Nearby guest farms
There is an assortment of fairly offbeat guest-farms within reach of Gobabis, and several places geared up to catch people taking overnight stops on the Trans-Kalahari highway. These include:
Kiripotib Guest Farm
(5 rooms) P Bag 13036, Windhoek; tel: 062 581419; email: firstname.lastname@example.org; web: www.kirikara.com
The engaging Hans and Claudia von Hase run this friendly guest farm. It's the base not only for a thriving little arts and crafts business, but also for African Kirikara Safaris – which offers various mobile safaris around the subcontinent. Kiripotib has three pleasant, spacious rooms with en-suite bathrooms, and also two twin-bedded safari-style tents that each have open-air en-suite shower facilities. Meals are served in a thatched Lapa, or around the fire under the stars.
Perhaps the most interesting aspects of Kiripotib are the variety of arts and crafts practised on site. There's a spinning workshop and weavery, where the team on the farm produces a variety of unique Namibian carpets made from karakul wool. You can see all the stages between the sheep and the carpets, and there's a small exhibition of these that are for sale. If you're planning on buying a carpet, then it costs no more to bring colours and fabric samples to Kiripotib, and the team here can then make up one of their designs, matching your colours and sizes as closely as possible. (Obviously this takes time, but they do send regular shipments to Europe, and so delivery is easily arranged.)
Secondly there's a well-equipped small jewellery workshop which, when in full production, makes fascinating viewing.
More distant activities include farm drives (usually integrated with a general tour of the weavery), and trips to nearby farms with their own attractions. For example, with a little advanced notice, you can visit Tivoli Star Lodge, based on the neighbouring farm, Tivoli, which has a small observatory with a sliding roof and a computer-controlled reflecting telescope. Alternatively one nearby farm has plenty of game in a classic Kalahari landscape (shame the big cats are caged), or it's possible to arrange a drive and half-day walk in the Karubeams Mountains. There it takes about 30 minutes to climb on to a lovely plateau, and there's a fair chance of seeing oryx, kudu and klipspringers.
From an arts and crafts perspective, one of the most interesting trips is to the farm, Jena, which is about 80km south of Kiripotib.Rates: N$510/585 (N$405 for a tent) per person sharing/single including breakfast and dinner. Open: 21 Jan–15 Dec.
Rust Mijn Ziel Guestfarm
(2 chalets) PO Box 5545, Windhoek; tel: 062 581655; fax: 062 581667; email: email@example.com; web: www.erholungsfarm.iway.na
This tiny guestfarm on the D1790 between Dordabis and Gobabis is run by Lothar and Sabine Ruchel. It's a working farm with sheep and goats, and they've just two Swiss-style wooden chalets. The separate cozy lounge has a fire for winter and no TV – though there is a rather marvellous reel-to-reel tape recorder.
There are about 25–30km of nature trails for walking in the bush, and visitors can explore these whilst taking hand-held radios in case of emergency. Horseriding is also possible, always accompantied by one of the team from the farm, although they don't yet have all the safety equipment that a modern stable in Europe would have (eg: no hard hats at all when I visited).Rates: from N$440 per person sharing, including all meals. Open: all year.
Zelda Game and Guest Farm
(10 rooms) PO Box 75, Gobabis; tel: 062 560427; fax: 062 560431; email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Zelda is about 90km east of Gobabis, and 20km west of the Buitepos border, on the north side of the main B6 Trans-Kalahari Highway. This farm started in 1946, and started accepting guests in 1997. It covers about 100km2, of which half is dedicated to game, and the rest to cattle farming.
Most people use it as a stop-over, complete with the 'Baboona' bar (with pool table), a restaurant, a souvenir shop and a pleasant, leafy garden – with swimming pool for those hot Kalahari days. Activities are limited, but it's possible to do nature/farm drives, and to help with the feeding of the animals!Rates: around N$230/350 per person sharing/single, including breakfast. Open: all year.
Good Hope Country House
(4 rooms) PO Box 1100, Gobabis; tel/fax: 062 563700; email: email@example.com; web: www.sanworld.com.na/
Run by James and Christine Chapman – descendants of James Chapman, the famous Victorian Explorer – this is a small guesthouse often used as a base for safaris run by the family.
When researching I wasn't able to get in touch with Good Hope, although when available it seems to have a generally good reputation. I'd welcome news about it from passing visitors…
(6 wooden cottages and 3 igloos) PO Box 548, Gobabis; tel: 062 568788/568879; fax: 062 5688887; email: firstname.lastname@example.org; web: www.namibweb.com/harnas.htm
Almost 100km drive northeast of Gobabis, Harnas is probably has the highest profile of any guest farm in the region. To get here, take the B6 east from Gobabis and turn left after about 6km onto the C22. The first 12.5km of this is tar, but then it reverts to being a wide gravel road for about 30km until it reaches a Harnas sign at Drimiopsis, when you take a right. About 7.5km further on the road branches and you keep left. Continue for a further 38km and the entrance to Harnas is on the left.
Harnas farm was once a cattle farm, but has gradually changed into a sanctuary for injured and orphaned animals – now housing over 200 of them. That's why it's so well known, and in recent years, Harnas Wildlife Foundation has been established for the purpose of supporting activities of the orphanage and controlling donations.
There's a variety of accommodation here – basically a total of about 16 beds in 6 wooden cottages which are well equipped with small refrigerators, tea and coffee making facilities, and braai areas. There are also some igloo-style tents with en-suite facilities, and all are spread around quite a large grassy area. Visitors also have use of a restaurant (with simple set menus), though many self-cater, and there's a large swimming pool available. Activities centre around game drives and animal feeding tours.Rates: N$605/550 per person sharing for a cottage/igloo, including breakfast. N$135 for a campsite. Game drives N$90 per person, and animal feeding tours range from N$70-135 per tour. Open: all year.