Bitterwasser Lodge & Flying Center is a guest lodge and (gliding) airstrip located on the edge of the Kalahari region, about 170 kilometers south-southeast of Windhoek and about eight kilometers northwest of Hoachanas.
In the lodge we offer up to 80 guests excellent comfort and unique relaxation in 13 rondavels (African round houses), 22 air-conditioned bungalows. In a cultivated atmosphere and typical African ambience, even "non-flyers" enjoy that certain something.
The airfield and the gliding center are considered the best in the world. Numerous world records have been set here due to the good thermal conditions.
Why the name Bitterwasser?
In the "German period" before the First World War, Bitterwasser was surveyed as a farm and also received its name. The farmland was about 10 kilometers long as wide and had an area of 10 000 hectares. With its location on the edge of the Kalahari, surface water was only available during the rainy season. And since the clay soil of the "pan" is very rich in natron, the rainwater in the "pan" tasted so bitter that no animal liked to drink it. Hence the name Bitterwasser.
Since the 1960s, Bitterwasser has been known to aviators as the Diamond Farm. Peter Kayssler, the former owner of the Bitterwasser farm, was an enthusiastic glider pilot. With the simple airplanes of that time and an old winch in the form of a drum with willow fence wire, he already used the thermals of Bitterwasser.
Why diamond farm?
Diamonds have been found in Namibia. But fortunately not in Bitterwasser. However, the FAI (Fédération Aéronautique Internationale) the supreme air sports organization, awards badges and diplomas for special sporting achievements. It starts with the A-badge and goes over B-, C-, Silver C, Gold C to the Gold C with diamonds. And because there is very good weather in Bitterwasser, a lot of diamonds were flown in Bitterwasser. This led to the diamond farm.
The conditions are per diamond:
- An altitude gain of 5000 m.
- A flight over 300 km as a target return or triangle route
- One free cross-country flight over 500 km.
Due to the progressive development in gliding, it became necessary after 1960 to extend the performance levels with regard to the achieved flight distances. Today there is a diploma for each level, which is awarded from 750 km flight distance - in steps of 250 km.
Peter Kayssler wrote a book about his life shortly before his death on 16.10.1999. Fortunately, much of the story has been preserved as a result.
The book can be purchased in Bitterwasser and has the ISBN number: 3-00-011463-7.
I955, the pan became an airfield by erecting a pole with a windsock.
1969 the first guest from Germany flies a diamond
1972 the idea of "Diamond Palms" was born and the first 21 palms were planted. From now on, for every diamond flown, a palm tree was planted. Thus, little by little, a palm tree avenue was created. More about this under the link palms. Link
Review by Peter Kayssler of the years 1960 to 1994 (excerpt from his book)
147 diamonds were flown, as many palm trees were planted, with commemorative plaques
33 world records were flown or beaten by eight different pilots, date palms bear witness to their achievements
Six pilots flew their first thousand and planted royal palms
More than 400 glider pilots from 18 different states flew more or less successfully in Bitterwasser. Some of them have visited here more than 10 times. Most of them I checked and briefed
Michael Schultz also planted a king palm on his "round trip" around the world with the Porsche-Mooney.
Three Southwest African Gliding Championships were held in Bitterwasser.
After the death of my wife in 1994, I sold the entire Bitterwasser farm to a group of glider pilots from Europe.
The group of glider pilots from Europe, mainly Swiss glider pilots, founded a joint stock company according to Namibian law (max. 50 shareholders) and developed the farm into today's fantastic gliding center with lodge.
2000 was the year in which the core of the lodge, the then much too large restaurant was inaugurated. Today the restaurant is the limit for the number of visitors. Since then the lodge has become an attractive destination for a Namibia vacation also for non gliders.
Still the majority of the shareholders are glider pilots. The primary goal is to preserve this wonderful gliding center for posterity and not to generate maximum profit.