THE BEST OF DAMARALAND NAMIBIA: LANDSCAPES AND WILDLIFE
Damaraland is located between the Skeleton Coast, which lies to the west of Etosha National Park, situated to the east. It’s an incredibly breath-taking region with some of the most stand-out points of interest in the world.
Damaraland presents one of the most under rated regions of Namibia and is known for its adapted wildlife and beauty of rocks against a rugged land.
Traditionally home to the Damara people, the region has some of Namibia’s most fantastic attractions including the petrified forest close to Khorixas, tracking wild rhino, bushmen paintings and engravings at Twyfelfontein, hiking up the Brandberg Mountain as well as experiencing wonders such as Spitzkoppe and Vingerklip. Luxury lodges in the area provide a wonderful base to take game drives, indulge in delicious food and relax in tranquil spas.
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- Where is Damaraland Located?
- When is the Best Time to Visit Damaraland?
- How Long Should You Spend in Damaraland
- How to get to Damaraland
- The Best of Damaraland: Landscapes & Wildlife
- The Vingerklip (Fingerklippe)
- The Brandberg Mountain Range
- The Damara Living Museum
- The Petrified Forest
- Kristall Kellerei Winery
- Tsisab Ravine
- Numas Ravine
- Phillips Cave
- Messum Crater
- Discover the Art and craft of the region
- Outjo Museum (Franke House)
- Spotting Wildlife & Game Drives
- Be-lavie Did You Know Facts? The desert-adapted elephant
- Where to Stay in Namibia
- Desert Rhino Camp (By Wilderness Safaris)
- Damaraland Camp (By Wilderness Safaris)
- Be-lavie Top Tips on Visiting Damaraland
- The Best of Damaraland Round-Up
- The Best of Damaraland: Related Reading
- Travel Planning Resources For Your Trip
- Pin & Save
Where is Damaraland Located?
Damaraland is sandwiched between the Skepelton Coast and National Etosha Park in the North Western part of Namibia. It forms an important part of the Kunene Region.
The location of the area makes it the perfect place to stop if you are travelling from either Swakopmund or Sossusvlei and are headed to Etosha National Park.
Related Article: How to Plan the Best Roadtrip Itinerary for Namibia
When is the Best Time to Visit Damaraland?
Although Damaraland can be visited all year round, the best times are between May-September as the summer drought will mean wildlife will still be able to be seen gathering around the waterholes.
November to March can be rainy and humid as well as hot. Visiting from January to April is not a good time for safaris in Samaraland.
How Long Should You Spend in Damaraland
Due to it’s location Damaraland is great as a stopover and a bonus if you are able to stay three nights to see everything the area has to offer for visitors.
How to get to Damaraland
This is the perfect location to access by driving as the majority of visitors will add Damaraland to their road trip self-drive itinerary. Follow the C39 north, sign posts will direct you to the D roads where you need to turn off depending on your lodgings.
If your budget allows and you’re not doing a self-drive, there is an airstrip at Door Nawas and generally takes bush planes from Hoanib Skeleton Coast camp.
Related Article: What you need to know before driving in Namibia
The Best of Damaraland: Landscapes & Wildlife
The Vingerklip (Fingerklippe)
The attraction is most commonly known for its rock formation as a big vertical finger made up of sedimentary rock layers located at 70 km from the small town of Outjo (great stop to fill your vehicle up with fuel and buy snacks).
The Vingerklip is a great place to explore with the rock structure measuring 35 metres in height.
Location: The Fingerklippe
The Brandberg Mountain Range
If you arrive in the area via car, then you will see this awe-inspiring range from miles away. The Brandeburg Mountain range is pretty impressive and is recorded as being one of the highest mountain ranges, raising to 2,500 west of Namibia. It covers an area of 760 km² with unique rock paintings dating as far back as 2000-4000 years.
Be-lavie Fun Fact: The Brandberg mountain is also known as ‘Fire Mountain’ This is due to the pink glow it radiates at sunset.
Location: Brandberg Mountain Range
Twyfelfontein is a UNESCO World Heritage Site which is home to the ancient bushmen rock engravings and paintings. These carvings and paintings on the age-old rocks show animal tracks as well as human activities with some geometric designs deterred too.
Entrance Fee: N$250
The Damara Living Museum
Located 10 km from Twyfelfontein, The Damara Living Museum is well worth the visit if time permits. Here you can experience the culture of the region as the museum’s aim is to preserve and educate about the lives and background of the Damara tribe.
Location: Damara Living Museum
Website: The Damara Living Museum
Admission: Prices vary depending on activities (spending a day in the village, or going on a bush walk, seeing a modern village, theres a great range of experiences).
This famous rock attraction is famed amongst rock climbers and adventure lovers. It also makes for some fantastic photography. The Spitzkoppe is an impressive 1728 metres high, with the first ascent of Spitzkoppe dates back to 1904. It is possible to also camp, hike and mountaineer.
Day Visitors: N$120
Related Article: Things to do in Swakopmund (You can also visit Spitzkoppe from Swakopmund)
Spitzkoppe Guided Day Tour
Great if you want to learn about rock art, history and culture form a qualified guide
The Petrified Forest
The Petrified forest is an area with petrified tree trunks that measure up to 34 metres tall and are approximately 280 million years old. Around 50 if the trees are visible with some having been partially buried in sandstone and some petrified in silica. In 1950, after hunters were taking parts of teh trees as souvenirs, the site was given national monument status.
It is now forbidden to carry even a small amount of petrified wood away from here.
Driving Advice: The Petrified Forest, signposted ‘Versteende Woud’, lies 40km west of Khorixas on the C39.
Location: The Petrified Forest
Be-lavie Tip: You cannot visit here independently – you will need to join a guided tour
Kristall Kellerei Winery
A unique winery in the heart of Damaraland, Kristal Kellerei Winery is known for its Colombard grapes. It’s known as one of the oldest wineries in southern Africa and has won many awards for its wine internationally too.
Since 2007 the Weder family have been the wine-makers on site and with 330 days of sunshine here, its the perfect place to grow red and white grapes.
It’s possible to take a guided tour of the vineyard as well as book in for lunch. Wine tasting is also on offer as well as being able to directly purchase wines should you wish.
Location: Kristall Kellerei Winery
Bookings for tours: wine tastings and lunch can be made via Kristall Kellerei Winery website
Another rock art location but this type known as the White Lady of Brandberg. Located in the centre, go the Brandbery range, Tsisab Ravine represents the story of a lady like structure (that may actually be a San boy) that holds a feather on one hand and a bow and arrow in the other. The artwork is about 40 cm high and is part of an unusual hunting procession.
Location: Tsisab Ravine
Going through the Western part of the Brandberg, Numas Ravine is often described as the hidden gem of the Brandberg. Many guides will take you up to the rock which faces the southern bank of the river bed and has a painting of a snake giraffe and an antelope. It’s roughly a 30 minute hike up the ravine, then after 30 minutes you will arrive at an oasis-like freshwater spring where you can see more paintings that may be of interest
Location: Numas Ravine
The cave in the Erongo Mountains is a popular spot for photography and a great spot to explore paintings and also partake in some hiking. The major attraction here is the cave that was included in prehistorian Abbè Breuil’s book entitled, Phillip Cave.
Location: Phillips Cave
The Messum Crater is known for its remote location and the Goboboseb Mountains, located in the Brandberg area. The Messum Crater or hills as some refer to them are formed due to the volcanic activity in the region and measures approximately 20 km in diameter.
Location: Messum Crater
Discover the Art and Craft of the Region
Check out the local stall and markets that you come across in some of the small town as you’re driving through Damaraland. You’ll possibly be heading there for fuel anyway if you are doing a self-drive road trip. A lot of the jewellery is made by the local tribes women and is a style of traditional antique jewellery. You can also purchase some great wild sketches as well as handmade frames and many other hand made arts and crafts.
Outjo Museum (Franke House)
The Damara Living Museum is a great place to learn about the ancient Damaar culture but the Outjo Museum is all about political and natural history. It’s definitely worth a quick visit. Original the building was called Kliphuis or stone house. Franke House is one of Outjo’s oldest buildings and now is home to Outjo Museum.
It was built in 1899 by instruction from Major von Estoff, as his house, as well as for future German commanders. Years later it was the residence of Major Franke, hence the name.
Location : Outjo Museum
Spotting Wildlife & Game Drives
Game drives in Damaraland are a must. The region is home to many endangered species of flora as well as wildlife including having one of the largest populations of the endangered black rhino. There are many anti-poaching units in the area.
Other endemic wildlife to spot in the area includes, giraffe, zebra, gemsbok and a number of birds. You can also see the famous desert adapted elephants that have evolved to survive in the desert.
Be-lavie Tip: Save the Rhino works with Desert Rhino Camp, where you can track them with expert trackers and be involved in conservation.
Be-lavie Did You Know Facts? The Desert-Adapted Elephant
Here’s how these elephants have adapted to their desert home:
- Their feet are larger to provide a higher surface area so they don’t sink into sandy plains when crossing dunes
- They are referred to as opportunistics drinkers as water is scarce in the desert and they travel very long distances for it.
- Adult Female elephants and infants need water every three days but males can go up to five days without water.
- They have been observed to dig wells in river beds with their feet and trunks even when there is water available over ground. This is triggered from their ancient memories to access purified water.
- They’re not always led by a matriarch like the bush elephant and they often travel in much smaller herds, possibly because feeding is easier.
- Their taller appearance may be an illusion that their long-legged trait is due to their diet of scattered shrubs and grass.
Be-lavie Tip: Damaraland Camp is a great base to see the desert – adapted elephants
Where to Stay in Namibia
There are many campsites as well as lodges in Damaraland but our personal favourites are the following two by Wilderness Safaris
Related article: Eco-friendly lodges in Namibia & their sustainability practices
Desert Rhino Camp (By Wilderness Safaris)
Eight meeru style tents with a central family tent is what makes up this camp by Wilderness safaris. Beautifully decorated and in-line completely with the surroundings. The camp is full board and includes all three meals as well as afternoon tea and beverages. The activities on offer here are focussed on the endangered black rhino as the lodge works with Save the Rhino.
** Exact location of lodge has not been disclosed as you are picked up at a location and taken to the camp by hotel staff. This is to prevent rhino poachers locating the rhinos.
Activities at Desert Rhino Camp
- Rhino tracking – The camp partners with Save the Rhino Trust Namibia to defend, preserve and expand the iconic wild desert so that the wildlife here can continue to thrive. When partaking in Rhino tracking you will be briefed the night before by trackers from the Save the rhino trust including how the activity is undertaken in single file, silence, photographs are only taken on the trackers signal as well as learning the important hand signals to ensure this is a safe experience. This is a once in a lifetime experience this is the place to see the planets only free roaming black rhinos and be apart of their conservation process. Be prepared to head off early in the morning around 6:30 am into the wilderness and await the trackers signal to say they have a sighting. The rhino are seen at a distance of 50-100 metres. This is a long activity and pretty physical with walking in the bush.
- Sundowner Game Drives – Here you have the opportunity to spot the Hartmann’s mountain zebra, giraffe as well as the springbok and the majestic Oryx.
- Bush Walks – Go out with the experienced guides on foot and learn more about the landscape and plants of the area as well as spotting some of the resident wildlife and desert adapted animals.
- Location: Desert Rhino Camp. Palmwag Reserve, Damaraland, Namibia. Tel: 00 27 11 257 5000
- Website: Desert Rhino Camp
- Guide Price: Double rooms from £496 per person (low season), from £1,022 per person (high season). No Wi-Fi. Breakfast included as well as all meals). Worth every penny to track the Black Rhino
- Recommended length of stay: 2-3 nights
Damaraland Camp (By Wilderness Safaris)
This beautiful camp is also part of wilderness safari’s and has a very different landscape. Accommodation is on stilts and comprises of ten thatched canvas suites. It is Wilderness Safaris first camp in Namibia
The same meal plans and amenities are offered here as Desert Rhino camp but this lodge focusses more on locating the desert adapted elephant. They also do many hikes and rock painting discover tours
Activities at Damaraland Camp
- Desert-adapted elephants – the location of the camp right in the heart of the Huab-river valley makes it the perfect place to spot the desert-adapted elephant and sightings are 100% guaranteed.
- Game Drives – as well as spotting elephants, you’ll be driving around to see what other wildlife is around, from zebras to springbok, ostrich and even Oryx. Additionally learn all about the flora of the region and the infamous Euphorbia Damarano or Damara milk Bush whose toxin can kill if it comes into contact with open skin and how oryx and rhino feed on it.
- African Rock Art – Take a half day excursion to see the wonderful rock cave paintings nearby in Twyfontain.
- Sundowners – Expect the usual sundown drive that ends with a beverage and snacks with a fantastic vantage point of the sun disappearing amidst the landscape
- Location: Damaraland Camp Camp.Torra Conservancy, Damaraland, Namibia
- Website: Damaraland Camp
- Guide Price: $250 per person (standard season) and $710 per person (peak season). This includes all food, launders and also activities whilst at the lodge.
- Recommended length of stay: 2-3 nights
Be-lavie Top Tips on Visiting Damaraland
#1 Staying at a lodge is a great option in Damaraland as they are located in remote locations with the backdrop of the mountain ranges as well as a feeling of being in a lost world.
#2 If staying in a lodge, book all of your extra activities from there. All lodge include game drives and sundowner drives in their rates but you can request for a guided tour of the rock paintings, Spitzkoppe as well as other activities in the area. It’s worth asking ahead what tours they can do as having a guide who knows the ancient and local traditions will help with understanding the culture.
#3 Places to eat or restaurants are scarce. There are some in towns like Outjo where you can also pick up supplies if you are camping. The safe bet is to enjoy the food and drink at tour lodge. The food is of an extremely high quality, traditional dishes are served and prepared in a clean environment and you will always be given multiple choices.
#4 Vegetarians and vegans will have far more options if they dine at their accommodation/lodges as Namibians do eat a lot of meat and game!
#5 Do get to know the local staff at your lodges. If you are staying at Wilderness Safari camps like Desert Rhino Camp and Damamraland Camp, menus proper to a family dinner will be explained in English and the ‘click’ language. This is based on phonologics and replaces consonants for clicks with vowels to form words.
#6 If you are planning to do a lot of hiking in the areas mountains, remember to pack some hiking boots with good grip and ankle support.
Related Article: What you need to pack for Namibia
The Best of Damaraland Round-Up
Damaraland is truly one of Namibia’s most dramatic collections of landscapes including the rock formations of Spitzkoppe, vastness of the Brandberg and the vibrant red-rock, wild-desert around Palmwag. Aptly hidden in the rocky gaps is Twyfeltontein, which along with Brandberg has an impressive collection of rock art engravings that are deemed some of South Africas finest. The area is also home to the Petrified Forest as well as palm-fringed valleys. Damaraland is one of Southern Africa’s lesser known places to spot wildlife. It’s named Namibia’s last ‘unofficial’ wildlife, the reasons are that it is home to the endangered black rhino as well as the gentle giants known as the desert-adapted elephants, not to mention a plethora of gemsbok, Hartmans Zebra, giraffe and spotted hyena. A guide to the best of Damaraland just can’t do the region justice. It is a truly wild, rugged, aw-inspiring and an authentic land which needs to discovered to truly believe its existence.
The Best of Damaraland: Related Reading
- How to Plan The Best Self-Drive Namibia Itinerary
- What You Need To Know Before Driving In Namibia
- The Best Eco-Friendly Lodges in Namibia
- How To Best Spend 24 Hours in Windhoek
- A Complete Guide on How To Best Visit Sossusvlei
- A Complete Packing Guide For Namibia
- The Most Popular Things to do in Swakopmund
Travel Planning Resources For Your Trip
All these companies are used be Be-lavie personally to plan and book travels.
Travel Planning Checklist
- Flights: Search & Book the best flight options through SKYSCANNER
- Trains & Coaches: Get the best available options with TRAINLINE
- Car Hire: Secure the best vehicle to suit your needs with EUROPCAR
- Hotels: Choose from a wide range of accommodation with BOOKING.COM
- Reading: Select from a big range of travel books at FOYLES
- Tours: Personalise your travels with memorable activities with GET YOUR GUIDE
- Travel Insurance: An absolute must-have! Check rates on SAFETYWING
- Eco-friendly Travel: Grab your eco-friendly travel must-haves from &KEEP