The Waterberg Plateau is about three hours from Windhoek. Even from afar, we can see Namibia’s “Table Mountain of the Kalahari”. The mountain rightly bears this name, the shape is reminiscent of Table Mountain in Cape Town. But this one is in the middle of dry no man’s land near the Waterberg Wilderness nature reserve – in contrast to its counterpart in South Africa.
The Waterberg is 50 km long, and 16 km wide and rises up to 200 m out of the plain. It consists of red sandstone cliffs that glow red or gold depending on the sunlight.
Almost 20 leopards live here, but you hardly ever see them because they are loners and do not have a fixed territory.
This is our first stop on our almost 4-week road trip from Windhoek (Namibia) via the Zambezi region to Botswana.
We leave Windhoek after a hearty breakfast and drive north. Our destination: Waterberg Wilderness, a private nature reserve where native animals are being reintroduced and protected. It extends from the plain of the Kalahari up to the plateau.
The tar road is dead straight, the landscape barren and monotonous. Also, for the first time, I really realize that we will be accompanied by a lot of dust, sand, and extreme drought over the next few weeks.
Shortly before arrival, we made a stop on the road. Here the view of Table Mountain is at its best and we can see the full extent. Cars don’t come by anyway, so stopping is not dangerous.
After a four-hour drive, we reached Waterberg Wilderness Lodge, we planned to spend the night there. Here you could stay at least 2-3 days to not only participate in Rhino Drive but also in various hikes or visits to local communities that support the lodge.
But the focus of our trip is on Botswana. Therefore, with a heavy heart, we only make a short stop here. I would love to go back here on my next trip to Namibia.
Where exactly is the Waterberg Plateau? Here I have marked in green which road and slopes we drive:
How did the mountain get its name Waterberg?
The Wartenberg owes its name to springs located on its south-eastern slope. You can even store water here and take it with you as drinking water. Also, a reason why the Waterberg Wilderness Lodge has excellent drinking water from the tap for consumption.
When we arrived it was very oppressive and hot. We enjoyed the sun’s rays and their warmth on our skin. Our room was spacious with a deck overlooking the mountain and baboons frolicking across the lawn without getting too close to us.
I have the utmost respect for monkeys of any kind. The nimble animals steal any objects lying around too quickly. Fortunately, these ones were not interested at all.
We enjoy the shade provided by trees, drank coffee, and ate the fresh fruit that was in our room as a welcome gift. I also studied information material about the lodge, nature, and wildlife on the Waterberg Plateau, which the lodge makes available to every guest. In contrast to the barren and arid landscape in the area, the private reserve is very green and the water from the springs is simply wonderful!
Rhino Drive on the Waterberg Plateau
4 p.m. we went to Rhino Drive at the foot of the Waterberg in the bush savannah. A little French girl got into a bit of an argument with me (sorry to bring that up, but I was furious) because she thought she could claim one of the front seats in the Toyota Landcruiser despite being late.
I looked at her blankly and I was not willing to give way to a snotty tourist, who also insulted me (“You can’t be a journalist with this small lens on your camera”).
Incidentally, I’m glad I didn’t have my zoom lens on the camera (unlike the French woman), more on that later.
At some point, she comes to her senses, because her behavior is also rather embarrassing for her boyfriend. They get into a second vehicle, where other tourists make way for them, shaking their heads.
We drive off and see some hornbills, wildebeest, impala, and mongoose scurrying nimbly across the road and a few ibex disappearing in big hops into the thicket of the bush savannah.
At some point, our driver gets a radio message that the rhinos (there are three of them in the park) have been sighted. When we park after a few minutes of driving, I really realize that from now on we have to continue on foot. Well, dear French lady, photographing rhinos up close with a zoom lens – have fun with it. Madlen and I just grin at each other and off we go.
The savannah has dried up, and the grass is waist-high and glows yellow gold in the slowly setting sun. Again and again, we get stuck in the thorns of the bushes. We stumble and I get my first scratch. It’s your own fault if you think you have to wear shorts in the bush. I’m just not learning.
Suddenly we stop and see three rhinos in front of us! In one spot! It kind of looks like we’ve landed in the zoo. It’s rare to find all three eating together. You rarely see any rhinos at all on the game drive. Finally, the endangered animals must still be protected and always guarded, as poachers could also invade private sanctuaries.
One rhino was male and two were female. Even if the animals don’t seem to be interested in us at all, the guides keep checking which way the wind is blowing, warning us to back up if an animal comes closer than 5 meters too close.
Even these five meters are much too close for me and I always go to the 2nd row. I have too much respect for these animals. Already in South Africa, I came very close to rhinos a few times on walking safaris. The distance was then always more than 20 meters. I snap a few pictures, video capture short sequences, and then pack the camera to just watch. I lose all sense of time.
At some point, the second group from the lodge arrives with my girlfriend from France and we say goodbye to the rhinos. We drove to a wide valley to enjoy our sundowner with savanna dry and the view of a herd of wildebeest.
On the way back to the lodge we suddenly meet four giraffes, who disappear as soon as they see us. On the second day in Namibia, we saw a surprising number of animal species. I like that. I think it could go on like this for the next few weeks.
After dinner at the lodge, which always consists of a set menu, I fall into bed dog-tired from all the impressions that day.
Other activities at Waterberg Wilderness Lodge
Hiking around the Waterberg Plateau
Hiking on one of the five well-signposted hiking trails around the Waterberg Plateau. For example, the Plateau Hike takes 2-3 hours. On this hike, you have a wonderful view of the valley and the Kalahari plain. Unfortunately, we didn’t have time for this during our short stay. If you are here for at least 2 nights, I recommend doing this hike. There is also the History Path (2.2 km) that takes you back to the site of the 1904 Battle of Waterberg.
History Path 2.2 km
Back to the Battle of Waterberg in 1904 and a Herero refugee camp in 1906
Visit the local people and learn many details about the culture and everyday life of the Herero, who are native to this area. This tour departs at 8 am and currently costs $140 per person.
Private sundowner especially for honeymooners
Especially for honeymooners, there is a private sundowner that lasts 2-3 hours and costs $500.
Absolute highlight: The Rhino Drive
The highlight is of course the Rhino Drive, which lasts 2-3 hours. We were gone for over three hours. The Game Drive takes place daily at 4 p.m. (summer) or 3 p.m. (winter). The tour leads through the beautiful bush savannah at the foot of the Waterberg and costs $400. In addition to rhinos, you may also be lucky enough to see giraffes, impala, buffalo, and wildebeest.
Game tracking on foot
For 4-5 hours you will be out and about with a tracker in the bush savannah ($450). One of my favorite ways to explore nature. Adrenaline is guaranteed when you know wild animals are around!
Campsite at the Waterberg
Are you traveling like us with a 4×4 car and roof tent? Then you can check in at one of the two campsites Waterberg Wilderness Campsite or Waterberg Andersson Camp. As everywhere in Namibia, the campsites are very comfortable, because on the red and soft Kalahari sand each pitch has its own wash building with a shower and toilet. You can find more information about the campsites here.
Do you have further questions about Waterberg Wilderness Lodge or Rhino Drive?
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