Real or perceived “disgusting Etosha”

31 May 2019
Author   Dr Ngarikutuke Tjiriange
Recent letters and comments made about Etosha National Park and how it seems to be a disgusting experience to some visitors are disturbing.
I used to be one of the Namibian citizens who always liked to go to our beautiful Etosha National Park and enjoy myself.  I took my family to these iconic parks and my children were happy and comfortable during these visits.  The variety of wildlife and wonderful ecologically clean tracks of land in those parks made us so excited and we were able to spend quality time and relax.
During our visits back then, the workers of those parks also looked after us in an extraordinarily polite and considerate way and they were always making sure each moment we spent with them was perfect.   Unfortunately, as time passed, I have been unable to go to the parks as often as I did before and it seems things have changed for the worse in the meantime and this is sad to know.
A few weeks ago, I was surprised, shocked and upset to read a negative revelation in a letter to the editor of a local daily newspaper entitled, “Beautiful Etosha is Disgusting for Tourists.”
Apparently, according to that writer, the situation in these wonderful parks has now deteriorated and become progressively worse.  It is revealed in that letter that the “Okaukuejo campsite and surrounding road is so utterly awful that we are forced to cancel the booking.”  The letter of complaint further said that the ladies ablution facilities at the camp were non-functioning.  Only one toilet worked and there was a large, smelly, unhygienic sewerage leak outside of that bathroom according to this particular letter writer.
The complaining tourist also spoke about overflowing dustbins, litter everywhere, horrible smells and other serious service delivery accusations.   These and other revelations surprised me.
It was hard for me to believe that Etosha National Park, which I had previously visited many times, and had admired for so long had deteriorated to such an extent that prompted someone to write such a negative complaint.  If what is written is really the true picture, there is an urgent need for serious intervention to remedy the situation and revive our parks.  We have to do everything to attract tourists and not frustrate them with such a negative situation.  The infrastructure and environment of our parks must be kept in a conducive and attractive manner because the tourists, whether foreign or local, surely will only like to visit a place which will make them feel happy and safe. 
I can’t help but feel so sad to read that our Etosha National Park apparently has been allowed to become dilapidated.  It is imperative for Namibians to keep our parks in good order not only because of attracting tourists but also for future generations to continue enjoying our natural and tourists’ environment and resources.  To deeply change our predicament, we need to seriously be determined to keep our parks attractive, protect our wildlife and the flora they need to live and conserve the land.   To achieve that, not only the workers, but the top administrators, whether in the Ministry of Environment and Tourism and other affected Ministries or the Namibia Wildlife Resorts (NWR) must attend to the expectations of the guests in the national parks.
People who visit our iconic tourism sites must be offered the best experience possible.  Particularly, our foreign guests must leave our country with an everlasting positive impression so that they can be our ambassadors for life.   They will go home and tell their stories about Namibia.  Imagine what this letter writer is telling everyone they meet about Namibia after such a bad experience in the parks.
In other words, our national desire must be to ensure that each tourist in our parks leaves with the best memories possible about their time in Namibia. 
Not only for visitors must we maintain the parks, but for the animals.  The wildlife is under our care; they are national assets and we must take care to preserve their environments not just now, but into the future.
The parks must remain marvellous and beautiful.  I know we may not have enough financing these days to spend on the parks right now, but surely that does not mean that we cannot do something to address basic problems like working toilets, leaking sewage pipes and trash removal.  More of the revenue accrued from the parks might even be made directly available by the Treasury to MET to keep park infrastructure in good working condition.
Instead of co-existing with worry and dread hoping that this bad situation in our parks situation will go away, we should immediately and in a determined manner, take remedial measures.  Worry will not take us anywhere unless we take aggressive actions to bring about suitable situations.


The Windhoek Observer is an English-language weekly newspaper, published in Namibia by Paragon Investment Holding. It is the country's oldest and largest circulating weekly.

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