Namibia’s Damaraland is a fascinating and ancient landscape sprawling across a diverse terrain of hazy deserts, petrified forests, centuries-old rock paintings, palm-fringed oasis valleys and eerie rock formations. Dramatic Damaraland is a coveted collection of remarkable landscapes, with something unique to see in each region.
Encompassing over 100,000 square kilometres in its entirety, Damaraland occupies a massive stretch of the country. Situated south of Etosha and north of Swakopmund, Damaraland’s claim to fame is that it is also home to the highest peak in Nambia. Offering sweeping views of naked landscapes, the region is—arguably—Namibia’s finest area.
Popular areas to visit include Twyfelfontein in the south, the haunting Skeleton Coast and the terracotta colour desert mountains of Palmwag in the north. There are over 350 sites of San rock art spread across Twyfelfontein (UNESCO) and the red-hued Brandberg mountain crevices.
Brandberg is Namibia’s highest mountain range and is home to the famous Spitzkoppe. This mountainous area is characterised by unusual granite rock formations balancing delicately on top of one another. The Huab River valley is the place to spot wildlife such as Kalahari gemsbok, desert elephants and black rhinos; earning Damaraland a reputation as being one of the few remaining unofficial wildlife regions in the area.
The easiest way to get to Damaraland is to fly to Windhoek and catch a connecting flight to the northern reaches. The southern regions can be navigated quite easily on a self-drive safari.
The southern regions of the area can be reached by car on a self-drive excursion. If venturing further out, it is best to fly into Windhoek and then get a connecting flight.
There are a couple of free-roaming black rhinos in the area which are protected by the Save the Rhino trust.
There are plenty of species of wildlife that have adapted to this hardy and unforgiving environment. The iconic Kalahari gemsbok, rare black rhino, rugged lions, desert-adapted elephants and other Namibian specialities occur throughout the massive traverse. Two incredibly rare species, the black-faced impala and the Damara dik-dik also inhabit the area.
Other species to spot are kudu, springbok, ostrich, Hartmann’s mountain zebra and cheetah (not often). Most wildlife moves across territories—where they migrate to depends on food and water availability.
There are over 200 species of birds in Damaraland, which include the Ruppell’s parrot, white-tailed shrike and the endemic Monteiro’s hornbill. The rocky crevices and escarpments provide the ideal habitat for a variety of eagles, the most commonly spotted being the Verreaux’s black eagle. Other birds of prey that are well-represented include the Martial eagle and the pale chanting goshawk.
The winter season is from May to September and is the best time to visit. This period is notorious for droughts. It’s during this time of year when wildlife flocks to waterholes and any available water sources, making it easier to track them.
Even during the rainy season (December to March), there are only intermittent showers. However, this can make for muddy and often unavailable roads. Overall, Damaraland is a year-round destination.
Because the area is so vast, there are many ways of exploring the region. From scenic flights over Damaraland to 4WD trails, game drives, guided walks, horse riding and arduous hikes; this part of Namibia has something for everyone. The UNESCO World Heritage Site of Twyfelfontein is best explored on foot. There are hundreds of engravings from the San hiding in the rock crevices, so a guided walk of the area is recommended.
The Brandberg Massif is the location of Namibia’s highest mountains, and the famous Spitzkoppe Peak, the country’s “Matterhorn”. Brandberg is the perfect area for hiking and mountain climbing and viewing birds of prey. The entire area has other-worldly strangely carved rock formations.
Guided tracking safaris in the more wildlife-rich regions of Damaraland provide the perfect way to find game. This is not a typical safari destination, but knowledgeable guides will ensure visitors get to track wildlife in renowned wildlife hotspots, such as the banks of the Huab River valley. Common sightings in this area include desert elephants, plains game and birdlife. There is also a Save the Rhino trust set-up to protect the free-roaming black rhino of the region.
From romantic tented camps to desert lodges and camping, Damaraland offers something for everyone. Accommodation options are built to withstand Namibia's hardy conditions, with a few luxury lodges designed to mirror the architecture of the Himba people's typically thatched dome accommodation style. Visitors can expect classic safari camps in remote regions, surrounded by nothing but wilderness.
Most accommodation is uncrowded and isolated, and some even have their airstrips. Swimming pools, huge patios with endless views and a wealth of activities can be expected at most accommodation options.