Namibia is one of the most extreme environments known to man, and this north west corner of the county is perhaps the wildest of them all. Yet the Damara and Himba people and their predecessors have graced this landscape for thousands of years. Come and experience this desert landscape for yourself.
If Sossusvlei to Etosha is the bare bones, quick in-and-out Namibian safari, Damaraland and the Kaokoland-Kunene is its hard core, deep-desert counterpoint. This safari spends a few days in each of these regions for a full desert immersion.
Damaraland is as old as time itself, and this rocky landscape has seen many generations of man overcome the arid conditions and withering sun, as is evident from the 6 000-year old petroglyphs and ‘modern’ (by Damaraland standards) rock paintings.
Kaokoland, home of the Himba people, is a region of rocky mountains, and contrasting sandy flatlands and supports a surprisingly rich and diverse ecosystem.
Rugged, wild and remote, Damaraland is known for its dramatic geology. Bounded by the Skeleton Coast, the Kunene and Kaokoveld and the Etosha National Park, the landscape is breathtakingly colourful and diverse. The vast open-air gallery of 6 000-year-old petroglyphs etched into the sandstone rock at Twyfelfontein is Namibia’s only World Heritage Site, and one of the largest and most important rock art concentrations in Africa. The region is also a treasure trove of rock paintings. Despite the harshness of the environment, the wildlife is plentiful thanks to ephemeral river systems. In addition to magnificent oryx and other plains game, desert adapted rhino and elephant migrate throughout the region. Tracking these wonderful animals, by vehicle or on foot, is a truly exhilarating experience.
This arid, mountainous region in the north west of Namibia, is sandwiched between the Skeleton Coast and the Etosha National Park, and bounded in the north by the Kunene River. It is the most rugged, remote part of the country – most of it only accessible by 4x4 or fly-in safaris. Watercourses such as the Hoanib and Hoarusib rivers have gouged deep, rock-walled valleys through the rugged mountains. These form the migration routes for the desert-adapted elephant and rhino for which the area is famous. In this harsh climate you don’t get large concentrations of game. But, even in the dry season, several natural springs support a surprising diversity of plants and animals, with regular sightings of Hartmann’s mountain zebra, spotted hyena, oryx and even, occasionally, desert-adapted lion.
Perched amongst the rolling, rocky hills of the Palmwag Concession, raised Meru-style canvas tents face out onto the sweeping valley, dotted with euphorbia and ancient Welwitschia plants, and across to the surrounding Etendeka mountains.
Raised on wooden decks, each of the 8 spacious Meru-style canvas tents offers privacy, comfort and unrestricted views, and features an authentic en-suite bucket-shower. Accommodating only 16 guests, the remoteness of this exclusive, eco-friendly camp is perfectly balanced by its character-filled atmosphere, unmatched hospitality, and exceptional rangers, trackers and guides.
The Palmwag Concession extends for about 5 000km² between Etosha National Park and the Skeleton Coast in northern Damaraland, a semi-desert area that is home to a surprisingly high variety and density of wildlife. The Reserve’s freshwater springs support the largest free-roaming black rhino population in Africa, as well as healthy populations of desert-adapted elephant, Hartmann's mountain zebra, giraffe, gemsbok, springbok, kudu, and predators such as lion, cheetah, leopard, and brown and spotted hyena.
Specialising in tracking the desert-adapted black rhino, Desert Rhino Camp offers a rare insight into rhino conservation. The camp is unfenced and not suitable for children under 12 years, while only those 16 years and older may track rhino on foot, due to the risk factor.
Desert Rhino Camp is a community-supportive, collaborative venture between Wilderness Safaris and the Save the Rhino Trust.
Hoanib Skeleton Coast Camp is located in the northern part of the private Palmwag Concession in one of the most remote areas of the Kaokoveld. It is only accessible by light aircraft. It sits in a broad valley at the confluence of two tributaries of the dry Hoanib River. Gravel plains, rugged mountains and large, yellow sand dunes draw a scenic circle around the camp. Flanked to the east and west by craggy hills, the camp looks out over a desolate, starkly beautiful landscape, yet offers guests all the luxuries and amenities for an unforgettable stay. It is the perfect location for a series of unforgettable experiences, such as game drives to one of the greatest concentrations of desert-adapted elephant and lion, or scenic flights over the famous Skeleton Coast.
The camp comprises seven twin-bedded tents and one family unit, each with a stylish en-suite bedroom with shaded outdoor deck. Set in one of the most fragile ecosystems in the world, great care was taken to ensure a minimal impact on the environment.
Hoanib Skeleton Coast Camp is a joint-venture between Wilderness Safaris and the local community of Puros.
Damaraland is a mosaic of dramatic landscapes. The beautiful burnt orange granite domes of the iconic Spitzoppe and Erongo mountains define the landscape of the southeast. The red rocks of Twyfelfontein, the spectacular basalt slabs of the Organ Pipes and the multi-coloured rocks of Burnt Mountain dominate the central area. Further north, black basalt, flat-topped mountain ranges are surrounded by wind blown grasslands, studded with acacia trees.
The vast open-air gallery of 6 000-year-old petroglyphs etched into the sandstone rock at Twyfelfontein is Namibia’s only World Heritage Site, and one of the largest and most important rock art concentrations in Africa. The full spectrum of the country’s wildlife, including giraffe, rhinoceros, seals and ostriches is represented among the 5 000 engravings, along with human figures and the famous ‘Lion Man’, a long tailed lion with human toes.
The region is also a treasure trove of rock paintings, the most famous of which is the White Lady of Brandberg, a somewhat faded depiction, surrounded by animals, just north of Uis. The hour-long hike to the White Lady is straightforward, and trips to view the less accessible, extra-ordinarily well-preserved paintings of the Brandberg massif can be arranged for fit enthusiasts.
There’s also plenty for those of a cultural bent. The Damara Living Museum offers visitors an insight into the lives of the Damara people, traditionally hunter-gatherers who, along with the Bushmen, are among the oldest inhabitants of Namibia; while the charming town of Omaruru, the gateway to the Erongo Conservancy, is home to a vibrant community of artists.
Serra Cafema is located on the banks of the Kunene River in the remote Hartmann’s Valley in the extreme northwest of Namibia. Nestled amongst shady Albida trees, it is an intimate, peaceful riverside camp, and offers a perfect mix of rustic and luxury elements.
Serra Cafema’s spacious riverside Meru tents are set on elevated decks, and their wood, canvas and thatched design draws inspiration from the local Himba people. Expansive viewing decks overlook the Kunene river and the Serra Cafema mountains. The honeymoon tent is a particular favourite, and family accommodation is also available.
The Hartmann’s Valley lies at the border between Namibia and Angola, and forms part of the vast Marienfluss Conservancy. The Kunene River is the only permanent source of water in this region, creating a lush oasis along its banks – a winding band of green surrounded by the lunar-like landscape of the Namib Desert. In rainy years, the valley becomes a grassy expanse, but it is generally sandy flatland, broken only by a few tough grasses, toxic euphorbias, mysterious 'fairy circles' and sheer granite inselbergs.
Undoubtedly one of the most remote camps in southern Africa, rushing rapids in the desert make this a surreal experience, with the sounds of the river just below the camp lulling you into dreamland after a day of desert exploration.
The Kaokoland is the most rugged, remote part of Namibia, and most of it is only accessible by 4x4 or fly-in safaris. It is best explored on guided excursions to help unlock the secrets and mysteries of survival under this sun baked landscape.
More adventurous types can track rhino and elephant on foot, or go rafting on the Kunene River. The magnificent Epupa Falls, one of Namibia’s most popular tourist attractions, is a highlight of a visit to the north, and the nearby rock pools and lush vegetation provides some relief from the otherwise harsh environment of the region.
The Kunene is the ancestral home of the pastoral Himba people who live in scattered settlements throughout the far north west. Distinguished by their natural beauty, intricate hairstyles, distinctive jewellery and body adornments, they have clung onto their traditions, and can be easily recognised by the red colouring of their skin, produced by the application of a mixture of red ochre and fat that protects against the harsh desert sun.
This safari commences and ends in Windhoek, Namibia