Sue Watt discovers that communities, conservation and inspiration go hand in hand at Nambwa, a new lodge in Namibia’s Zambezi/Caprivi region.
I wouldn’t normally pitch a story idea to an editor having only seen a piece of land with red and white tape marking out the plot for a new lodge. But that’s exactly what happened while I was in Namibia updating Bradt’s latest guidebook to the country. Even at that stage, I could tell Nambwa Tented Lodge was going to be special.
Located on the banks of the Kwando River, Nambwa lies in the Zambezi region of Namibia. You could be forgiven for never having heard of it, partly because its name has only recently been changed from the more familiar Caprivi Strip but also because, although known to many South African self-drive tourists, it’s not so well known to the European market. Unlike the rest of Namibia, this region is dominated by mighty A-list rivers including the Okavango, Kwando, Linyanti, Chobe and its namesake, the Zambezi, producing verdant landscapes which in the dry seasons are full of wildlife including elephants in their thousands.
By the time I returned to Nambwa for The Telegraph six months later, the lodge had huge tented suites perched on wooden decks high in the trees with views across a floodplain and waterhole frequented by elephants, kudu, waterbuck, reedbuck, impalas and warthogs. A beautiful, relaxing place, Nambwa is the brainchild of Dusty Rodgers. He also built Susuwe Island Lodge, one of the first in the area. Along with this, he invested 100,000 Namibian dollars in building a campsite to be owned and run by the local community and set up the first compensation scheme for local people who lost livestock to wildlife.
All of this stemmed from Rodgers’ relationship with the local chief, Mayuni who set up the country’s first communal conservancy on Bwabwata National Park’s eastern border. Today, 20% of Namibia’s rural population live in one of the 79 conservancies spread across the country. Of those, 12 are located in the relatively diminutive Zambezi province, thanks to the collaboration and mutual respect of two forward looking and inspirational individuals: Dusty Rodgers and Chief Mayuni.
In joint venture schemes, local people have ownership over land through the conservancy and lease it to lodges. The income funds game scouts to protect wildlife and social projects benefitting the whole community. It’s a win win situation that benefits all. Rodgers also donated 15% of shares in Nambwa to the Conservancy, along with a share of profits, skills training and employment.
My hunch about Nambwa (nambwalodge.com) proved right – it’s a fabulous lodge bringing fabulous results for local people.