NAMIBIAN tourism businesses are turning to eco-friendly products in a bid to provide clients with quality services that do not contribute to environmental degradation.

Taleni Africa Tourism Holdings, a Namibian tourism enterprise that runs several tourism hospitality facilities located strategically around important Namibian nature reserves and parks, is spearheading this initiative

The company’s first hospitality facility, Sossusvlei Lodge, located in the scenic Sossusvlei area was established in 1994. The lodge is one of the first up-market accommodation establishments in the area that provide tourists with accommodation services right at the entrance to one of Namibia’s highlights, the Sossusvlei, that is characterized by towering red sand dunes.

Willie du Toit, the company’s Managing Director says since the establishment of Sossusvlei Lodge, bigger windows have opened and paved ways for more businesses.

“We kept setting goals for ourselves with the aim of realizing all our dreams, and with more and more tourists visiting the area, the need for more accommodation facilities grew. We realized the need for a product that would suit, what we thought is a unique African requirement, one that is daring for travellers who would prefer to sit around a campfire close to nature and prepare their own food and so on,” he said.

According to du Toit, that realization culminated in the establishment of the Desert Camp, a luxury self-catering facility in 2006, which is situated five kilometres from Sesriem, the entrance to Sossusvlei and Sesriem canyon.

“Today Desert Camp boasts with the highest occupancies in the area and is not only popular with people from Africa but also appeals very much to the European tourists because of the unique services the camp offers.”

After the opening of the Desert Camp, Taleni Africa Tourism Holdings then set up a petrol service station to address the shortage of fuel and shopping facilities in this lone scenic area.

“For years, many tourists became stranded in the area with no fuel, no spare wheel, and no clean restroom facilities. This shortage of fuel did not only affect tourists but also the surrounding local communities, hence the management of Taleni Africa took up the initiative to open up a fully fledged service station in the area,” he says.

These efforts culminated in the opening of the Sossus Oasis Fuel & Service Station in February 2009.

He says, the opening of the service station in the area however brought up another challenge for the Taleni Africa management because campers then resorted to camping at the service station due to the proximity of the bathroom facilities.

“ In our effort to maintain the highest level of service we designed and put up the Sossus Oasis Camp site right next to our service station which opened in May this year just right in time to receive the stampede of South Africans that visited Namibia during their extraordinary long school holiday created by the World Cup.”

Two of Taleni Africa Tourism Holdings lodges, namely Sossusvlei Lodge and Desert Camp are proud holders of Eco Awards and du Toit is over the moon with the recognition his company has received.“The awards stem from our commitment to take utmost care to conserve all nature around us at all of our new and existing establishments.”

In order to save on energy, the buildings of Taleni Africa lodges are positioned in such a way that heat intrusion is minimized and natural lighting maximized. Some walls and roofs of the buildings, most exposed to the fierce desert sun are back filled with excavated ground to act as a natural heat barrier.

Adds du Toit, “In order to save on the consumption of fossil fuels we built an 85 kilometre power line to Sesriem two years ago connecting us to the Nampower grid to replace our diesel generators. In addition, together with ENGEN our fuel supplier partner, we also installed a supplementary 10 Kva solar array that supply the base load energy requirement, topped up by the electricity from the grid according to demand.”

The company says solar energy now produces about 25% of the electricity requirements at Sossus Oasis.

The lodges also feature a water treatment system that purifies the waste water to level that the grey water can be used for the existing lawns and gardens.

“We all know that water is a very scarce commodity in Namibia and especially in the desert hence we apply strict water saving measures and do not put any harmful substances back into the ground. We also keep a strict monthly record of the water levels of the bore holes and extraction is altered to avoid too much pressure on a single source.”

Apart from the three lodges located in the Sossusvlei area, Taleni Africa Tourism Holdings also operate the Taleni Etosha Village located next to the Okaukeujo entrance of the Etosha National Park.

Du Toit overseas the 150 Namibian employees.

“The experience that I have in the tourism industry is self-taught, before 1994 I have been involved in the transportation and logistics industry and I am still involved with transport.”

He is also the Managing Director of one of Namibia’s leading transportation company, FP du Toit Transport Ltd, which offers transport and distribution services.PF