If I’m going to tell you all about my adventures at Neuras, it helps to know a little bit about the area. The Neuras Wine and Wildlife Estate comprises 56 square miles of semi-desert landscape that includes everything from mountains and canyons to seasonal riverbeds and grassy plains.
In a typical year, this area receives five to six inches of rain, with almost all of it falling during the summer months of February and March. This year, however, the rainy season brought less than one inch of rain. So suffice to say, it’s pretty dry here.
It’s not dry everywhere, however. Neuras is a Nama word that means “place of abandoned water.” The estate earned its name from the five natural springs that surround the vineyard. These springs not only provide enough water to irrigate the vineyard and operate the lodge, they also provide a critical resource for the wildlife.
Property records go back to the late 19th century, when the estate became a cattle ranch. In such an arid region, cattle and other livestock must range far to find sufficient food. In order to provide water for all of the livestock across the ranch, previous owners also dug wells with windmills to pump water to the surface. Some of those waterholes are still active. They provide water for 150 head of livestock still raised on the estate and for all of the wildlife. In some of the riverbeds, pools of standing water remain, fed by water running below the surface. Elsewhere warthogs and other animals dig into the sandy riverbeds to access water below.
What does all of this mean? Water is still precious at Neuras, but enough water exists on the estate to make Neuras a pretty special place. It hosts large numbers of greater kudu for example. Mountain zebras, classified as “Vulnerable” on the IUCN Red List of endangered species, are common in thesurrounding hills and plateaus. Springbok roam the plains at lower elevations while the sure-footed Klipspringers occupy the canyons and steep slopes. All of these animals, plus many smaller species, provide plenty of prey for the leopards, hyenas, and other carnivores that make Neuras their home.
At the end of the day, what’s most striking about Neuras is not the wildlife, it’s the variability of the landscape. The Tsauchab River and a few tributaries cut through the middle of the property but only flow during the rains. Enough moisture accumulates in these riverbeds to nourish trees. In the north, plains rise at steeper and steeper angles, eventually giving way to the sheer cliffs in the Naukluft Mountains. In the southern portions of the estate, the landscape rises again. Canyons crisscross these highlands, with their own species of vegetation such as the Moringa tree and Paper-bark tree (Commiphora). This diversity gives Neuras a richness and complexity worth studying.