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The small, spread-out settlement of Tsumkwe lies at the western margin of the Kalahari and is the district centre of former Bushman Land, today part of the Otjozondjupa region. The San, coloquially also called bushmen, live in this area. They are the oldest people in Namibia, living in southern Africa for an estimated 20,000 years. The South African Homeland policy restricted them to the remote "Bushmanland", a semi-desert area between Khaudum National Park and Omaheke. It can be accessed via the C44 road, which turns off the B8 north of Grootfontein. The distance to Tsumkwe is 250 km.

Many narrow sandy paths lead from the road into the bush. Following them, one often gets to isolated San settlements. The small friendly people traditionally are  hunters and gatherers The women collect fruits, berries and starch containing onions, while the men go hunting. The San have a deep understanding of nature and ecology. They are able to distinguish between hundreds of plant species and are known to be excellent trackers. An estimated 30.000 San are living in Namibia, only 2000 of them, however, in their traditional way of life. They don't have enough land. Alcoholism is another threat to the culture of the San.


The San are masterly bow hunters. Their bow is relatively small and the range of the arrows is below 25 metres. Therefore the San need to get quite close to their prey, but the supple hunters are very skilled and good at that. If an animal has been hit by a poisoned arrow, it doesn't stand a chance to escape. The absolutely deadly arrow poison is made from the larvae of a certain beetle (diamphidia nigroornata). According to a traditional recipe, which is only known to the San, varous herbs are added to increase the deadly effect. A human being would also not have any chance to survive even the smallest amouunt of this poison in the blood stream, and no anti-dote exists.

Tsumkwe itself does't look inviting. A petrol station, an administration building, a police station, a lodge, not much more. But since 1998 there is an interesting communal project south of the village.  Here the Ju/'hoansi San Community has founded the Nyae Nyae Conservancy, a game protection area of about 30 by 35 km. It is positioned around a pan, where a lake forms after strong rainfalls. Nyae Nyae is very rich in game.

The Tsumkwe Country Lodge organises San Safaris. Die Ju/'hoansi give the visitors an insight into their way of life. One can go hunting or elephant tracking with the men or collect and prepare fruit with the women.

Travel Info and Accommodation