Kaokoland, otherwise known as the Kaokoveld or Kunene region, is a sparsely populated area of Namibia stretching from the Hoanib River in the south to the Kunene River in the north. The entire region is a wild frontier and holds great appeal for visitors with a pioneering spirit.
The terrain is predominantly mountainous and rocky, particularly in the south where it shares its borders with the vast Namib Desert. This robust undulating terrain merges with ease into greener lands close to Angola in the north, a clear indication that rivers dominate the landscape.
This verdant northern sector is home to the Kunene River that supplies water for two notable curtains of, namely Ruacana Falls and the Epupa Falls. The deep-set valleys, with their riparian vegetation flanked by iconic mountains in the area, provide a sanctuary for a host of wildlife and birdlife.
The Falls are one of the major drawcards of visiting Kaokoland and visitors often combine a trip here with an excursion to the Marienfluss Valley (a lush area hugged by high mountain ranges). In addition to ogling over the incredible scenery, visitors are encouraged to get to know the local Himba tribes and delve into the culture and history of Kaokoland.
The entry point to Namibia is Windhoek and visitors to Kaokoland would need to catch onboarding flights to the area. Because the area is so remote and tough to navigate, self-drive isn’t recommended. Most lodges in the area are located close to private or smaller airstrips.
The high season is from July to November, but the best months to visit are from May to September when the climate is more tolerable.
Sundowner boat cruises, river rafting and canoeing are on offer as the Epupa Falls and Kunene River is the ideal base for these type of activities.
Kaokoland is revered for its vastness and natural scenery but is not a known destination for wildlife sightings. However, there is wildlife scattered throughout. Kalahari gemsbok, Hartmann’s mountain zebra and springbok are just a few species to spot while exploring the region. There is also the possibility of spotting the rare desert elephants.
The popular Kunene River in the north is a better option for game viewing and has sufficient populations of hippo and Nile crocodiles. This area is also home to the rare Rufous-tailed palm-thrush, malachite kingfisher, Goliath heron, African fish eagle, bee-eaters, lovebirds, flycatchers, lovebirds and a few migratory species.
Kaokoland is a year-round destination and never really sees floods of tourists. The high season is from July to November, but the best months to visit are from May to September when the climate is more tolerable. From October to February, the temperatures soar and become unbearable in the more desert-like southern reaches.
There is a range of cultural and safari activities on offer in the expansive Kaokoland traverse. The fascinating semi-nomadic Himba tribes of the area move with the seasons and available water sources. A Himba cultural experience is a must-do activity in this area and can be arranged from any camp or lodge accommodation.
The Epupa Falls and Kunene River are where most of the outdoor and safari activities take place. From sundowner boat cruises to canoeing and river-rafting, there’s plenty of appeal for the adventure seeker. This is also where birdlife is prolific, making it a prominent area for birders.
In other sectors of Kaokoland, visitors can enjoy safaris in open-topped vehicles. Guides will track the elusive desert elephants and other typical Namibian species.
There are several beautifully appointed camps and lodges dotted along the Kunene River, the main attraction of the area. Most lodges offer unsurpassed views of the river and riparian vegetation. Accommodation is either in stone chalets or sturdy canvas tents. Most accommodations tend to have boma areas and viewpoints.