and Etosha - their loss and your gain!

The scale of the Waterberg plateau is truly enormous: 20km long and 50km wide. The physical isolation from the surrounding plain and the relative abundance of water that seeps out from the sandstone along the flanks of the plateau make it a very protected environment for wildlife and it was proclaimed as a national park in 1972.

Whilst it may be tempting to draw parallels with Southern Africa's other famous plateau - Table Mountain in Cape Town, to my mind, the comparison is neither relevant nor particularly helpful. For one thing, Table Mountain is at least four times higher, and really all they have in common is that they're both composed of sandstone and have a broadly similar shape - so what?

For me, the charm of the Waterberg is that it's a little off the well beaten Windhoek-Swakopmund-Etosha tourist track, so tends to receive fewer tourists (always a good thing in my book). I love the fact that the sandstone cliffs and the mopane bush on top of the plateau present a very different landscape and ecosystem to the vast sandy emptiness of the Namib desert and the blinding white flatness of Etosha. And although visitors to the Waterberg readily appreciate its natural attractions, it would seem that relatively few understand the historical significance of a location that hosted one of the largest battles ever fought on Namibian soil.

The gorgeous Waterberg Plateau camp

One of the Waterberg's principal attractions is the lovely Waterberg Plateau (formerly the Bérnabé de la Bat) camp, which is nestled in woodland on the flanks of the plateau. Being a government-run camp, it's not ultra luxurious, but the setting is gorgeous.

One of the camp's great charms is the wonderful diversity of wildlife that you can see without leaving camp at all. In addition to the wonderful woodland birdlife, ground squirrels and dassies are common sights around camp, as is the gorgeous Damara dikdik, Namibia's smallest buck (antelope) which is usually hard to spot elsewhere.

Oh, and the swimming pool is absolutely divine, especially for a moonlight swim on a hot summer night!!!

The only vehicle access onto the plateau is on guided tours that can be organised from the camp. However, I would suggest that you are realistic in your expectations of what you're likely to see: spotting game in the dense mopane bush can be challenging. So although there is a wonderful range of wildlife present - including white rhino and roan and sable antelope - that doesn't necessarily mean that you'll see it (se my travel tip for more details).

There are also a number of hiking trails which allow the more energetic visitor to explore the cliffs and the plateau itself. Walking allows you to appreciate the smaller types of wildlife that you don't always focus on from a vehicle, including stunning birdlife, smaller mammals, reptiles and insects. In particular, the birdlife is excellent: the sandstone cliffs of the Waterberg is the only nesting spot for Cape vultures in the whole of Namibia, and the juxtaposition of forest, cliff and plains habitats makes for excellent birding that will get bird enthusiasts 'twitching' in anticipation!

The Battle of the Waterberg

A few lonely Schutztruppe graves in a small and little-visited military cemetery are the only tangible evidence of what was probably the largest battle ever fought on Namibian soil.

The Battle of the Waterberg which took place in 1904 was the largest battle of the German-Herero War and saw 1,600 Schutztruppe rout a force of about 40.000 Herero men, women and children. The Hereros who escape death or capture subsequently fled eastwards into the desert, and were granted asylum in Bechuanaland (now Botswana) by the British. For more on this tragic conflict, see my tip on the Schutztruppe cemetery.

Pros and Cons
  • Pros:Wonderfully scenic, atmospheric and accessible, yet just that bit off the beaten tourist track
  • Cons:Game spotting can be a bit hit and miss, and the guided tour is somewhat pricey
  • In a nutshell:Treat yourself to the perfect detour off the Windhoek-Etosha route!
  • Intro Updated Nov 10, 2011
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