The Allure of Kaokoland

PUBLISHED 24 OCT 2016   

Often described as one of the last truly wild areas of southern Africa, Kaokoland is a wilderness with small isolated communities living a subsistence existence off the land.

Kaokoland stretches from the Hoanib River in the south to the Kunene River in the north, which lies on the border between Namibia and Angola. 

Here the vast expanse of wide open plains interspersed with dry river beds supports desert elephants, a variety of plants and animals that have adapted to this harsh environment, as well as the indigenous Himba people who live in a delicate balance with the ecosystem by taking only what they need and living in harmony with their surroundings. 

This vast landscape is sparsely populated, with a population density of just one person for every 2km², roughly a third of which consist of local Himba.

The Kaokoland is the place where Namibian's head to when they want to get away from it all — you would be well advised to take a leaf out of their book and add it to your bucket list. Now. 


Himba Maiden / Source

For thrill seekers, a white water rafting or canoe trip down the Kunene River offers an adventurous way to explore the area. Trips are normally conducted on the 120 kilometer stretch of river starting at Ruacana and ending at Epupa Falls. Adrenalin junkies will enjoy negotiating several rapids found along the river which spices things up a little.

For an interesting stay, why not spend a night or two at the Sesfontein Fort, situated close to Warmquelle hot water spring. The Sesfontein fort is a historical monument that was built over a hundred years ago and has since been restored and equipped as tourist accommodation. It originally served as a police outpost manned by German police officers whose primary duties were to combat rhino and elephant poaching and weapons smuggling. 


Sesfontein Fort Lodge / Source

If you are more inclined to watching the unique beauty of the Kaokaland wildlife then you should not miss the desert elephants! These amazing animals have specially adapted to the arid desert conditions by going without water for several days at a time and digging deep holes in search of water. Sadly their numbers have been decimated by drought and the heavy threat posed by poachers who target elephants for their ivory, with numbers dropping from around 300 in 1970 to 70 in 1983. 


Desert Elephant / Source

Similarly, black rhino populations in the Kaokoland have almost been wiped out by poachers, who target them for their horns. Conservation organizations in the region are doing their level best to ensure the survival of these truly unique wild animals.


Black Rhino / Source