“Khowarib Schlucht” – mention those words and it conjures up images of dust, dust and more dust. Probably the Kaokoland’s most famous dust hole! But there’s more to it than just dust.
Where’s the Schlucht and how do I drive it?
The Schlucht is a narrow (and scenic) gorge situated in the upper reaches of the Hoanib River. It is accessible via the Ombonde River Trail, The Beesvlakte Trail or via the C43 south of Sesfontein. The first two options provide access from east to west and are, in my opinion, the best way to drive and experience the Schlucht.
I use the Schlucht as a gateway to the Kaokoland since it provides access to its southern most border, the Hoanib River. And a more practical reason would be that the only accommodation in the Schlucht is situated at its western end. No use driving the Schlucht from west to east and having to exit onto a tar road and missing out on the opportunity to spend a night on the riverbank.
The trail (whether via the Ombonde or the Beesvlakte) is not for the faint-hearted, a proper 4×4 with low range is required. Although not advisable, I once led a convoy of so-called “soft-roaders” through the Schlucht in 2011. They all made it although we had several “tupper parties” along the way as the soft-roaders shed cosmetic plastic. The guide vehicle however was a proper 4×4.
You will encounter soft sand and extreme powder dust. Some of the tracks through the dust are so deep that even with good ground clearance your vehicle’s belly will scrape the ground. Worse even is getting stuck with all four wheels in the air. It is advisable to travel with more than one vehicle. Something I would advise for the entire Kaokoland.
There’s more to the Khowarib than dust
Apart from the dust the Schlucht offers spectacular rock formations towering high above the canyon floor. It is these rock formations that make the Schlucht impossible to negotiate during the rainy season. Apart from the dust turning into a mud bath the narrow gorge turns into a rampaging torrent of water. Stay out of the Schlucht during months February through to April. May might even be touch and go.
The desert-adapted elephants of the Kaokoland also use the Schlucht as passageway to greener pastures to the east during the dry months and similarly returns via the Schlucht to the Kaokoland in months of good rainfall to the west. It is not unusual to encounter these mammoths in the Schlucht.
Other game such as Kudu, Oryx, Springbok and even Giraffe frequently roams the gorge in search of water. I have spotted Eland in the Schlucht before but that is extremely rare and I wouldn’t bargain on it.
The Khowarib also offers good birding opportunities. Keep an eye out for Rosy Faced Lovebirds, Madagascar Bee-eaters and Hartlaub’s Spurfowl to name but a few.
Support the local community by staying over at the Khowarib Community Camp. The campsite offers running water, hot showers and you can even buy firewood. The site overlooks a section of the gorge that carries water even in the winter months. If camping is not your thing, try the Khowarib Lodge. The lodge offers luxury tented accommodation as well as a variety of activities and excursions.
*Detailed directions, distances, GPS way-points and estimated times of arrival will soon be made available for subscribers. In the meantime you can contact me should you require any assistance and/or advice in tackling the Khowarib Schlucht.