Namibia Travel Destination: Grootfontein
In summer Grootfontein is green and plush but it truly blooms to life in spring flaunting vibrant colours of purple, scarlet and yellow with its Jacaranda and Flamboyant Trees. Grootfontein originally obtained its name from the Bushmen which resulted in its present Afrikaans name meaning ‘large fountain’ referring to hot springs in the area. Suitable as well is the Herero name for it – Otjiwanda Tjongue meaning ‘leopard’s crest’ due to the large number of these spirited cats in the area. Grootfontein is rich in history and the largest city in the Otavi Triangle which is also comprised of the mining towns of Otavi and Tsumeb.
Not far from Grootfontein, lies the largest known meteorite in the world – The Hoba Meteorite. Hoba meaning gift is the largest naturally occurring of its kind on the earth’s surface. A 60 ton mass of iron, it has never has never moved from where it fell. It is unusual as it is flat on both larger sides and provides the opportunity for people to climb onto it. Declared a national monument in 1955, the meteorite is estimated to have landed around 80 000 years ago and is a must-visit when in the area.
Another appealing wonder lying in the center of the Otavi Triangle and the only caves to earn the status of a national monument in Namibia are the Ghaub Caves. Passageways and rocky tunnels of limestone, sandstone and dolomite form an intriguing maze and the discovery of petrified waterfalls, century old stalactites and stalagmites, rock curtains and organ pipes make it a scary but exciting adventure. Not far from the Ghaub Caves is another very special attraction called Dragon’s Breath Cave. The discoverer of the cave said that the moist air that rose out of it was warm like the breath of the dragon. Deep down in this cave is where the world’s largest non-subglacial underground lake was first unveiled.
Mysteriously it is not known how deep the lake is and is more than two hectares in surface area. The daring can dive down and discover the endangered Golden Cave Catfish. Another interested cave is the Aigamas Cave nearby Otavi and its waters are home to the only known population of the Blind Cave Catfish in Southern Africa.
In Grootfontein itself, a great deal of history is to be learnt at Das Alte Fort Museum, now also a national monument. Built as a fortress for the German Schutztruppe in 1896, the museum has a lot to showcase about the war, industrial items, Himba traditions as well as a large mineralogical collection. Not far out of the town of Tsumeb is a living museum called the Helvi Mpingana Kondombolo Cultural Village. Here you can experience the lives of different ethnic communities and see the traditional homestead. Crafts can also be bought from the local people.
The subject of many African legends, the Baobab Tree is revered in Namibia. They are remarkable trees and can live up to three thousand years old. Their bark, leaves, fruit and seeds all have many uses including making baskets, treating infections and diseases as well as providing food and shade. A specific Baobab tree nearby Grootfontein, named Baobab Number 1063, was declared a national monument in 1951 for being one of the largest in Namibia at the time and can still be visited on the Keibib Farm.
With so much rich history and fascinating phenomena this ancient area of Grootfontein has so much to offer those willing to explore its ancient allures.