One day, in the mid - eighties, a Windhoek businessman was offered a piece of land in the desert… To cut a very long story short, he then bought the said farm (and eight others, amongst them Wolwedans), took down all their fences and decreed that the land shall be given back to the wilderness. This man had a vision and his name is Albi Brückner.
His vision was simple. He wanted to create a nature reserve, to conserve the beautiful land and to protect the animals that inhabited it. Albi looked for like-minded individuals to help him finance this project, but sadly, in those early days when conservation wasn’t the buzzword it is today, none were forthcoming (a situation that thankfully changed later). Albi believed so passionately in his vision that he ended up financing it himself entirely (with the help of one likeminded bank!). After many years of blood, sweat and tears, NamibRand Nature Reserve was finally created.
They say the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree, and in the Brückner family, that is certainly true. Stephan, Albi’s youngest son, on returning from studying in Berlin where he completed his Masters in Business Communications, was asked by his father if he’d like to help set up the Reserve. Stephan’s who at that time had his eyes set on an international jet-set career, happily agreed to help his dad out for one year… the rest, as they say, is history.
Stephan realized his dream was to create a safari camp in the dunes of Wolwedans, his particular favorite of the farms, that would not only contribute to and support the conservation ethics of the NamibRand Nature Reserve, but also to provide much needed employment opportunities in the local area.
So in 1994, building of the Dune Camp began. Stephan masterminded the whole construction down to the design of the structures and interiors, very importantly adhering to and maintaining the principle of ethical simplicity; a blue print which set the benchmark for all camps that followed.
The Dune Camp proved to be so popular, that in less than a year it had expanded to twelve beds. Over the years it has consistently been upgraded, but its original charm remains.
Demand was growing as well as the economic pressure to maintain the reserve, so in 1999 the Dunes Lodge was built, providing another 20 beds. In 2002 Private Camp, a remote ‘villa’ sleeping only four guests, opened its doors.
Sadly tragedy struck in 2003 when the entire main complex of the Lodge burnt down in dreadful accident. Thankfully no guests or employees were hurt.
No time was wasted in rebuilding the Lodge. As with all the Wolwedans sites, construction of the new Lodge took a soft approach to the surrounding nature. Without the use of concrete (except for the pool), the Lodge was built using the pole structure (dug 1.5 meters into the ground) and elevated decks that have become synonymous with Wolwedans. All the wood was brought in from South Africa, and along with all the other materials was driven up to the site using Land Rovers. It took only five months for the new Lodge to emerge from the ashes.
(An interesting point to mention is that all of the chalets and tents at Wolwedans are designed in such a way that they can be dismantled easily, and within six months the nature it resided on will restore itself and there will be no trace that the camp ever existed.)
Around the same time, on a piece of land situated to the deep south of NamibRand and some 45 km’s away from Wolwedans, a new, very different camp has been created, which today is known as Boulders Safari Camp.
Opened only in August 2007, Boulders offers a very different environment contrasting beautifully with the dune environment. Closely tucked away in to the magnificent granite rocks of that area and designed to make the most of the stunning vista, Boulders undoubtedly provides the most exclusive camp of the Wolwedans Collection.
Many loyal and committed employees have contributed to what Wolwedans is today. Stephan Brückner is still the Managing Director and is as ‘hands-on’ in the management of Wolwedans as he was 14 years ago.
Wolwedans is more than just a collection of camps – it’s ethos lies in setting an example in responsible tourism, the empowerment of its employees and its commitment to the conservation of NamibRand Nature Reserve (park fees alone, collected on behalf of the nature reserve exceeded NAD 1 million in 2007).
For the time being, there are no plans for any new camps at Wolwedans. It was decided that while the opportunity for development was huge, we would cap tourism development, and have committed to allowing 1000 hectares of nature for every bed at Wolwedans. To maintain growth, the time has come to scout for opportunities outside of the Reserve.
One of these projects that got off the ground in 2006 is the Namibian Institute of Culinary Education (nice) situated in Windhoek. Offering a first class restaurant and stylish bar, the Institute is a ‘living classroom’ training aspiring chefs to polish their skills and further their careers in the hospitality industry. It has been a very welcome addition to the Windhoek social scene!
Our vision and commitment to Wolwedans, and the development of Namibia and its people still drives us forward today. Wolwedans was not only designed for profit, but mainly to make an important contribution to the local economy, to provide opportunities for those who would otherwise have had none, and to help conserve one of the most beautiful landscapes in the world.