Tsumkwe is the centre of Bushmanland, and it is okay to refer to it like that. For people, though, the word "bushman" is considered derogatory, call them "San" instead.
Tsumkwe can be reached with an ordinary sedan via Grootfontein to the west, and via Gobabis from the south. From the east there is a gravel road from Botswana; This border post is only accessible to Namibian and Tswana citizens. When arriving from Omaheke region, consider that the 350 kilometres (220 mi) gravel track from Gobabis does not lead past any visible petrol station. There is one at Omauezonjanda (signposted Epukiro Pos 3) that should at least stock diesel but you have to ask someone to find it.
The village itself is walkable. On all minor roads in the vicinity you need a 4x4 due to really deep and soft sand. If you consider visiting Khaudum National Park you'll need two vehicles in case one breaks down, and they need to be serious all-terrain cars, not just SUVs with four-wheel drive.
The major attraction in the area is the Khaudum National Park in the Kavango north of Tsumkwe.
There are several large baobab trees in the vicinity and several nice spots for seeing animals and birds. During the wet season from January to April the area is beautiful and with luck you can see several endangered bird species. From August to October is the best for seeing animals.
Elephants roam everywhere in the area, you will likely see some even on the access roads and in the village.
- Living villages: You can stay in a San community for a few hours or several days and participate in their life: Build a traditional hut, forge iron arrow tips, learn to read animal spoor, and so on. Great for kids! There are several such villages around Tsumkwe. Contact the Nyae Nyae Conservancy for more information about this. Tsumkwe Lodge can also organise trips to living villages.
- Community camp sites: You can camp at several San villages around Tsumkwe, ask at the Tsumkwe Lodge which ones are worth visiting. The villagers often also offer activities like guided walks, and the experience is a bit more natural than in the official living villages. The downside is that the "program" is not guaranteed: If the story teller is absent then there will be no story night at the fire, when only elders are around no one will take you on a walk for edible plants. The community camp sites are a lot cheaper than the living villages. When arranging for a price for activities keep in mind that there is a minimum wage in Namibia of around 12.50 N$ per hour. Please do not add to the exploitation of the San by paying less than that.
Since mid 2008 there is a commercial petrol station in Tsumkwe. It also houses an Afrox outlet where camping gas bottles can be filled, and a somewhat decent general dealer. However, perishable goods, even bread, eggs, or milk, are rarely available. Usually Grootfontein is the last outpost for such supplies before heading to Tsumkwe.
There are several other sparsely stocked supermarkets in the village - one even functions as a post office - but their standard stock is maize meal, beer and soft drinks. You might get some frozen meat at low quality and an inflated price.
Bushman curios are available at the "shop" (read garage) run by Rev. van Zijl and his wife. They have acquired these artifacts directly from the San in exchange for food. They use this system to avoid any proceeds from their crafts being used for alcohol - a growing problem with San in the area.
The Tsumkwe Lodge is the main place to stay in the area. There is also a public guesthouse. The camping possibilities are good but remember to pay the camping fee to the conservancy.
- 1 TUCSIN Tsumkwe Country Lodge, on the D5904 south of the village centre (Turn south at the main crossroads in town. The lodge is signposted about a km from there), ☏ . A total of 25 bungalows, 6 camp sites. The lodge has a waterhole that is frequented mostly by cattle and donkeys, but occasionally an elephant quenches its thirst there, too. Camping spots are on sand with lots of thorn bushes yet little shade. A footpath leads directly past the camp site, and the next bar is not far. The place can thus become noisy at times. Food at the restaurant has to be ordered in advance, but it is worth it. The lodge employs several indigenous San who are happy to answer questions and give advice on what to visit next. Camping 146 N$ pppn, children full price. Breakfast 150 N$, dinner 199 N$.
When travelling south or east from Tsumkwe you will cross the Red Line where all meat will be confiscated due to veterinary health regulations.