Namibia :: Kaokoland
:: Okangwati Area
Category: Places :: Travel Region
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IT’S ONE OF THE LAST remaining wilderness areas in Africa, so it’s not surprising that Kaokoland attracts hardcore travellers and explorers. Make no mistake, you must be self-sufficient and an experienced off-road traveller if you’re going to venture into this remote region in the extreme north-western corner of Namibia.
Do your preparations and you’ll experience a harsh but nevertheless beautiful and rewarding journey. You definitely need an off-road vehicle to tour Kaokoland and you’d be wise not to take a trailer. Seriously consider taking a satellite phone if you travel Kaokoland on your own.
The routes here are dusty sand or gravel roads, often no more than simple tracks; they can easily become flooded depending on the season or a nearby rainstorm. If you’re an off-road driving enthusiast or a very skilled adventure bike rider, you might want to tackle the notorious Van Zyl’s Pass.
The Kaokoland landscape ranges from sweeping plains, to rugged mountains and dry riverbeds seamed with lush riparian bush. It deserves your respect, so be an eco-traveller and don’t create track pollution; stay on the beaten tracks or roads and don’t disturb any plants, especially the Welwitschia (no matter what size or age).
As in Damaraland, you have to be aware of desert elephant, especially in the dry riverbeds. The desert elephants are not used to humans and they don’t like being disturbed. They have a comfort zone of at least 500m and are best observed from afar. As the dry riverbeds belong to them, you are advised to rather stay out of there. Chances are good that you might also encounter rhino, lion and leopard.
Kaokoland is mainly communal land that is divided into conservancies. The conservancies are managed by the local communities, who own the land rights and are responsible for the wild game. Money spent at community camps stays in the communities. Remember to take your own litter with you when you leave, as the communities here live in a very natural way and don’t have facilities for disposing your rubbish.
The area is sparsely inhabited by nomadic Himba who are cattle herders and live in simple round huts. Respect them and their culture. They have a number of sacred places spread throughout Kaokoland and you need to ensure that you do not camp on or near them. These sacred places are indicated on Tracks4Africa’s GPS maps with roads marked ‘no access’.
When you drive past a village, keep your speed down so as not to cover the residents in your dust and give them a polite wave. Beware of large herds of cattle if you camp near Himba villages. The cattle have adapted to feeding as far as 35 km away from water and only return to drink every second or third day. The return to water normally happens at nightfall or later. Over the last 5 km the smell of water excites them, often causing a stampede. And you don’t want to be camped in their way!
Kaokoland has a lot to offer in terms of natural beauty. The life-giving Kunene River has many waterfalls and rapids of which the most spectacular are the Ruacana Falls and Epupa Falls. The Marienfluss Conservancy is a wide and long valley covered in soft wavering grass for most of the year, set between high, stark mountain ranges. You can enter the Marienfluss in the south via the nerve-wracking Van Zyl’s Pass, or the track passing Rooidrom.
Rooidrom is a red, 45 gallon Caltex drum that was put there many years ago by Bantu Affairs Commissioner Ben van Zyl as a way of storing petrol for when he would pass there again and need it. Its purpose, however, changed to that of being a road marker (it is at a split in the road) and this is how it got its name. Rooidrom became a well-known landmark in Kaokoland and fellow travellers regularly paint it. It later became a memorial for one Jan Joubert, a pioneer in marking the 4x4 trails of Namibia; he was murdered north of Gobabis while on a trip into Hereroland.
Recently the mysterious Lone Men have become an attraction. The Lone Men are nearly life-size rock sculptures, masterfully created from rock prevailing in the area. They blend in perfectly with their surroundings and take on different poses. Each sculpture bears a disc with a number and a message. At the time of going to press a sculpture numbered 27 has been seen. The name of the artist and the exact location of the sculptures haven’t been made public and travellers seem to be in agreement that their GPS location should remain a secret so that the Lone Men can remain mysterious. The sculptures have been spotted along the road on the routes between Puros in the south, Van Zyl’s Pass in the east, Otjinhungwa in the north and the Skeleton Coast Park in the west.
Sesfontein Fort, a German fort from World War One;
Ongongo Hot Spring near Sesfontein;
Van Zyl’s Pass;
Lone men rock sculptures.
|Address :||Kaokoland, Namibia|
|Cellphone Reception :||Intermittent||Main Cellular Network :||MTC|
|Police Station :||Yes||Police Telephone :||+264(0)65 274 506|
|Hospital :||Yes||Hospital Telephone :||+264(0)65 272 800|
|Doctor :||Yes||Doctor Telephone :||+264(0)65 273 466|
|Petrol :||Yes||Petrol Type :||ULP/LRP|
|Towing Service :||Yes||Towing Service Telephone :||+264(0)81 310 0787|
|Facilities :||Shopping Centre, Shops, Bank, Internet Cafe, Lodging, Camping, Liquor, Restaurant, Pharmacy, Airstrip, Tyre Repair, Tyre Sales, Mechanical Repair|
|Game Viewing, Game Drives, Quad Bikes, 4WD Trails, Tours and Excursions, Hiking Trails, Guided Walks, Fishing, Swimming, Bird Watching, Stargazing|
Okangwati Health Clinic is located in Kaokoland, their number is +264(0)65 274 505.
Petrol costs are from NAD11.32 per litre. (25-Aug-11). Container Fuel Stop at Okangwati it is more expensive.
Fuel shortages was reported in Opuwo in March 2020. There was supply at Omakange Service Station, which is on the turn-off from the Kamanjab to Ruacana road (C35), to Opuwo (C41).
Take note: Garage or Petrol cards will no longer be accepted as a legal tender for purchase of fuel, spares or repairs in Namibia. Cash, Debit and Credit cards are legal payment instruments, but many fuel stations choose NOT to accept Debit and/or Credit cards. Therefore you are advised to either carry cash or ensure that the filling stations you intend to use will accept your Debit or Credit card. (Feb-2014).
The road (D3700) from Kunene River Lodge in North West Namibia to Epupa Falls along by the Kunene River has been upgraded. It used to be a serious 4 x 4 route but is now a wide road and takes about 3 hours to drive. (Oct-16).
“Information received from Heiner Dillmann about travelling in this area after the heavy rains in March/April 2011:I haven’t been up to Kaokoland this year, but with the rains we had this season – and are still having – I would strongly advise against any river driving. Even if the river looks dry, you may suddenly end up in quicksand... see attached photo. That was in the Kuiseb a couple of years ago. The river looked totally dry. The roads are probably bad with sections washed away etc. But should be negotiable for an experienced 4x4 driver but in all probability rivers will be trouble and more trouble. At any rate, make sure that you are not only 1 vehicle. The main Khumib/Hoarusib Route is mostly in the river – you may find sections where you can pass outside the river, but in sections you have to follow the riverbed. I would advise the western road although it is not as beautiful. ” - Janine Reyneke, 2011/04/19