Travel: Riviera Travel; Boat
Cost: $39 (US)
Currency: Namibian Dollars
Welcome back to my African Adventure!
On my second full day in Botswana, I was given the opportunity to take a short trip to the neighbouring country of Namibia. This sounded crazy to me at first – OH YEAH JUST CASUALLY POPPING TO NAMIBIA WILL SEE YOU LATER – but all of the countries that lie along the Zambezi River are very close to one another.
The trip was to be a 3-4 hour walking tour of a Namibian village, with our guide Niven (a local of that village). Can I just say firstly, Niven needs a TV show because he was one of the most fascinating, knowledgeable and hilarious people ever.
WHAT TO TAKE WITH YOU
- Comfortable shoes
- Money for souvenirs
- Sweets or toys for the children
We took the boat from Botswana to Namibia (via the very slow Botswanan and Namibian immigration points) and landed on Impalila Island. Impalila Island is located at the eastern tip of Namibia and is home to around 300 people. It is most easily accessed from where I was staying; Kasane in Botswana. The walk from the Namibian border to the village was approximately 1.5 km.
Niven explained that the main sources of employment come from tourism, farming and fishing. There are four resorts around the village which make the most out of the tourist trade, just as they do in Botswana. While it may be easy for an outsider to get caught up in the novelty of these surroundings, I feel like this trip really enforced the realities of living in Africa for many people. Namibia is DRY for the most part and so farming doesn’t happen as regularly as the locals need it to. There are also dangers all around from the wildlife that tourists are so desperate to interact with, as shown in one particular story Niven told us.
Over a period of one year, six children were attacked and killed by crocodiles while collecting water from the Zambezi River. Their parents would send them down to fetch water and they were obviously not responsible enough to watch out for the warning signs.
One day, the seventh attack took place. Niven was fishing with some of his clients when he heard a screaming child. He knew from experience what was happening, and so he took his boat to the source of the noise. As he had expected, a small girl was being dragged into the water by a crocodile. She was clinging on to the branches of a tree for dear life. Niven grabbed the child and his clients stabbed the crocodile until it released her. Despite losing a lot of muscle in her legs the child survived the attack, and in order to stop any more attacks taking place, a local resort owner piped her own water supply to the village.
The Zambezi River is full of threats greater than crocodiles however. Fishermen go out fishing on the river at night, so that the fish cannot see their nets. While this is a great idea, it leaves them exposed to attack from larger animals such as hippos who perceive their boats as a threat. In fact so many men have died as a result of these attacks that polygamy has been legalised and introduced in this part of Namibia, in order to compensate for the excess population of women over men.
As the walk continued, Niven also told us about the social customs of this village and the surrounding villages. One village is usually populated with one family, so grandparents, aunts, uncles and cousins will live side by side. When boys marry they bring their new wives to live in their village, and so naturally girls will fly the nest and go to live in their husband’s village when they marry. What came across was the ideal of respecting ones family and elders, beyond all else. At 18, children are taken out of the family home and are asked to sleep in separate houses. They are taught about family planning at this point, because having children before marriage carries a large fine in Namibia, and probably a great deal of stigma.
The most entertaining information he gave us was about local marriage customs. Once a boy has chosen a wife for himself, he is not supposed to approach his mother or father as this is seen as disrespectful. Instead he will approach his aunty and tell her about the girl. The aunty will do her research and find out whether the girl is from a family with a good reputation or a bad reputation. If the reputation is found to be good then the aunty will go and plead the case to his parents and then if they agree, the marriage will go ahead. Of course, this information threw up A LOT of questions, which Niven was only too happy to answer.
How do boys and girls meet if they live with their families in separate villages?
Namibia is a Christian country, so they could meet at church, but alternatively at school or at parties.
Can you get rid of bad reputation?
Bad reputation can be caused by one person in a family, but it tars the name of them all. Bad reputation comes from acting badly in public, causing people to talk about you badly, fighting etc. If a chief has concerns about the bad reputation of someone in his family, he can get them put into jail for a couple of months. By doing this, he is publicly washing the dirty laundry and this should help to turn a bad reputation back into a good one.
Can bad reputation marry into bad reputation?
People might not know they have bad reputation, so they wouldn’t go out of their way to seek a husband or wife with bad reputation. In fact, telling someone that they’re bad can be seen as defamation so instead they may make an excuse like ‘she’s not ready to marry’ or ‘she’s too young’.
He also told us that he had met his own wife at school, and when he saw how well she was performing in their year 11 exams he knew she was the one for him. “I did not choose her because she is cute, I chose her because she is a genius and I knew I would get good products from her. Now I have two children and they are geniuses like their mother and I am so proud.” #legend
As we entered the village, Niven pointed out a MASSIVE 3,000 year old Baobab tree which was absolutely incredible. We were taken on a tour around the chief of the village’s home and met his wife, who takes care of business when the chief is unavailable.
We were taken all around the village, finishing with some souvenir stalls which were selling products made by the local women. The products made were very beautiful and it was hard to choose one, but I came away with a bowl in the shape of a giraffe as a great memory of a wonderful day. One member of our group had brought along some balloons for the children to blow up and play with, which was really lovely!
I think the brief time I spent in Namibia was one of the best parts of my trip around Southern Africa because I learnt so much about a totally different way of life. I would highly recommend taking this trip if you get the chance, and can only pray for you to get Niven as a guide. Tune in next time for South Africa!
Thanks for reading,