Situated in a fertile farming area, near one of the country's biggest irrigation schemes, this small town has a 24-hour Total service station on the main road that skirts around it. As you turn into the town, Otavi seems small and quiet. Some of the streets are tar, others are gravel. There's a reasonable Sentra store and, next to the BP station, a very good Spar supermarket (open Mon–Fri 08.00–18.00 and Saturday 08.00–13.00).
Turn right after the Otavi Fruit Store to reach the restcamp and, after that, the municipal offices. You find fish and chips at the Fruit Store, and drinks at Ot-Quell Bottle Stall or Mr Liquor World. There's a small post office, and Standard and First National banks.
Near Otavi are several interesting cave systems, though visits to these need to be carefully organised in advance.
Intercape Mainliner's services from Windhoek to Victoria Falls also stop at the Total service station: at 23.25 on Mon and Fri, and in the opposite direction at 22.50 on Mon and Thu. Trips cost N$230 to Windhoek, and N$380 to Victoria Falls. The service between Windhoek and Oshikango which used to stop here has been suspended.
Trains depart from Otavi southbound for Windhoek and Walvis Bay at 12.45 on Mon, Wed and Fri. They travel in the opposite direction, to Tsumeb, departing at 08.20, on the same days of the week.
The main Fourways Total service station is probably the best place to hitch here, and it sells drinks and snacks whilst you are waiting. The small local minibuses (normally VW combis) which link Otavi with Tsumeb and Grootfontein will also usually stop here.
What to see and do
Otavi doesn't have a wealth of big attractions, unless your passion is caves. In that case, plan to spend quite a lot of time around here, as the area has many systems to explore.
This marks the spot where the German colonial troops surrendered to the South African forces on July 9 1915. It is only 3km out of town but exceedingly well signposted.
On the Gaub Farm, 35km northeast of Otavi, there are some caves famous for their stalactites and Bushman paintings. Despite being on private property, these are a National Monument so a permit to visit must be obtained from the Windhoek MET before you arrive.
They're signposted close to the junction of the D2863 and the D3022, but facilities are minimal and you'll need to inform the landowner that you're going down. After a short walk through the bush, there's a small hole in the ground into which you must squeeze. A lot of powdery sand is around, making this quite difficult, and initially it's a very steep incline to get into the caves. They aren't suitable for a casual visit, and if you do come then bring heavy-duty torches.
33km northwest of Otavi, on a tectonic fault line, this cave system is about 5km long. It has aroused particular interest recently as the home of Clarius cavernieola
, a species of fish which appears to be endemic to this cave system. These fish, members of the catfish family, are a translucent light pink in colour and totally blind, having evolved for life in the perpetual darkness of these caves. Interestingly, their breeding habits are still unknown and no young fish have ever been found.
To visit the cave, make arrangements at the municipal offices, just to the right of the restcamp. This may take several days.
More extensive than Gaub, these caves have several different chambers and passages containing some impressive stalactites and stalagmites. With no facilities at all, they are described as 'unspoilt' and arrangements to see them must be made at the municipal offices.
Near Otavi, Kombat is memorable largely for its name. It is just off the main road, about halfway between Otavi and Grootfontein, and known in Namibia for its mine. This accounts for a thriving little centre, where you'll find Bob's Self-help Bakery and a small post office. Turn off here for the Leopard Valley Pass and Gauss Guest Farm.
Where to stay in Otavi
Otavi Garden Hotel and Grasdak Restaurant
(10 rooms) PO Box 11, Otavi; tel/fax: 067 234336/234333; fax: 067 234335/234334
This basic hotel has seven rooms with en-suite facilities and a few others where they are shared. The busy bar seems also to act as reception as well as a restaurant and focal point for some of the town in the evening.Rates: single N$95, double N$155, including breakfast.
Guest House 96
Hertzog Av, PO Box 392, Otavi; tel/fax: 067 234199
All rooms have en-suite bathrooms. There is a swimming pool.Rates: N$185 per person, including breakfast.
This used to be called the Lion's Restcamp, but is now run by the municipality. It has half a dozen well-equipped, but not at all plush, bungalows.Rates: For one person these cost N$98, including bedding, but for four people only N$200. Alternatively, you can camp here for N$21.09 per person!
Guest farms near OtaviKhorab Safari Lodge
about 3km south of Otavi.Zum Potjie Restcamp
is 6km north of Otavi.Gauss Guest Farm
is in Kombat, nearby Otavi.