KAOKOLAND AND THE KUNENE RIVER
For the more adventurous souls out there, Kaokoland is what Namibia is all about. Widely considered as one of Africa’s few remaining true wilderness areas, Kaokoland is found in the far north of the country and south of the Kunene River, which serves as the natural border between Namibia and Angola. Kaokoland is harsh, wild, desolate, unadulterated and dramatically beautiful.
It’s not on most tourist itineraries, but that’s a large part of its appeal, as are its desert elephant and rhino populations and cultural experiences with the iconic Himba and Herero people.
Kaokoland is also great 4×4 territory and provides the off-road enthusiast with some exhilerating challenges, though many of the dirt and gravel roads remain easy and enjoyable, and wonderfully free of traffic.
The Kunene River slices through a stark landscape of ancient granite rock formations, sand and sparse vegetation. The contrast between the lush river banks and the arid mountains seems unreal.
Along the Kunene River, you have a choice of either booking yourself into the exclusive luxury of upmarket safari lodges or being completely self-reliant in basic but beautiful campsites.
The Epupa Falls and the Ruacana Falls are the scenic highlights along the Kunene River itself. Dramatic scenery, abundant birdlife and rock pools make these remote destinations very worthwhile for self-reliant adventurers.
Further south, the Kaokoland offers mountain passes that will challenge the vehicle as much as the driver. The treacherous Van Zyl’s Pass leading into the Marienfluss Valley is possibly the most famous among them. The untouched valleys give you a true sense of exploration and leave you with ample amounts of open space and silence, even by Namibian standards.
Scattered across the open spaces of the Kaokoland, desert elephants walk up to 200 km to find water. Both they and black rhinos can also be tracked and viewed in various parts of the region, as can the elusive desert lions. Easier and more frequent sightings are zebra and Oryx.
The regional capital, Opuwo, is a popular and convenient stop off heading to or from Etosha, particularly the secluded Opuwo Country Lodge, whose infinity pool boasts one of the best views you’ll find anywhere in Namibia.
Travelling through the Kaokoland, you will encounter a number of Himba settlements. These iconic and statuesque semi-nomadic people continue to largely resist the encroachment of westernization.
The Himba are best known for the red ochre that they use to braid their hair and protect their skin from the sun. Himba women wear ornate hairstyles, which along with jewellery from iron, copper and shells makes them an impressive encounter and a popular motive for many photographers.
In the Kaokoland, you have the rare chance to witness the traditional Himba lifestyle far away from western civilization. You can do so at a number of cultural villages and living museums throughout the region, many of which can be incorporated into our itineraries.