30 Jan 2024
Great excitement on Thursday last week. Two tourists from Germany, who were travelling in Namibia in their own off-road vehicle, went missing. "I got a call from someone from their family who was worried because they hadn't heard from them for many days," says Jana Werner from Gästefarm Elisenheim. The two tourists have been parking their car there for years when they are not in Namibia.
"The last sign of life was on 7 January, more than a fortnight ago," continues Jana Werner. "We then decided to launch a search appeal via WhatsApp. So we created a post with information and photos about the two of them and their car, and with our mobile phone number for feedback, and shared it on various WhatsApp groups in the travel industry." That was on Thursday evening.
The police contacted Jana Werner already early on Friday morning and asked for more information. Over the course of the morning, the mobile phone was ringing off the hook: over 50 calls from tour guides, accommodation providers, private individuals and police officers from various areas. The search appeal had apparently made the rounds throughout Namibia via social media.
"Many callers offered their help," says Jana. "The police were even in the process of mobilising a helicopter." But then came the relieving news: another holidaying couple had met them just two days earlier - in an area where there was no mobile phone reception. After immediately contacting the worried family in Germany, Jana Werner sent the post out again - with a large "Found Safe" sticker.
On Sunday, the two missing tourists contacted Jana Werner directly, full of gratitude for her search initiative, completely overwhelmed by the huge wave of willingness to help in Namibia - and quiet shocked by the great excitement that their 'disappearance' had caused. The couple had been travelling in the Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park, in the border triangle of Namibia, Botswana and South Africa. In fact, the two had announced at home that they would probably be difficult to reach for several days. But they had underestimated the extent of the lack of reception.
After general relief, there were voices from Namibia's travel industry who saw this incident as a lesson and an instructive reminder. Although there is always mobile phone reception on most tourist routes and many accommodations have wifi connections, there are still large 'dead zones'. This should be made clearer to self-drive travellers on arrival. Finally, Jana Werner from the Elisenheim guest farm advises all self-drivers on less travelled routes to always let the accommodation know before setting off - both the accommodation they are setting off from and the one they are travelling to.
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