From the teeming waterholes in Etosha National Park to the forbidding dunes of the Skeleton Coast and the majestic highlands of Damaraland to free-roaming desert rhinos and elephants, northern Namibia is home to some of Namibia’s best wildlife, wildest landscapes, and least accessible locations. Exploring most of northern Namibia is an adventure: you’ll need a 4×4, navigation equipment, and your own food, but the payoff is the opportunity to immerse yourself in an untamed environment.
What to look forward to
Northern Namibia is the country’s wildest and most desolate area, stretching up to the Angolan border and wedged between Botswana and Zambia. By far the most popular attraction is Etosha National Park, which would astonish even the most seasoned safari goer with an abundance of animal species clustered around waterholes during the dry winter months, but northern Namibia has much more to offer. Waterberg Plateau Park has an unusual setting of a massive sandstone plateau looming over the desert plains, where rare species such as sable and roan antelope can be found, while Damaraland, to the northwest, is a starkly beautiful rugged landscape where you can explore ancient rock art sites, climb mountains, and track desert elephants and rhino. Kaokoveld, located in Namibia’s far northwest near the Angolan border, is one of southern Africa’s few real wildernesses, with desert elephants roaming huge expanses and semi-nomadic Himba people living in isolated communities. Adventure Kalahari safaris may be obtained in Khaudum National Park in northern Namibia, while a taste of the Okavango Delta can be had in the lush wooded islands and rivers of the Zambezi Region in the wettest area of the nation, where animal watching is done by traditional dug-out boats.
Etosha National Park
Etosha National Park is a distinguishing feature of northern Namibia and one of the continent’s best parks. During the winter months, lions, black rhinos, elephant herds, and a variety of other creatures may be easily spotted as they cross the arid landscape and congregate at waterholes. With numerous hotel choices scattered around the park and well-marked roads that can be driven in a 2WD car, Etosha is an easy option for a self-drive trip.
Waterberg Plateau Park
Waterberg Plateau Park is another excellent park to the south of Etosha, with its sandstone plateau towering over desert plains and offering great wildlife viewing from waterhole hides and hiking trails of species such as black and white rhino, rare sable and roan antelope, eland, kudu and tsessebe, as well as brown hyena and leopard.
Okonjima Nature Reserve
The 200 square kilometre Okonjima Nature Reserve is home to the AfriCat Foundation, one of the country’s top conservation programs, and is one of the best spots in Africa to go cheetah and leopard stalking. The organisation rescues and rehabilitates cheetahs and leopards from human-wildlife conflict situations, and you may track these carnivores on foot in the nature reserve: an exciting experience that also helps these endangered animals survive.
Damaraland, a large region in northwest Namibia, is harsh, isolated, and breathtakingly beautiful, with wide plains, deep canyons, granite outcrops, and jagged peaks. Damaraland is one of the last locations in southern Africa where wildlife can be seen outside of parks and reserves, so you can monitor free-roaming desert rhinos and elephants. Climbing the Brandberg – Namibia’s highest peak – and Spitzkoppe mountains, as well as viewing the spectacular rock art gallery at Twyfelfontein, a UNESCO World Heritage Site with over 2500 paintings dispersed across 17 sites, are among the region’s other highlights.
Kaokoveld, to the north of Damaraland, is a genuine wilderness and the country’s least accessible location, with sandy trails and enormous open views, desert elephants, and stunning mountain landscapes. The semi-nomadic Himba people’s ancestral home is Kaokoveld, which you may visit in dispersed settlements to discover more about their remarkable culture and customs. Epupa Falls, a stunning waterfall paradise surrounded by baobabs, fig trees, and palms, is another gem of Kaokoveld.
One of Namibia’s most forbidding regions is the Skeleton Coast, a 500-kilometre stretch of bleak coastline where sand dunes meet the freezing waves of the Atlantic and numerous ships have been wrecked throughout the years. The Skeleton Shore is known for its austere beauty, which includes rising dunes, welwitschia-dotted grasslands, and rolling fogs, as well as the Cape Cross Seal Reserve’s 100,000-strong seal colony and the eerie rusted bones of ships scattered along the coast. While several locations along the coast can only be reached by 4×4, the most of the Skeleton Coast is inaccessible by road, so a fly-in safari is your best option if you want to truly feel the sheer remoteness of this pristine region.
The Zambezi Region (formerly the Caprivi Strip), a narrow strip of land wedged between Angola and Botswana and bordering Zambia and Zimbabwe, offers a different safari experience than the rest of the very dry country, with its rivers, floodlands, and lush vegetation supporting animals like hippo and buffalo – which aren’t found in many other parts of Namibia – as well as elephant, lion, and more than 430 species of birds in Bwabwata National Park.
Khaudum National Park
Khaudum National Park in the northern Kalahari, southwest of the Zambezi Strip and on the Botswana border, offers a really wild off-road adventure. You’ll be on your own navigating your way around the park to spot lions and wild dogs because there are few signs and sandy tracks. The Ju/’hoansi!Kung people have dispersed settlements around the park. Tourism efforts allow you to have cultural interactions with these former hunter-gatherers, as they share some of their traditional skills in activities like bush treks and animal tracking.
– Bronwyn Reynolds, Fizzin