01 July 2019 | Tourism

Strictly speaking Ruacana is a town, which came into existence in the Omusati Region purely on account of its strategic military importance and vicinity to the Angolan border, where the Kunene River becomes the border of Namibia. It was developed around a major underground hydroelectric plant, which is fed with water from the close-by Calueque Dam, which was built just across the border in Angola as a joint initiative by the then colonial masters Portugal and South Africa - it was completed in 1976.

The dam and pumping station were bombed during a Cuban airstrike in 1988 at the time of the Angolan Civil War and Namibia's independence struggle, but the facility has been repaired and today NamPower generates a maximum of 240 MW, when the river's water flow allows for the optimal operation of three turbines .

Surplus water and seepage from the Calueque Dam normally feeds the Ruacana Falls and combined with the runoff from the turbines the water feeds the Kunene River which eventually flows into the Atlantic Ocean in the far west. It is eerie to see the Ruacana Falls almost running dry during the current drought. These are normally known to be picturesque water falls, which can be best viewed by passing through the Namibian border point without actually entering the Angolan side of the border (just ask the Namibian officials to be allowed access to the viewpoint).

The name Ruacana originates from one of the first settlers in Ruacana, who was in fact called Ruhakana. Ovazemba and Ovahimba people are native to this area and it is a social cauldron, where two cultures meet - the Ovahimba of eastern Kaokoland (related to the Herero) co-exist with the Oshivambo of the western Omusati region.

The town's settlement status was upgraded to that of a village in 2005, and to town in 2010. In and around Ruacana, the visitor will find many places to stay, especially if you drive a few kilometres along the road to Swartbooisdrif and the Epupa Falls in the Kaokoveld. But even in Ruacana itself you will find beautiful accommodation facilities in the form of Ruacana AHA Lodge or the Ruacana Guesthouse. Apart from the Ruacana Falls the area offers various sights, among which is the natural beauty but also the water canal, which provides water to a huge portion of Ovamboland, right down to Oshakati and beyond.

The 600-hectare green scheme of the farm Etunda is situated a mere 30 kilometres away from Ruacana on the road (C46) back to Outapi. It is a government supported irrigation scheme with half of the farm being kept as commercial irrigation land and the other half having been allocated to small-scale farmers. More of these small-scale producers are found all along the Olushandja Dam, which lies parallel to the gravel road D3616, which leads down to Onesi and on to Tsandi.