Popa Falls: The ideal stopover
Windhoek – The newly refurbished, unique and undoubtedly the best tourism establishment run by the State’s tourism entity, the Namibia Wildlife and Resorts (NWR), was recently opened for business after several months of extensive facelift.
The Popa Falls Resort situated along the Kavango River, which was officially inaugurated by President Hifikepunye Pohamba recently, provides an absolutely beautiful setting for sun-downers, boat cruises or island dinners.
The resort is located within the small Popa Falls Game Reserve on the banks of the mighty Kavango River, in north-east Namibia.
It is the only NWR facility in the Kavango East Region.
The lodge is 15km from the Mahango Game Reserve. It is an ideal stopover for tourists travelling to Namibia’s neighbouring countries, namely Botswana, Zambia and Zimbabwe. It was refurbished at a cost of R35 million. The establishment now boasts 40 beds, and four luxury units on the Hippo Island have been completed.
Construction of a new restaurant, new conference facilities, and the road within the camp was also developed as well as the new jetty that is named after former Minister of Environment and Tourism of Namibia, Honourable Netumbo Nandi-Ndaitwah.
The former minister, who now heads the Foreign Affairs portfolio, has reportedly played a major role in sourcing funding for the lodge’s re-construction.
NWR Marketing Officer, Ethilde Kuwa, has said the lodge also provides different activities to tourists such as fishing, canoeing, boating, guided tours and unguided self-drive game tours to Mahango Game Reserve. The area borders the Okavango River, where crocodile and hippo abound.
There are also scenery drives, walking trails and visitors can enjoy the presence of some of the species of game fish that occur in the Kavango River such as the three-spot, green-headed tilapia and tiger fish.
She said the total budget for the facelift was R45 million, but only over N$35 million was spent on the renovation.
The Namibian government has identified tourism as a strategic sector in the creation of employment and income, and the reduction of poverty.
The industry directly contributed R3.8 billion to the gross domestic product in 2012 and directly contributed to the creation of 228 567 jobs in 2012.
In 2012, tourism’s combined indirect and direct Gross Domestic Product (GDP) contributions topped at R15.5 billion.
In a speech read on his behalf by Environment and Tourism Minister Uahekua Herunga during the official inauguration recently, President Pohamba reiterated the importance of the tourism sector to the country’s economy.
He said tourism is one of the three pillars of Fourth National Development Plan (NDP4) and that this sector has great potential to make a significant impact on thousands of people in rural and urban areas.
“Our government has identified tourism as one of the national priority sector when it comes to poverty alleviation and job creation, therefore it is very important that NWR to continue developing, modernising and expanding the tourism facilities and infrastructure in the country as this will contribute towards employment creation and the improvement of the living condition s of the people,” he said.
The Head of State stressed that it is vital for stakeholders in the hospitality industry to aggressively market tourism products to both domestic and international tourists.
“Domestic tourism will enable our citizens to know more about their own country and to appreciate its beauty and diversity while international tourism contribute greatly to foreign exchange earnings and the growth of our Gross Domestic Product,” he said.
The president further urged the tourism sector to create a platform for young people who have qualification in hospitality and tourism to gain practical knowledge and experience, saying that the time has come for NWR to consider developing a working model and transform one of its facilities into a centre for practical training where young people can gain practical experience.
He also called on the Ministry of Environment and Tourism to promote cultural tourism across the country with the aim to support emerging tourism entrepreneurs so that they can contribute to the national economy. President Pohamba also called on financial institutions to support the tourism sector, especially the communal conservancy sub-sector, where access to finance remains a challenge.
“In order to improve the quality of services in tourism, there is a need to strengthen our human resources capacity for both employment and services providers, I, therefore, urge NWR and private tourism establishment to open up opportunities for apprenticeship and attachments for our young people to develop their practical skills,” he said.
In terms of promoting domestic tourism, Kuwa said NWR has a special in place for Namibians visiting all its facilities in the country, including the Popa Fall Resort.
She said earlier this year, NWR launched the Namleisure Card ‑ a discount card that gives Namibian cardholders and their family members access to 50 percent discount on accommodation whenever they visit or use NWR facilities.
Apart from the annual Namleisure membership card, Namibians get a 25 percent discount on accommodation only throughout the year, she said.