The Waterberg Plateau was established as a national park in the early 1970s to act as a sanctuary for the eland, along with other rare and endangered species of the Caprivi region. The area was originally regarded as the heartland of Namibia’s eland population. It is believed the plateau is the remnants of a larger plateau which covered a much greater area some 200 million years ago. The plateau is made of etjo sandstone and is highly permeable. As a result, when rain falls on top of the plateau it is quickly soaked into the earth, filtered and pulled down through gravity, creating natural springs towards its base. Today the Waterberg Plateau is proud to be home to 25 different species of mammals and a prime relocation spot for many of Namibia’s endangered animals (seeing that most don’t leap off the sides of cliffs), including the eland, white rhino, buffalo, sable, and roan antelope. Giraffe, kudu, springbok, leopard, cheetah, brown hyena, and wild dog can also be found here. Over 200 species of birds seek refuge on the Waterberg plateau and the area is the only known breeding colony of Cape vultures in Namibia. Game viewing is difficult because, unless you take a game drive with a guided excursion (game drives are only offered by the conservation officials), it has to be done on self-guided treks on foot. Private vehicles are not allowed on top of the plateau. Accommodation and treks need to be booked with the NWR, either at the main office in Windhoek or during office hours at the Waterberg Administration Centre (8h00-sunset daily), at the campground headquarters.
The Waterberg Plateau has a thick history. In 1873 a Rhenish mission was established in the area, but was destroyed in 1880 by the ongoing Herero and Nama conflict. In 1904 the decisive battle of Waterberg, between the German oppressors and the Herero led by Chief Samuel Maherero, took place. The German forces proved far too superior for the resistant fighters. Those Herero, who lived, fled to the Kalahari seeking refuge. The Germans, in anticipation, surrounded the few waterholes in the area cutting off the Herero’s access to water. Many more Herero perished in the desert as a result of hunger and thirst. Today, during the weekend nearest to August 11, both German and Herero gather near the warden’s house for the annual commemoration. The event is something to witness; full of color, dress, and tradition. If you do attend, dress appropriately, dress smart.
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