Anderssons at Ongava

Photo: Marc Springer

Anderssons at Ongava

Extends its research efforts

18 November 2019 | Tourism

When normally rather reserved and rational thinking scientists become enthusiastic about what they are part of and start using superlatives such as „exceptional“, then you just know, that some peculiar changes have taken effect.

Marc Springer

Answering the question, whether this would apply to the recently activated research centre Anderssons at Ongava, the resident scientist Dr Florian Weise - born and bred in Berlin (Germany) - becomes thoughtful and takes a long look at his surrounds, before answering with a mixture of pride and wonder: “This is truly something special and seen in the Namibian context it remains without equal “.

The research centre, is part of the renowned Ongava Nature Reserve situated south of the Etosha National Park, and is essentially an amalgamation of former farms into a reserve encompassing 30 000 hectares. While the facilities still seem peculiarly clean and sterile, Weise does not only focus on the now, but also on what the future holds. A time when the campus is filled with learners and students, a time when technical terms and jargon resound in the conference hall and the joint effort to strive towards joint ecological insights and understanding becomes a collective goal.

That vision, which the scientist shares with his colleagues and directors Dr Ken Stratford und Dr John Mendelsohn, is likely to turn into reality in the near future. Relevant discussions with the Namibia University of Science & Technology (NUST), the University of Namibia (UNAM) as well as other educational institutions are well underway.

Living Laboratory

“We would like to support students, who have shown specific interest and aptitudes in the field of natural sciences with a view towards promoting their talents while engaging with ecological challenges, which are of interest to Ongava, Namibia and southern Africa as a whole“, says Weise. His as much as his fellow scientists‘ way of thinking, far outstrips a country’s borders - this initiative is intended to have conservationists think and act outside normal dimensions on an international scale.

Weise explains: “We intend inviting researchers and students from all over the world, for them to make use of these facilities.” He points out that visiting scientists will find modern accommodation, a laboratory and other equipment set in an environment, which offers WLAN and Internet connectivity, while allowing direct access to a huge nature reserve, where they can draw samples and observe their targets, ”research on a live object, so to speak”.

Whether foreign researchers are interested in fauna and flora or geological phenomena is of lesser consequence than the requirement that the subject matter must promise to provide practical solutions and value - it should be of benefit to Ongava und Namibia. Asked for a clearer definition, Weise points out, that a researcher wishing to study the genes and genetic lines of animals and plants with a view towards publishing the outcome, would always be welcome at the research station, while a person wanting to find out more about feeding habits of sharks, would obviously have no practical value for Andersson’s @ Ongava.

Sharing knowledge

The research centre aims at creating a symbiotic relationship between foreign and local scientists, where all researchers and students are afforded the possibility of remaining close to their specific subject of interest and have access to modern facilities in an environment conducive to thorough research, while being accommodated in a high-class establishment away from home. Weise does not regard the latter as a given, with colleagues as much as himself in the past having to put up with the bare necessities in order to pursue their fields of interest and study.

Their local colleagues and by extension Ongava and Namibia gain from the information and insight shared, just as would be the case for all participating foreign researchers. ”Scientists share, they hardly ever engage in territorial confrontations“, are Weise’s thoughts on that subject. It is an unwritten law that locally accumulated knowledge on any and all subjects and disciplines are shared amongst all.

An added benefit is the substantial, previously accumulated data, since the research station has existed for 15 years, albeit in a much smaller format and size. It is and has been regarded as a substantial contributor of study insights as regards the understanding of the Rhinoceros (Rhinocerotidae), and thus affords researchers a solid base on which further studies are founded.

It is this joint understanding, which the research team regard as an important aspect, as the sharing of information and knowledge prevents each new field of ecological study to be undertaken in isolation. The sharing is not limited to scientists only, as a visitor centre close-by allows guests visiting Anderssons at Ongava, to at „their leisure, meander through the self-guided exhibition area“, as Ongava puts it on its internet site (https://www.ongava.com/anderssons-at-ongava).

Tourism meeting Research

The tourism centre allows visitors to do some fact-checking and understand what is being achieved behind the closed doors of the research centre, which has the look and feel of a museum. The idea is to turn what are sometimes rather factual and studies into visually-attractive and understandable material.

The centre has accumulated a spectacular amount of data and insights over the years, and these photos, graphs and statistics now allow visitors to fully appreciate and understand animals and their behavioural patterns - these animals being found at Ongava. Many hours of video material of animals visiting water holes have been translated into fast motion, which allows an insight into the migration and behaviour of prey and hunter alike over a 24-hour period.

Ultimately the idea is not only that of allowing insight, but more importantly to sensitize the concept of sustainable eco-tourism. The centre would not be able to exist without the financial assistance of Ongava Lodge, which dedicates a portion of its income to the research station.

Much more to Ongava

The main lodge, Ongava Lodge, is certainly one of Namibia’s premier lodges. Situated on a ridge overlooking a large plain and a much-visited waterhole, it takes no more than a second for a visitor to truly feel at home. Visitors are literally spoilt, but those who prefer to spoil themselves with additional luxury and total privacy, may opt for Little Ongava, set on the high hill above the main lodge with exclusive service and offering pristine 360 degrees views across the plains. For those, who prefer being very close to nature, the Ongava Tented Camp is set in the middle of the African Mopani bush, where you will nevertheless be spoilt beyond compare.

Take part in sundowner drives or track rhinoceros, or simply stay in the lodges and be treated to an extraordinary number of game frequenting the waterholes, which are sometimes only a few metres away from the Lounge area, where you are treated to refreshments and snacks, waiting for the next round of exquisite food to be dished up. Ongava is a unique experience in every conceivable way.

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