The essential ingredient of a guest farm is “Gemütlichkeit”

Düsternbrook Guestfarm

The essential ingredient of a guest farm is “Gemütlichkeit”

28 June 2021 | Tourism

During the past number of years Namibia has turned into one of the more popular holiday destinations - not only in countries with ties to the German language.

The land of sunny skies offers a variety of landscapes and unbelievable vistas, wooing its visitors with its unique fauna and flora. This unparalleled environment remains unspoilt and is not marred by gigantic, commercialized accommodation establishments. Unequalled lodges and cosy guest farms as well as camp sites in the midst of nature, promise travellers an unforgettable stay.

Long before lodges were increasingly built near tourist attractions, visitors to the Namibian countryside were mostly warmly welcomed into their homes by farmers. That has not changed. “We felt welcome and right at home" or "We arrived as guests and we leave as friends" are but two of the typical comments entered in the guest books of Namibian Guest farms.

It is inevitable that visiting a guest farm, leads to visitors not only striking a cord with the farmer-families, but also to learning much more about the country, its people and its history – from the horse’s mouth so to speak.

Okosongomingo – The perfect stopover
Many Namibian farms were established as agricultural at the beginning of the 20th century. The farm Okosongomingo is located around 65 kilometres east of Otjiwarongo and borders directly onto the Waterberg Plateau Park. In 1909 it was acquired by the Schneider-Waterberg family. The family estate has been run by Harry Schneider-Waterberg and his wife Sonja since 1991. Together with their employees, they pursue sustainable farming, preserve and protect native fauna and flora and ensure that the neighbouring community continues to develop.

There is no agreement as regards the meaning of the word "Okosongomingo". Some say it is the “place of Mr Mingo", while others suspect that it actually stems from the word “Okozongominya” – the place of the young cows. The latter interpretation is preferred by the indigenous people, the OvaHerero. Okosongomingo has always been and remains a cattle ranch.

During the 90’s most of the overnighting guests comprised of hunters. There were no guest rooms at the time, so hunters and visitors were accommodated in the private quarters of the family. Over time, guest rooms and later the unique "Bush Bungalows" were built as accommodation for guests.

It was only in the year 2001, that the Namibian Tourism Board (NTB) was set up, resulting in a national requirement that all farms, which hosted guests, had to register as so-called "guest farms". This is how Waterberg Guestfarm, the accommodation establishment of the farm Okosongomingo, came to be.

As Waterberg Guestfarm is located halfway between the Etosha National Park and the Hosea Kutako International Airport outside Windhoek, this is the perfect "halfway mark" for either the beginning or the ending of your Namibian holiday.

Immenhof – All under one roof
Farm Immenhof is named after Irmtraut, whose nickname was Imme, the only daughter of Siegfried von Seydlitz, who jointly with his wife Annelie, took over Farm Okakongo in 1926.

This farm too was always – and still is – used for the breeding of cattle. As from the beginning of 1970, Farm Immenhof turned into an increasingly popular holiday destination, especially among hunters from outside Namibia, which at the time was still known as South West Africa. Over time more and more non-hunting holiday makers chose to spend their vacations here too. They had in turn heard of the farm from acquaintances from the hunting community that spread the word.

In 1980 then owners Friedhelm and Ria von Seydlitz decided to officially register Immenhof as a “guest and hunting farm”. The couple has always been actively involved in promoting both tourism as well as supporting ethical and sustainable hunting. Friedhelm von Seydlitz is a co-founder of the Namibian Hunting Association, NAPHA, and Ria von Seydlitz supported the Hospitality Association of Namibia (HAN) from the first day, when it was founded.

These days the family business is run by fourth-generation Werner von Seydlitz and his wife Charissa. "What matters most to us is that both hunters and non-hunters feel equally comfortable on Farm Immenhof," explains Charissa von Seydlitz. And that is the exact case at Immenhof, where hunters and non-hunters stay under one roof and share the same table when dining. “We have experienced this to be a good thing, as people are able to share their sentiments. It provides a good opportunity to explain the concept of ‘ethical hunting’ to non-hunters. Many of the visitors are amazed when they find out, what hunting as a sustainable solution is really all about. It is often the first time that this is fully explained to them”, von Seydlitz adds.

Heimat – Home to four Generations
There are obviously some farms in Namibia that are found off the beaten track and are thus not found in the immediate vicinity of typical tourist routes. Farm Heimat is one of these examples. Still part of the Khomas Region and situated southeast of Windhoek – between Dordabis and Nina – tourists of this guest farm are afforded the opportunity to get to know authentic farm life.

In 1938 Margarete Seifert and her son Heinz bought a section of the land forming part of Farm Neuhof Kowas, which was established as a farm by Hermann Viereck in 1900.
Mother and son shared ownership of this newly acquired land, but Margarete turned this into her new home and she managed the farm jointly with her second son, Ulrich. Grandson Rainer Seifart took over the farm as from 1980 and he still runs it today with his wife Marianne.
Most of Namibia – especially the farmers – suffered from the effects of a major drought in the early 1990’s. Marianne and a close friend of the family started considering different ways in which additional income could be generated for the household’s five family members. They decoded to take in guests.

Since then – for almost 30 years – guests have been welcomed to Farm Heimat. As visitor you are quickly welcomed to become part of everyday farming life and the effort it entails, getting to know and understand a cattle- and sheep farm. Game viewing is an integral part of the offers as you will find and be able to watch Kudu, Oryx, Warthogs, Ibexes (Steenbok), Impalas and Ostriches on this guest farm.
Three years ago, a small observatory was built. It is situated a short distance away from the farmhouse and is available several weeks of a year, allowing guests to take part in star gazing.

BüllsPort – Hiking & riding in the Naukluft
Perching on top of the world. Gazing across the plains and on to endless horizons. Only hearing the sound of- and feeling the wind. That is what guests of BüllsPort Lodge & Farm can experience during a hike in the Naukluft Mountains. With 400 plant species, 250 bird species and about 50 different mammals, the Naukluft is an absolute nature's paradise.

There are 14 hiking trails to choose from, ranging from a relaxed walk to a challenging hike taking a day. Two highlights are the “Quiver Tree Gorge Trail”, which passes through a gorge with a babbling brook, and the “Rock Arch Trail”, which leads to the Naukluft’s version of the “Bogenfels”.
The mountains and plains of the farm can also be explored on horseback. The rides on well-trained mounts stemming from the BüllsPort Stud, are designed such, as to cater for the individual guest's experience and riding ability. The trails even cater for beginner-riders.

Further experiences are the nostalgic horse carriage ride and a tour of the farm with a game viewer, offering insights into a desert-located farm with sheep, horses and game. Guests can obviously also use the farm as a base when they plan to go on a day trip to Sesriem and Sossusvlei in their own vehicles.
It has been 28 years since Johanna and Ernst Sauber hosted their first guests. From humble beginnings as a guest farm in 1993, BüllsPort developed into a modern guest establishment with twelve spacious and tastefully furnished rooms. The lounge offers free Wi-Fi access. Dinner is served at separate tables in similar style to a lodge. However, guests can still meet their hosts over a coffee and piece of cake or while
enjoying a sundowner. Thus you are afforded an insight into everyday farm life and for that matter life in Namibia during a personal conversation.

Düsternbrook – Children were the first Visitors
The first and therefore also the oldest guest farm in Namibia is the Farm Düsternbrook, found roughly 50 kilometres north of Windhoek. The area was originally known as Otjihorongo, the expression for “place of the kudu” in the Herero language. In 1908 this piece of land was bought by Lieutenant-Commander A.D. Matthiesen from Germany, who wanted to settle there as a farmer. He changed the name Otjihorongo to Düsternbrook, a suburb of the German city of Kiel, where Matthiesen originally hailed from.

During the war, in 1942, he put Farm Düsternbrook up for sale and the Vaatz family decided to invest their money in real estate before it could be frozen by the state. They bought the 14 000 hectare farm, where they raised cattle after the end of World War II and also ran a dairy farm. Year 1962 was a momentous one for all Namibian farmers as a prolonged drought and an outbreak of foot and mouth disease forced farmers to rethink their business models as there was a ban on all sales of cattle. Marga Vaatz pondered alternatives in her drive to generate income independent from rain and cattle. So she came up with the idea of taking in the children of working mothers during school holidays. Farm Düsternbrook thus became a “Children's Guest Farm” that accommodated up to 20 children during the holidays. Marga Vaatz wrote to a travel agency in Germany and was soon able to also welcome her first guests from overseas.

The business as guest farm was however discontinued after a number of years and Düsternbrook became a cattle farm again, which over the next 20 years also developed into a hunting farm, where sustainable hunting was practiced.

Son Johann Vaatz took over the farm as from 1986 and he started welcoming guests again as from 1993. Vaatz reintroduced game, which had been displaced during the previous 150 years by settlers and cattle farming. He subsequently did away with the cattle and concentrated only on his guests. These days even day visitors can enjoy a custom-stay ranging from luxury quarters to guest rooms and tents and even a camping site. The farm allows visitors to experience free-range Giraffes, Zebras, Hippos, Leopards and many other species.

Dornhügel – An alternative second mainstay
Farm Dornhügel is located around 42 kilometres east of Grootfontein. It was established in 1908 by the married couple Bernhard and Elisabeth Beyer. When it came to finding a suitable name for the farm, the only name coming to mind was “Dornhügel” (Thornhill). They had both first noticed the distinctive hill and remembered their considerable effort, required to make their way through the thorny brush as they arrived.
Corn, sorghum and sunflowers were grown on Dornhügel and in addition cattle and sheep were raised here. Several decades later, Farm Dornhügel was taken over by their son Max and his wife Irmgard.

The persistent drought and economic hardships in 1994 forced many farmers to look for an alternative pillar in search for alternative income. Max and Irmgard decided to establish a guest farm, which allowed them to keep the farm while generating an income. Visitors quickly felt at ease and welcome here, so they started passing this latest holiday tip on to friends and acquaintances.

In 2001 Volker and Susanne Ledermann took over Farm Dornhügel. They introduced their own specialty to Dornhügel: Basotho horses. They brought in breeding stallions and mares directly from Lesotho.

In order to ensure that none of the farming activities ware neglected – neither the guests nor the farming as such – the two operations had to be separated from each other. Thus Melanie and Götz Nederlof have been welcoming guests on this guest farm since 2016, making sure that they feel completely at home. Day trips to the San’s traditional homesteads or even the Etosha National Park can be undertaken using Dornhügel as your base.

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