Kaokoland – Including Sesfontein, Purros, Opuwo, Epupa Falls & Ruacana
North of Damaraland is Kaokoland, a mountainous and rocky desert area that lies between the Hoanib and Kunene Rivers in northern Namibia and forms part of the Northern Kunene region. To the west it is bounded by the Skeleton Coast National Park and to the east by the C35 gravel road. Kaokoland is a beautiful but rugged area, sparsely populated and with very few towns and facilities. Apart from its scenic beauty, unique wilderness atmosphere and challenging 4WD routes, Kaokoland is home to the Himba people, one of the last remaining nomadic tribes of Southern Africa, whose fascinating culture draws tourism to this area. An equally big drawcard is the possibility of seeing desert elephants and black rhino who have adapted to this harsh environment in remarkable ways. Other wildlife to be found here include giraffe, springbok, oryx, mountain zebra, kudu and ostrich. Predators like lion, cheetah, leopard and hyena also frequent this region but may move widely in search of prey. Generally the dry riverbeds that traverse the Kaokoland region are the arteries used by game to move between different areas, providing cover, shelter and resources.
A range of luxury lodges are scattered throughout this area offering magnificent wilderness experiences and who provide for road or air transfers.
Self drive is for the more adventurous travellers and self-sufficiency is essential. Many gravel roads in Kaokoland require a 4WD to negotiate and some places are particularly challenging.
This small oasis in the southern part of Kaokoland on the Hoanib River has a shop and fuel station. Fort Sesfontein Lodge offers comfortable accommodation and activities such as visits to a Himba village, game drives along the Hoanib River and visits to rock art sites. Other areas to explore in the vicinity include Warmquelle where there is a delightful natural pool to swim in, a variety of Himba villages where one can arrange a cultural visit and other activities offered by Khowarib Lodge such as a Desert Elephant Experience, Rhino Tracking and Bush Walks. There are several community campsites in the area as well as comfortable Lodge and Camping facilities offered by Khowarib Lodge.
Purros is a small Himba settlement north of Sesfontein which can take between 2 and 3 hours of driving in a 4×4 along the D3707. Local guides can be hired for Himba village visits and hiking excursions. This route can take you further to Opuwo or into the deep wilderness areas of Kaokoland such as the beautiful Marienfluss and Hartmann’s Valleys. Many adventurers who visit this area approach from the north-east in order to tackle the very challenging Van Zyl’s Pass which can only be negotiated downhill and include Marienfluss and Hartmann’s Valleys on their itinerary.
Opuwo is the only town in Kaokoland with banks and telecommunications and where one can also stock up on supplies and fuel. It can be reached from Sesfontein along the C43 or via Purros along the D3707. Opuwo Country Lodge offers excellent accommodation here. Himba and Herero settlements are found around Opuwo and a local guide can be hired to accompany you on a cultural visit to one of these villages. The Himba are an offshoot tribe from the Herero whose women are adorned in colourful Victorian outfits and hats.
Located on the Kunene River about 4 hours north of Opuwo, Epupa Falls is a series of waterfalls and cascades that drop 60 metres over a distance of just over a kilometre with the highest drop being 32 metres. There are some lovely walks in the area that give you splendid views of the Falls. The landscapes and vegetation are very different to other areas of Kaokoland and Namibia as a whole. Himba cultural excursions can also be done here.
Also on the Kunene River, Ruacana Falls lies about 140 kms east of Epupa Falls. There are some lovely areas along the river though the Falls themselves are not spectacular. A number of good lodges in the area offer white water rafting, canoeing and Himba visits. Access is not easy from Epupa Falls and it is recommended to drive via Opuwa.
Kaokoland offers exciting prospects for the adventurous and well prepared self drive travellers and thrilling guided exploration safaris offered by a variety of trusted and experienced operators.