Arid Damaraland is an area of geological wonder, ancient rock art, epic rock climbing and beautiful, wild landscapes. It’s also home to one of Africa’s largest populations of free-roaming black rhino and Namibia’s famous desert elephants. Situated between the coastal town of Swakopmund and Etosha National Park, Damaraland offers travellers strangely beautiful rock formations, geological and cultural sites that have stood the test of time as well as good accommodation and camping options in a number of picturesque locations.
Rock Art in Twyfelfontein and Brandberg
The more than 2,000 rock engravings of Twyfelfontein are a World Heritage Site. The scenes of animals and hunters represent a spiritual world that shamans encounter in trance. The rock art of Twyfelfontein is estimated to be up to 6,000 years old and is one of the largest concentrations of rock art in all of Africa.
The famous rock painting ‘The White Lady’ can be found under an overhang on the Brandberg Mountain. There has been much controversy about the correct interpretation of this painting. The rock paintings of the Brandberg are estimated to be between 2,000 and 4,000 years old.
While Twyfelfontein and Brandberg are the most popular destinations for rock art, you will find paintings and engravings throughout Damaraland in places such as Spitzkoppe or the Erongo Mountains.
The Brandberg is not only home to famous rock paintings but also marks the highest point in Namibia. At 2,573 m the peak of Königstein is an impressive sight and a popular challenge for avid rock climbers.
The rounded granite mountains of Spitzkoppe lure the visitor in with playful shapes and a peak that resembles the Matterhorn. Other sites in the area include the oddly isolated Finger Rock, the Petrified Forest near Khorixas, the Organ Pipes close to Twyfelfontein and the Erongo Mountain Nature Conservancy.
Damaraland is also an excellent place to see the Welwitschia mirabilis. The plant is indigenous to the Namib Desert and some specimens reach an age of up to 2,000 years.
Arts and Crafts
Though small in size, the town of Omaruru is well worth a visit for people interested in arts and culture. The Omuntu Garden is a permanently changing exhibition of sculptural arts, while masters of woodcarving display their skills at the Tikoloshe Afrika gallery. Grow Namibia creates innovative products out of recycled materials and the Kashana Art and Craft Centre is a collection of arty small businesses on the banks of the Omaruru River.
Flora and Fauna
Damaraland is well-known for its elusive desert-dwelling black rhinos and elephants. Both animals are free roaming in this region – that is to say, they are not restricted by park boundaries and wander about as they please. The best way to see these special creatures in this unique environment is on a tracking tour, where you will try to locate the animals on foot with an experienced guide.
Damaraland’s hilly savannah also supports a large number of other species including brown hyena, eland, kudu, giraffe, klipspringer, steenbok, gemsbok and springbok. Lion, cheetah and leopard can all be found here too, but sightings are rare. Birdlife is prolific with over 33 raptors recorded including African cuckoo-hawks, Egyptian vultures and peregrine falcons – the world’s fastest animal.
The Damara are among the oldest inhabitants of Namibia. They have no known cultural relationship with any of the other ethnic groups found anywhere else in Africa, and very little is known of their origins. Their language has various clicks similar to the Bushmen. The Damara Living Museum close to Twyfelfontein introduces visitors to some of the Damara traditions, pre-colonial dress and age-old survival strategies.