Daan Viljoen Game Park Daan Viljoen Game Park

Daan viljoen game park

The Khomas Hochland beckons exploration of its hidden valleys and deep gorges, its high peaks and breathtaking mountain views. The furrowed and folded landscape also demands an explanation of its formation: The Khomas Ocean was created when the supercontinent Rodinia broke apart into distinct landmasses around 750 million years ago. Sediments, eroded from the adjacent lands, accumulated on the ocean bed for 200 million years. When the next continental aggregation took place and Gondwana was formed, these sediments were lifted and folded, creating the convoluted schists of the Khomas Group. The rugged lands were soften by erosion, and then stretched and shifted and lifted again after Gondwana split apart 130 million years ago.

One of the remnants of all these cataclysms are the labyrinthine hills of the Khomas Hochland. They form the core of the Central Highlands of Namibia. To the west, the land drops sharply to the desert and coast, creating a steep escarpment. This distinctive belt, lying along the interface between the Namib and the interior plateau, has produced many unique animals and plants that are considered near-endemic to Namibia, ranging only marginally into Angola.

The Khomas Hochland mostly presents an open savanna landscape – albeit an intricately folded one. The undulating hills are covered with grasses and dotted with solitary trees, including camel-thorn, shepherd’s tree, kudu-bush, buffalo-thorn and the Namibian resin tree. Isolated blackthorn thickets provide hiding places for game. During the rainy season, the veld is speckled with colourful wildflowers. This realm provides ideal habitat for gemsbok, warthog, kudu and Hartmann’s mountain zebra. Giraffe, eland, blue wildebeest and a few springbok also occur here, and cheetah may roam through.

Narrow gorges and steep rock faces are a refuge for baboon, klipspringer, rock hyrax and leopard. Prolific outcroppings of rock are home to Jameson’s red rock rabbit and the dassie rat, a species unique to southern Africa. Daan Viljoen is also a good place to search for some of Namibia’s unique birds. Of the country’s 17 near-endemic species, Carp’s tit, rockrunner, violet wood-hoopoe, Damara hornbill, white-tailed shrike, rosy-faced lovebird, Monteiro’s hornbill and Rüppell’s parrot have all been recorded here.

•    Daan Viljoen is open all year
•    The park is easily accessible on a day visit from Windhoek
•    The end of the rainy season provides verdant scenery & the most comfortable travel
•    Though it can get quite hot, the Khomas Hochland tends to be cooler than Windhoek

•    Walking is the best way to experience the ambience of this small park
•    Explore the leisurely Wag ’n Bietjie Trail (3 km) or the more challenging Rooibos Trail (9 km)
•    The Mountain Zebra Drive (6.5 km) provides great view across the park & nearby Windhoek
•    Try to spot some of Namibia’s near-endemic birds

•    Day visitors must reserve their visit through the concession holder Sun Karros
•    Day visitors may enter the park between 06:00 & 16:00 & must exit by 18:00
•    Overnight guests may enter the park between 06:00 & 24:00
•    4x4 is required along the Mountain Zebra Drive

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For 18 years, I had my base in the Khomas Hochland, a cosy rented home and art studio 10 kilometres west of Daan Viljoen. I walked inexhaustibly across this rugged country and saw the farmers struggle with erratic rain and limited groundwater, and the impacts of livestock-killing leopards and cheetahs. I experienced the joys of abundant wildlife in magical landscapes, and wondered why not more of this realm is protected and accessible as a nature park.

Of all Namibian biomes, acacia tree-and-shrub savannah is afforded the least coverage by state parks. Within this biome, the highland shrubland vegetation zone in the centre of the country is basically unprotected by the state. The Khomas Hochland is utilised mostly for a mix of commercial livestock farming, tourism and conservation hunting. Daan Viljoen was created by chance and political ignominy and now formally protects a tiny patch of it as a national park.

In the course of German colonial rule, all land around Windhoek had been surveyed as freehold farmland by 1911. During the disarray of World War I, local stock farmers re-established a pastoral settlement on surveyed farms west of the capital. The South African administration turned this into the ‘Aukeigas Damara Reserve’ in the 1920s and later forcibly moved many Windhoek residents there. The reserve was closed in 1945-’46 and its residents were relocated again.

Legend has it that some businessmen and government officials colluded to divide the vacated land amongst themselves. A public uproar apparently ensued and a game park was proposed. When the park was proclaimed, it consisted of only two sections of Aukeigas. The rest remained in private hands.

Windhoek is the geographic, economic and social heart of the country. Its attractive cluster of springs in a crescent of mountains was named by Kaptein Jonker Afrikaner, who made this his base in 1842 after moving here as part of the Oorlam migration from the Cape. San and Damara hunter-gatherers are the earliest documented inhabitants of the area, yet human use of these highlands goes back thousands of years, confirmed by rock paintings and other archaeological discoveries, including a 3,000-year-old human skeleton. Today, Windhoek stretches across the background of most Daan Viljoen vistas, turning into a sea of lights at night. The proximity to the city makes the park a great getaway.

Urban spread has reached the park’s eastern border, bringing some disturbance, poaching and pollution. Meanwhile, the Windhoek Municipal Area was extended in 2011 to encompass the park and adjacent land. Through the Windhoek Green Belt Landscape initiative of NAM-PLACE, a network of landowners now aims to counter imminent threats to habitats and species through effective conservation of the surrounding areas.


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