A guesthouse where wild hippos graze

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Divundu

Divundu Guest House, founded in 2005 by the husband-and-wife team of Peter Lenhardt and Hetty Majavero-Lenhardt, enjoys unrivalled proximity to the Kavango River where visitors can enjoy memorable river cruises or alternatively experience a game drive.

Majavero-Lenhardt got married to Peter Lenhardt, who is originally from Canada but now a naturalised Namibian, fully acquainted with the Namibian way of life and settled at Divundu in Kavango East where – with the assistance of his wife – they blissfully operate their guest House.

“My husband and I bought the Divundu Guest House in 2005. At the moment we have six bungalows that sleep two or three persons, 30 backpackers’ single occupancy rooms, eight campsites with an ablution block and kitchen for campers, an a la carte restaurant seating up to 50, one conference room that can seat up to 100 persons,” says Majavero-Lenhardt, who was born and bred at Andara not far from where their establishment is located.

It is located in an area characterised by breath-taking sunsets and boasts two small conference rooms that can accommodate 10 to 12 participants as well as the reception and cafe area at the entrance to the property, which is often frequented by hippos on the banks of the Kavango River.

At this guesthouse wild hippos emerge from the water in the nocturnal hours to come out and graze at night on its lush lawns. A single hippo swallows up to 50 kilogrammes of grass each night, as it does not feed on aquatic plants. Fish, in turn, feed on its dung.

Ten years ago, when the Lenhardt couple first bought the place – mainly with their own savings and pension payouts – the guesthouse initially only catered for Namibians and Angolans. To date the couple has invested N$4 million into the establishment and saw exponential growth.

She says since they “started advertising a year ago we have been receiving many more tourists from South Africa, Germany, Holland, Canada and France and other places. Our guests enjoy our simple and economical accommodation that is very good value-for-money.

“As I said earlier we will build luxury accommodation on the banks of the river to appeal to those who are able to afford more. Our total occupancy is improving.”

The guesthouse has a boat that can take a group of four to five people for cruises and sundowners on the river. Recently the industrious couple added a boat ramp to enable guests to launch their boats onto the river for their boat cruises.

In terms of job creation the guesthouse presently employs 12 people, among them two cleaners, four gardeners, two maintenance and construction workers, two bartenders and waitresses, one cook and has a vacancy “for an experienced front office person.”

Like any business the lodge has its challenges and Majavero-Lenhardt says inasmuch as they appreciate government workshops and guests, some government ministries take weeks and even months to settle their bills for the workshops held at the guesthouse, even after the hospitality establishment has sent them numerous friendly reminders.

“It would be really good for us if ministries would remember that we are a small growing business and depend on timely payment in order to re-stock and prepare for new guests and workshops,” she suggests. The other handicap mentioned by her is the fact that access to credit for establishments built on communal land is a huge challenge.

“Town water and town sewers are not available. Services from Divundu amount only to the collection of garbage, but with an irregular schedule. Sometimes garbage collection is a week late and by that time the garbage has overfilled the bins. Besides being smelly and unhealthy, guests, especially foreign tourists find this difficult to understand,” she stated.

When the couple bought the guesthouse in 2005 it only had six bungalows, no conference room, no adequate reception and no campsite. They have since upgraded all six bungalows so they each now have large flat-screen TVs, heating and air conditioning, bar fridges and coffee and tea provisions and they have continued to build luxury rooms and self-catering rooms as well as a swimming pool along the riverbank, adjacent to the guesthouse.

Majavero-Lenhardt previously worked at Namibia Wildlife Resorts (NWR) at Popa Falls and at Daan Viljoen – also a NWR-run tourism establishment on the outskirts of Windhoek – where she gained valuable experience and rose to a managerial position as food and beverage manager. Her husband works in Windhoek.

Divundu Guesthouse is located around ten km from the entrance to the game-rich Bwabwata National Park Buffalo Core Area and 25 km from the Mahango Core Area. These two areas are teeming with buffalo, elephant, hippos, lechwe, sable, roan, crocodiles, tsessebe, giraffe, zebra (and more) and thousands upon thousands of birds – many uncommon and rare.

Some guests spend hours bird watching, as the guesthouse itself has many bird species; the most popular with guests being the Meyers Parrots.

Tourism in game-rich Namibia is a major industry that contributes N$7.2 billion to the country’s gross domestic revenue (GDP) derived mainly from tourists from South Africa, Germany, the United Kingdom, Italy, France, and of late China.

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