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The Kaokoveld - Namibia

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Damaraland and Kaokoland are jointly known as the Kaokoveld - for the most part now falling into the politically defined Kunene region. This is one of the least accessible parts of Namibia and offers an insight into some of Namibia's most unusual natural features and fascinating cultures.

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Damaraland, named after the Damara people who make up most of the local population, is the hilly transitional zone between the arid Skeleton Coast and Namibia's scrubby central plateau - it holds the main repositories of Namibia's best known prehistoric rock paintings and engravings.
  • Twyfelfontein ("doubtful spring") has one of the most extensive galleries of rock art in Africa providing a unique window to a past culture and civilisation with over 2000 documented engravings. Unlike most prehistoric art sites in southern Africa, most of the Twyfelfontein works aren't paintings but rather engravings, or petroglyphs which have been imprinted by chipping through the hard patina covering the sandstone, dolomite or basaltic lava.
  • The Brandberg ("fire mountain", "mountain of the Gods", "forsaken mountain") named for the effect created by the rising and setting sun on its faces, is a massive inselberg that dominates the surrounding rock and gravel plains. Maack's Shelter in the Tsisab ("leopard") Ravine contains the famous "White Lady" painting which has evoked a myriad hypotheses as to its origin and meaning. The figure is estimated to be over 4000 years old.
  • The summit of the Brandberg, Konigstein, is Namibia's highest peak at 2579m. Conquered in 1918, it provides a formidable goal for mountaineers with horrendous daytime temperatures, bitterly cold nights and a serious scarcity of water.
  • The Messum Crater is a secluded volcanic feature in the Gobobose Mountains west of Brandberg - one of the best areas in Namibia for seeing lichen fields.
  • Spitzkoppe ("pointed hill) - a remnant of an ancient volcano is one of Namibia's most recognisable landmarks, nicknamed the Matterhorn of Africa - an area which is rich in semi-precious stones.
  • The Petrified Forest in the Awahuab Valley west of Khorixas contains an exceptional accumulation of fossilised trees estimated at over 200 million years old. An isolated colony of Welwitschia mirabalis amongst these relics creates an exotic botanical contrast by bringing together these "living fossils" with the dead.

Kaokoveld proper
Originally referred to as the Kaokoland district, the remote north-western corner of Namibia is rugged, harsh, untamed and practically devoid of commercial tourist developments.

This hinterland, reached by the Herero during the early southward Bantu migrations about 450 years ago and the Dorstlandtrekkers over 120 years ago is still sparsely inhabited by man. The Himba (or Ovahimba) tribe are Herero descendants who continue their semi-nomadic existence in this primitive wilderness today.

The Kaokoveld remains a wild sanctuary for small but wide-ranging populations of the renowned desert elephant, rhino, giraffe and lion. Roads are horrendous and basic infrastructure is virtually non-existent - this is prime safari territory!

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