Kaokoland is the most inaccessible and hostile region of Namibia, but for the adventurer and explorer it is perfect. To the east lie hilly mudtracks, and to the west the desert hides soft traps of quicksand. Situated north of Etosha, and within a good self-driving trek from the Skeleton Coast, it's a worthy stop if you've got the time to explore more hidden corners of the country.
The ecosystem here is very fragile, and easy to damage if vehicles are driven off the tracks and crush the plants.
Opuwo is the hub of Kaokoland, and is a frontier town with a large bakery, garages and even a school. The variety of people who live here is fascinating, from the traditionally rural Himba who come to trade, to a few smartly suited businessmen!
One of the highlights in Kaokoland is the Epupa Falls. This lies on the Kunene River which runs between Angola and Namibia and has palm-forests growing on its banks. The green Makalani palms, which are great for photographing, extend only 30 m from the river and beyond this the land becomes semi-arid savannah again. At the Epupa Falls, the river widens and a few islands sit in the channel above the falls, which are caused by the river falling down a geological fault. In some places it is up to 35 m deep, and its startling beauty is mainly due to the contrast between the arid areas surrounding it. Large mammals are resident in the area and a huge variety of birds can be found. The easiest to see are a breeding colony of rosy-faced lovebirds in a valley near to the falls, and paradise flycatchers are also easy to see. Other species include fish eagles, bee-eaters, kingfishers that range in size from giant to tiny, weavers, sunbirds and the rare rufus-tailed palm thrush.
For those interested in precious stones and rocks, rose quartz crystals can be seen lying on the floor, as well as some chipped implements from people who have searched before and left their equipment behind.
Hartmann’s Valley is an arid valley with weather that varies dramatically as mist creeps up it from the coast. 70 km from end to end, it is beautiful and cool at sunrise, and the track ends in high dunes which are showed off in early morning light.
The next inland valley from Hartmann’s is the Marienfluss which is reached via a fairly new-looking Himba settlement. This valley has soft sand and more greenery than the previous one, and is covered in light scrub and a few trees that mark an underground river. ‘Fairy circles’ can be found here; round patches of earth in which no vegetation can grow, and for which there a several explanations, the most popular of which is that they are fairy dancing rings.
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Our Recommended Tours
Embark on a mobile safari to explore the Skeleton Coast, Damaraland and Kaokoland, spotting desert elephant and meeting the Ovahimba while discovering the Kunene River and Epupa Falls.
A world unlike any that you may have seen before.
Skeleton Coast, Damaraland, Kaokoland in Namibia - 12 days/11 nights