Damaraland is undeniably one of the most scenic areas of Namibia and is far from being your typical National Park or safari destination. It’s a vast wilderness and plays host to numerous species of wildlife including populations of desert-adapted elephant and Rhino. If you’re doing the tried-and-tested circular route around Namibia then Damarland is the perfect place to take a couple of days between the adrenaline activities of Swakopmund and more traditional safari in Etosha National Park. When thinking of safaris in Namibia most people automatically think of Etosha, but trust me, you should definitely spend at least a couple of days in Damaraland. I found it to be a more adventurous safari experience set in far more scenic setting (and better value for money when it comes to accommodation). You may not get to see the ‘Big-5’ but what you do get to see will be up close and personal!
Take Photos Leave Footprints Ratings
Wildlife – 3.5*
The real highlight of a Damaraland safari is tracking down the rare desert-adapted elephant and black rhino (the latter is notoriously more difficult to track down as we found out at 4am on a cold winter morning with snot and tears running down our faces). Healthy populations of Gemsbok, springbok, kudu, Hartmann’s mountain zebra, giraffe and gemsbok (i.e. the animals you’ll be ridiculously excited to see the first time you see them and then won’t even acknowledge their existence by the end of your trip) are also regularly sighted. Lion, cheetah, and spotted and brown hyena also live in the area but in honesty you’re not likely to see them given their low numbers; and it really depends on which area of Damaraland you’ll be staying in. There are also over 240 species of birds, including ostrich (I feel I should mention the birds even though it holds no real interest for me personally). I’ve given a rating of 3.5* for wildlife because the opportunity to have an up close encounter with the rare desert-adapted elephant is second-to-none. As my photos attest, you have the opportunity to observe the elephants at ridiculously close quarters.
Scenery – 4*
Put simply, stunning. Imagine scenery that is part Grand Canyon, part moon-scape and then throw some African animals in for good measure and you’ll begin to understand why Damarland is worth visiting. The sunsets are unbelievable and with the lack of cloud cover and light pollution the night sky is ridiculous.
Accommodation – 4.5*
Damaraland has an abundance of accommodation options from campsites to 5* luxury lodges. The great part is that unlike many African safari locations the cost of a 5* luxury accommodation, whilst not cheap, won’t make you cry like a newborn baby. So, for around £200+ a night you can get a 5* room in a tented lodge for two with all food and activities (safaris, for example) included in the low season. Not bad when compared to other major safari countries in Southern Africa such as Zambia, Zimbabwe, Botswana and South Africa.
Access – 4*
Damaraland covers a huge area and so it’s difficult to really rate access. That said, it’s covered by a multitude of Namibian C roads (which are largely gravel or graded mud) and so whichever way you’re approaching you shouldn’t have too many problems. One thing I will say it that the roads we came in on (from Swakopmund through the land of 1,000 hills) were fairly ‘washboarded’; which basically means there are ripples in the mud which makes you feel like your entire body is vibrating to the core as you drive. Less than ideal if you need the bathroom!
Safari ‘X’ Factor – 4*
Most of the lodges have open-sided safari vehicles and drive off-road to track the elephants. You’ll be driving down in to dry river beds and up hills to scenic vistas in no time. At days end you’ll be having sundowners looking out over rose colored rocks and at night you’ll have never seen so many stars (which means that you have a fantastic opportunity to impress your loved-one with your complete lack of knowledge on constellations). All-in-all, Damaraland rates highly on the X factor scale. The only negative is the lack of diversity and numbers of animals, but that said you’re really there for the elephants!
More than Wildlife: One of the great things about Damaraland is that not only is the wildlife and scenery second-to-none, but you’ll also have the opportunity to visit a UNESCO World Heritage Site during the day; Twyfelfontein. Twyfelfontein has one of the largest collections of petroglyphs in Africa; essentially you’ll be seeing some seriously old rock carvings and paintings (most notably of rhinos and the methods and lives of hunter gatherers dating between 6,000 and 2,000 years old). In all there are 17 different sites to visit with over 2,000 engravings (unless you’re a historian or seriously love a good engraving you’ll probably have had enough after 20 -30 minutes). If you do decide to go then it’s important to note that you’ll be walking (a decent 45-60 minute walk) over rocks and will be fairly exposed to the sun; so make sure you’re wearing hiking boots, make sure you have sun screen and a hat, and take plenty to water with you. There are four routes you can take, two of which have to guided (guides will be able to give you full run-down on what it is your actually looking at). The self-guided route is about a 30 minute walk and the engravings are signposted – but with little information. The easiest route (if you don’t fancy a walk because the sun is burning you to within an inch of your life) is right by the visitor center.