Kaokoland – Namibia’s Wild West

Where is it? 

The Kaokoland is a vast area stretching from the Hoanib River in the south to the Kunene River in the north. To the west is the Skeleton Coast and to the east it borders Ovamboland.

“Kaokoland” (some people refer to it as the “Kaokoveld”) refers to Namibia’s remote north-western corner. Until the late twentieth century the Kaokoland was truly one of the few remaining “Last Frontiers”. Remote and isolated. Romanticized as a place with abundant wildlife and nomadic tribes unaffected by the ways of the West. Most of that was true before the late 70’s.

The Hoanib River (just south of Sesfontein) is its southern border and to the north it’s the Kunene River. To the the east it borders Ovamboland while the Skeleton Coast forms its western border.

Planning a trip to the Kaokoland

“Planning” is the operative word. Although detailed maps are available and more and more people visit the Kaokoland each year, it is still remote. It is proper 4×4 country. Things can and probably will go wrong. There are no hospitals, fuel is scarce and cellphone reception non-existent.

You should be entirely self-sufficient and you should plan for the unforeseen. The distance between two places is irrelevant. How long it will take you to get there is the yardstick to be used. Food and water for an extra day or two are essential just as spares are for your vehicle.

Please consider that the Kaokoland is an ecologically sensitive area. Ecological systems operate at a micro level and are easily trampled and destroyed. Take your rubbish with you. Stay on the tracks.

Must-see places

After ten years of guiding in the Kaokoland I developed two routes. The first is for the first-time visitor and includes all the iconic landmarks. The second is for the those who have driven down the Van Zyl’s Pass and have the t-shirt. Those who want to take it easy and experience the beauty of the place.

Route 1 (I call it “The Last Frontier” route) visits the following destinations:

  1. The Khowarib Schlucht
  2. Sesfontein and the Hoanib River
  3. Puros via Amspoort
  4. Orupembe
  5. Van Zyl’s Pass via the Otjihipa Mountains
  6. Marienfluss
  7. Hartmann’s Valley
  8. Opuwo
  9. Epupa Falls
  10. Swartbooisdrift via the Kunene 4×4 Route

Route 2 (The 5 Rivers Adventure) is my favorite route and affords visitors the opportunity to track the desert-adapted elephants and lions; search for black rhinos and camp wild under the Anna-trees in 5 of the most prominent dry riverbeds of northern Namibia. Route 2 meanders through both Damaraland and the Kaokoland and includes:

  1. The Omdel Dam and the Omaruru River
  2. The Ugab River
  3. Desolation Valley and the Huab River (Twyfelfontein area)
  4. The Palmwag Concession Area and the Hoanib River
  5. Puros and the Hoariseb River
  6. The Otjipepa River

Both itineraries take 9-11 days to complete. Route details, distances, packing lists, GPS way-points and travel times will soon be made available for subscribers. In the meantime, should you require assistance with planning for the Kaokoland you can contact me via this Blog.

In the coming weeks I will post a series of articles covering most of the “must see” places listed above.

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Professional dad, prone to accepting random challenges of endurance. Novice writer and would-be mountaineer. Firm believer that you can burpee your way to hapiness. I'm not taking myself seriously and neither should you. Trying each day to make less mistakes than yesterday.

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