KaokolandNorthern Namibia : Kaokoland
Kaokoland lies in the NW corner of Namibia's Kunene Region. Today it remains the most 'untouched' and remote part of the country, much of it still only accessible by 4x4 on hardcore tracks - not for the faint-hearted!
Places of Interest
Puros - extremely remote village set amongst stunning mountain scenery, only accessible by 4x4, approximately 5 hours' drive from Opuwo to the south-west. Puros is particularly well-known for its desert elephants which are commonly to be found in the riverbed behind the village - and make regular visits to Puros Bush Lodge and Campsite! Also home to desert lions.
Marienfluss - amazing valley running north-south, the north end reaching the Kunene River which forms the border with Angola.
Van Zyl's Pass - for super-experienced 4x4 drivers only, this pass is well-known as the most challenging 'road' in Namibia and presents a great challenge to those who like that kind of thing! Leads into Marienfluss. Can only be driven in downwards direction, towards Marienfluss - too dangerous the other way, and if you were to meet anyone coming down...
Onjuva - beautiful scenery, lies on route between Puros and Marienfluss.
Sesfontein - en route to Puros. Small town set in fantastic mountain scenery, where landscape starts to transform into desert.
The local people in Kaokoland are mainly Herero and Himba. These two tribes are closely related and both speak Otjiherero. Many Herero people, particularly younger ones, speak good English and Afrikaans. Amongst traditional Himbas however, you are unlikely to find any that speak other languages. If you are looking for help or advice, general advice is to aim for a younger person in Western dress.
Try English or Afrikaans.
To get the best out of Kaokoland, come in a 4x4 and be prepared to camp. Decent 4x4s can be hired at fairly reasonable cost in Windhoek, with full camping kits if required. Public transport is non-existent.
Puros Bush Lodge and Campsite - camping $60 pppn, self-catering lodge opening March 09, prices to be confirmed. Both lie about 5kms from Puros village along the river - signposted.
Marienfluss - Okarohombo Campsite, $60 pppn. At far northern end of valley, on banks of Kunene River.
Van Zyl's Pass Campsite - $60 pppn. About 10kms before the beginning of the Pass itself, near the village of Otjihende.
Sesfontein Figtree Campsite - $60 pppn. In town of Sesfontein, next to the Conservancy Office. Hot water, natural springs for swimming (if you can get past the local kids!).
Onjuva Marble Mine Campsite - $60 pppn. En route from Puros to Marienfluss (avoiding Van Zyl's Pass!) Well-kept campsite, very friendly staff, hot water, beer and cool drinks for sale.
Visit Traditional Himba Villages - around Opuwo or from most listed campsites above - local guides can be organised. In Opuwo, call Jimmy on 081 298 4636 - professionally trained tour guide who speaks very good English and is Himba himself. Many tourists to Namibia feel that visiting traditional villages is somewhat 'voyeuristic' - but it is the Himba people's choice to invite visitors into their villages, they are not stupid and they know that they can benefit directly from the interest tourists have in learning more about their lifestyles. If you go with a local tour guide, you will usually not pay the village directly with money, but rather with foodstuffs such as maize meal, sugar, flour and cooking oil. Money doesn't mean much to the Himba, especially in the more remote parts. However, please do not take any alcohol along to the villages, this is more likely to cause damage to stable traditional lifestyles than anything else.
Game Drives and Wildlife Viewing - in many places, a local guide can come along in your car for a game drive and take you to the best places for game viewing, usually along dry riverbeds. Kaokoland has everything - elephants, lions, leopards, cheetahs, as well as the more common zebras, giraffes and antelopes.
Please drive in existing tracks - driving offroad causes lasting damage to local flora and fauna and tracks can remain visible for many years.
Please don't give to begging children - this is becoming an increasing problem in Kaokoland, and if tourists give in and hand over food or money, it just encourages a very indignified culture of dependence. Consider instead asking children to help you out by fetching water, building your fire or putting up your tent in return for something to eat - they will usually be happy to assist.
Once you leave Opuwo and head into remote parts of Kaokoland, you won't find a restaurant or cafe anywhere (except perhaps the lodge in Sesfontein). Absolute basic food supplies can be purchased in village shops (Puros, Onjuva, Sesfontein, Warmquelle) but don't count on finding much that Western people would normally eat! Best to bring all required food along, stock up in Opuwo before you leave. Firewood can usually be bought at campsites.
Cool drinks and beer can sometimes be found in local village shops - see above. Also available at some campsites.
Crime is virtually non-existent amongst local people in remote parts of Kaokoland, but be sensible and lock up your vehicle etc.
Driving during the rainy season can be challenging - there are frequently deep rivers in flood and a lot of mud which even the strongest 4x4 can easily get stuck in. Ensure your vehicle is equipped with a strong tow rope and a shovel before you leave, and always carry plenty of water and food in case you do get stuck for a while. When faced with a river in flood, best advice is to wait for someone else who know what they're doing to come along and follow them! Do not attempt to cross a really deep river (wade in and if it's above your knees at the deepest point, then think twice) - rather camp for the night and wait for the water level to drop - it can do so in a few hours. Local people will be able to advise - if you can find any English speakers!