Kaokoland is a world of incredible mountain scenery, a refuge for the rare desert dwelling elephant, black rhino and giraffe and the home of the Himba people. Although it is harsh and offers little respite at midday, the rugged landscape is especially attractive during the early morning and late afternoon when it is transformed into softly glowing pastel shades.
The topography in the south of the area is characterised by rugged mountains which are dissected by numerous watercourses, but north of the Hoarusib River the scenery is dominated by table-top koppies. Still further north, the Otjihipa Mountains rise abruptly above the Namib floor to form the eastern boundary of the Marienfluss, while the west of the valley is defined by the Hartmann Mountains.
The Marienfluss valley is very scenic and relatively greener than the Hartmann’s valley. Hartmann’s valley is closer to the Atlantic and yet much more arid. However, it does have a strange atmosphere when the sea mists drift inland.
Kaokoland differs greatly from Damaraland in terms of accessibility and infrastructure. While quite a bit of Damaraland is isolated from the outside world it is really Kaokoland which is the back and beyond, silent, huge and for the most part empty.
Kaokoland is bordered on the south the Hoanib River and on the north the Kunene River which also forms Namibia’s border with Angola. Mountain ranges near the Kunene River are rugged and impressive with the highest point located at 2039m in the Baynes Mountains. It is an oddity that a river runs through this arid landscape with the only real waterfalls in Namibia along it’s course. The Ruacana Falls are 120m high and 700m wide in full flood. Also along the Kunene River you’ll find the Epupa falls, about 135km downstream from the Ruacana falls. The name Epupa is a Herero work for the spume created by falling water. Epupa is formed by a series of cascades that drop a total of 60m over a distance of about 1.5km and at one point reaches a total width of 500m.
The area surrounding Epupa Falls has richly coloured rock walls, a variety of trees including the wild fig, baobabs and waving makalani palms. Spectacular sunsets and perennially flowing waters means that the area offers much to see and experience. Bird watching is rewarding, especially for the rare Rufoustailed palm thrush, as well as bee eaters, the African fish eagle and Kingfishers ranging from giant to the tiny Malachite Kingfisher.
In terms of wildlife Kaokoland is probably most famous for it’s desert elephant. The possibility of obtaining a glimpse, however brief, of a herd of desert dwelling elephants is what draws most tourists to the area.