Kaokoland is one of South Africa’s few wildernesses, and is bordered to the south by the Hoanib River and to the north by the Kunene River, where the Namibian and Angolan border can be found. Following the rains, the ‘spray’, from which the word ‘Epupa’ derives, is most evident. The rock walls are also strikingly colourful and it is possible to spot many of the 240 Namibian bird species here including kingfishers, herons, fish eagles and more. The Ruacana Falls are another main attraction, which are as high as Victoria Falls at an impressive 120 metres high.
The indigenous Himba people that inhabit the area date back to 16th Century as descendants of the Herero tribes and many have retained their traditional dress as per their ancient traditions. The women have elaborate hairstyles and bodily adornments, using red ochre to protect their bodies against the harsh dry conditions of the desert. Their dwellings will move up to several times per year according to where cattle can graze and are conical structures made from intertwining palm leaves and using mud and dung to bind them together.
Wildlife in this region is mostly centred on the desert elephants, and it is possible to see herds roaming the desert plains. These special creatures have managed to adapt to life in the barren wilderness by using clever techniques such as digging deep holes in the dry months to access water and unlike other elephant sub-species they can survive up to four days without water. You will also find black rhino here, and whilst numbers are low and sightings are rare, organisations have tried to promote their conservation within the region.
Accommodation options in this area are few, and best visited by flying in as they are in such isolated locations. Serra Cafema perches on the Kunene River far from civilisation, Kunene Camp can be visited as part of Skeleton Coast Safaris, whilst Epupa Falls Camp which is a luxury small tented camp. It is possible to arrange visits to see the Himba tribes and surrounding scenery from these excellent camps.
Highlights of the region include the Epupa Falls on the Kunene River, where a series of waterfalls plummet some 60 metres over a distance of 1.5 kilometres.