Surrounding the lake is about 251km2 of protected national park, home to a variety of game. The lake itself is about 30km long, and effectively splits this area into two. On the northeast shore is a narrow strip within which the restcamp perches, on cliffs overlooking the lake. A scenic drive links several picnic sites and lookout points along its length.
On the southwest side of the lake, the reserve stretches far from the lake's shore, and is game park, veined by game drives and a few short hiking trails. Note that Hardap becomes very hot during the summer, and very cold during the winter. From chilly recollections of its windy campsite in September, I'd hate to camp here when it's really
Where to stay and eat
The restcamp here (P Bag 2020, Mariental; tel: 063 240381; fax: 063 242285; email: email@example.com; web: www.namibiawildliferesorts.com; central reservations tel: 061 236975–8; fax: 061 224900) has 50 simple bungalows and there's also a campsite. The accommodation ranges from small two-bed bungalows with kitchen, fridge, hotplate and shower for N$220 a night, up to VIP suites with four beds in two rooms, air conditioning, equipped kitchen, TV and phone, from N$500 per night. Bedding and towels are provided, but no crockery or cutlery. The campsite charges N$110 per site for up to four people. Additional visitors are charged N$10 each, up to a maximum of eight. Breakfast is available for N$17.
The restaurant has superb views over the lake. It opens 07.00–09.00, 12.00–14.00 and 18.00–21.00, though meals must be ordered at least 30 minutes before closing time. A kiosk by the adjacent pool sells drinks and crisps 08.00–17.00.
Unlike some resorts, Hardap is open all year and doesn't lock its guests out at night. You can enter and leave at any hour of the day or night – though you can only pay for accommodation during office hours.
There's a fuel station, a small shop, and the kiosk mentioned above. However, if you intend to cook, then stock up in Mariental.
What to see and do
Hardap can get busy at the weekend, with city-dwellers escaping for a weekend of fishing or relaxing, but it's generally quiet during the week. The game park is small but quite good, and the hike is excellent.
Trips on the lake are run by Oasis Ferries (tel: 063 240805; cell: 081 249 4200) and last around 11/2 hours. Fares are N$60 per person (children N$35), although these are less for a larger group (up to a maximum of 25). For information, contact Mr Bamberger on the above numbers.
Namibia's native fish
When paying your entry fees at reception, don't forget to take a glance at the aquaria there – displaying some of Namibia's freshwater fish, including those in the lake.
If you have a special interest in fish, then Namibia's Freshwater Fish Institute is just near the park entrance, on the left as you drive in. This is not a tourist sight, but a research and breeding centre, where the scientists sometimes welcome visitors who are fascinated by fish. Given that several Namibian species are endemic to small areas, even just to one lake or pan, this work of protecting and monitoring fish species is important.
The game park
If larger vertebrates are of more interest, then head for the game park. This means leaving the restcamp and taking a right turn before getting to the gates to the park – then driving over the dam wall. Get a map from the park office, as there are over 60km of gravel roads for game drives.
Branching off the far circular game drive in the Great Komatsas area (the Gemsbok Drive) is a marked hiking trail of 15km. This isn't strenuous and takes about 4–5 hours – though there is a shorter variation, using a shortcut, of 9km which takes 2–3 hours. There is no dangerous game around apart from a few black rhino – so keep vigilant for the thud of heavy feet, and read the Rhino
section on page 106 before starting.