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The Waterberg Plateau east of Otjiwarongo towers above the surrounding plains by 200 metres. The table mountain massif is 20 kilometers wide and 50 kilometers long and consists of porous sandstone. Rain just seeps through the porous ground until it gets to an impermeable clay layer. While it is very dry on top of the plateau, there is a lot of surface water and strong permanent springs at the foot. That is why the vegetation here is abundant, green and very diverse. One can see wild fig tree, fire lilies and coral trees. This fertile plain is also the habitat for many animals.
Given the plateau’s isolated nature, endangered species, including white rhino, roan and sable antelope, have been reintroduced to Waterberg over the years, to add to its rich existing game. The birdlife is equally impressive, with more than 200 species, including spectacular Verreaux’s (black) eagles and Namibia’s only breeding colony of Cape vultures.
The park centres on a plateau of compacted Etjo sandstone, some 250m high. This lump of rock, formed about 180–200 million years ago, is the remnant of a much larger plateau that once covered the whole area. It is highly permeable (surface water flows through it like a sieve), but the mudstones below it are impermeable. This results in the emergence of several springs at the base of the southern cliffs, hence the name “Waterberg" or water mountain.
There are also organised nature or cultural tours available where the guide will ride in your vehicle. These typically will take three to four hours, and include visits to a traditional Herero village, and perhaps a community centre or school, with the opportunity to try local food.
The first human inhabitants were the San people, who left rock engravings believed to be several thousand years old. Small tribes of the San were still living their traditional lifestyle on the plateau until the late 1960s. The foothills were the site of one of the major turning points in Namibia's history. In 1904, in the Battle of Waterberg, the Herero people lost their last and greatest battle against German Colonial forces in the Herero and Namaqua Wars. Subsequently, in the Herero and Namaqua Genocide, nearly two thirds of the Herero population lost their lives, and about one thousand could escape to British Bechuanaland (now Botswana), where they received asylum. The graves of German soldiers who lost their lives at Waterberg can still be viewed near the Bernabe De La Bat rest camp at the base of the park.
For a fairly small park, there are a large number of different environments. The top of the plateau supports a patchwork of wooded areas (mostly broadleaved deciduous) and open grasslands, while the foothills and flats at the base of the escarpment are dominated by acacia bush, but dotted with evergreen trees and lush undergrowth where the springs well up on the southern side. This diversity gives the park its ability to support a large variety of animals.
Waterberg has become an integral part of a number of conservation projects, seeing the relocation of several endangered species (including white rhino, roan and sable antelope) in an attempt to start viable breeding herds. These have added to the game already found here, which ranges from giraffe and kudu to leopard, brown hyena, cheetah and (reports claim) wild dog.
The Waterberg Plateau with its brick-red sandstone formations and lush vegetation presents an island of vibrant colour.
The National Park was originally created as a sanctuary for rare and endangered species found in the Kavango and Caprivi Regions and today is home to some 25 game and over 200 bird species