Damaraland – Including Twyfelfontein, Spitzkoppe, Erongo, Brandberg, Grootberg & Skeleton Coast National Park
Damaraland is a rocky and mountainous desert region in the northwestern part of Namibia with areas where desert-adapted wildlife roam free, including elephant, rhino, giraffe, mountain zebra, a variety of antelope and predators like lion, cheetah, leopard and hyena.
Damaraland has been incorporated into the Southern Kunene and Erongo Regions and though the name won’t be found on modern maps, it is still widely used. Lying below Kaokoland, it stretches from Sesfontein in the north to the B2 from Swakopmund in the south, bounded by the Skeleton Coast in the west and the road between Outjo and Karibib in the east.
Damaraland is a wild and beautiful area with relatively good gravel roads that make it accessible to most visitors and offers a wealth of exciting places to see and things to do. It is more accessible to self drive visitors than Kaokoland and has a wider choice of accommodation.
Twyfelfontein is located in northern Damaraland, about 350 kms southwest of Okaukuejo Camp in Etosha National Park. It is one of the highlights of a visit to Damaraland and most famous for its rock engravings and beautiful mountain landscapes. Desert-adapted elephants sometimes frequent this area and several lodges offer game and nature drives along the dry Aba Huab River. At the Twyfelfontein Rock Engravings Centre there are guides who accompany you on a variety of walks to view the the abundance of art. The early morning and late afternoon sunlight accentuates the beautiful brown, orange and ochre colours of the rocks but photographic results are generally better achieved when the sun is overhead.
Other places to visit nearby include the dolerite pillars of Organ Pipes and the blackened limestone of Burnt Mountain, both areas that are best seen in the late afternoon. Further south one finds the Petrified Forest where many trees were washed downriver 200 million years ago and buried under the right climatic conditions for fossilisation to take place. One can also see some Welwitschias here, an ancient plant that can live for thousands of years.
Spitzkoppe comprises two large inselbergs and a dome-shaped mountain called the Pondoks and is located about 140 kms northeast of Swakopmund. Gross Spitzkoppe rises 700 metres above the surrounding Damaraland plains, standing 1,784 metres above sea level and just over 200 metres higher than Klein Spitzkoppe. It is a fascinating area to explore and many of the large rocks can be climbed for magnificent sunset and sunrise views over the surrounding landscape. There are many beautifully located campsites in this area with very basic ablution facilities and you have to provide your own water. You can hire a guide to show you around and take you to some of the shelters and caves to see Bushman Rock Art though there are not many sites and the work is mostly faded or damaged . There is a palpable sense of mysticim here which adds to the unique quality of this beautiful and fascinating place, making it a highly recommended stop on your Damaraland itinerary.
To the east of Spitzkoppe lie the Erongo Mountains, an extinct volcano that created a beautiful wilderness area where desert-adapted wildlife can be seen as well as rock paintings and engravings in shelters and caves. This protected area of 200,000 hectares is known as the Erongo Mountain Nature Reserve. The highest point is 2,320 metres above sea level.
Several lodges in the area offer accommodation and activities to explore the area.
Brandberg is a cluster of mountains in Damaraland known as the Brandberg Massif with Namibia’s highest mountain, Konigstein, standing 2,574 metres above sea level and which can be seen from far as one approaches. Like Tsodilo Hills in Botswana, Brandberg contains a wealth of Bushman Rock Art and is certainly the best place in Namibia to view this unique art form of the oldest living race on the planet.
Brandberg is located about 120 kms northeast of Spitzkoppe. There are guides at the Brandberg main reception area who accompany you on a variety of walks to view the rock art or take you on an adventure to the top of Konigstein. The very famous White Lady is a half hour walk from the entrance which takes you through very attractive mountain landscapes. The spiritual beliefs, rock art and hunter gatherer culture of the Bushmen make for a fascinating subject and it is highly recommended to read up on this before your visit.
The Grootberg Mountains and Etendeka Plateau are located east of Palmwag in the northwestern part of Damaraland. Here there are lodges that offer luxury accommodation and nature experiences including guided game drives and walks to explore the very beautiful Damaraland mountain landscapes and desert adapted wildlife that occurs such as elephant, rhino, giraffe, oryx, kudu, mountain zebra and sometimes lion, leopard and cheetah.
Nearby is the Palmwag Concession, another exciting area to explore for desert adapted wildlife.
Skeleton Coast National Park
The Skeleton Coast National Park stretches for 500 kms from the Ugab River mouth in Damaraland to the Kunene River on the border of Angola, an area of 16,000 sq. kms making it Namibia’s third largest national park. The name derives from the whale and seal bones scattered along the shoreline from the whaling industry but is now associated with the abundance of shipwrecks resulting from this hazardous coastline. The most scenic area along the Skeleton Coast is north of Terrace Bay but access is restricted to private flying safaris. It is also possible to view the area on a scenic flight from Swakopmund.