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Kaokoland

One of the last remaining Wilderness Areas in Namibia

Namibia Kaokoland is one of the last wilderness areas in Southern Africa. It is a world with an incredible mountain backdrop, a haven for the rare desert elephant, the black rhino and the giraffe and the home of the Himba. Although it is hard and offers little rest at lunchtime, the rough landscape is particularly attractive in the early morning and late afternoon when it turns into soft, pastel shades. The topography in the south of the area is characterized by rugged mountains, which are intersected by numerous watercourses. North of the Hoarusib River, however, the landscape is dominated by poppies. Even further north, the Otjihipa Mountains abruptly rise above the Namib Soil and form the eastern boundary of the Marien River, while the Hartmann Mountains limit the west of the valley. The Marien River Valley is very scenic and relatively greener than the Hartmann Valley. Hartmanns Tal is closer to the Atlantic and is still much drier. However, it has a strange atmosphere when the sea fog drifts inland

Kaokoland borders the Hoanib River in the south and the Kunene River in the north, which also forms Namibia’s border with Angola. Mountain ranges near the Kunene River are rough and impressive. The highest point is at 2039 m in the Baynes mountains. It is strange that a river flows through this arid landscape with the only real waterfalls in Namibia. The Ruacana waterfalls are 120 m high and 700 m wide. You will also find the Epupa waterfalls along the Kunene River, about 135 km downstream from the Ruacana waterfalls. The name Epupa is a Herero work for the foam created by falling water. Epupa consists of a series of cascades that descend a total of 60 m over a distance of approx. 1.5 km and reach a total width of 500 m at one point. It is possible to swim in some pools, but you have to be careful with crocodiles.

The Himba, who live in Kaokoland, are the descendants of the earliest Herero who immigrated to this area in the 16th century. Around the middle of the 18th century, the pressure of many people and cattle in this dry, sensitive environment led to the migration of the main body of the Herero to the rich pastureland further south. The Himba are an ancient tribe of semi-nomadic pastoralists, many of whom still live and dress according to old traditions and live in scattered settlements throughout Kaokoland. They are a slim and statuesque people. The women are particularly characterized by their unusual sculptural beauty, which is underlined by complicated hairstyles and traditional decorations. They rub their bodies with red ocher and fat, a treatment that protects their skin from the harsh desert climate. The Himba houses are simple cone-shaped structures made from seedlings that are bound together with palm leaves and plastered with mud and dung. A family can move from one house to another several times a year to look for goats and cattle.

In terms of wildlife, Kaokoland is probably best known for its desert elephant. The opportunity to take a look at a herd of desert elephants, however brief, draws most tourists to the area. Between 1977 and 1982, a debilitating drought hit the area and wiped out a large number of game. However, poachers posed the greatest threat, and between 1970 and 1983 the number of desert elephants in Kaokoveld decreased from an estimated 300 to 70. Although the desert elephants are not a separate subspecies, they have adapted to their extremely harsh environment. The only other place in Africa where elephants live in such harsh conditions is in Mali on the edge of the Sahara. The secret of their survival in the arid wasteland is an accurate understanding of their limited food and water resources. During the dry spells, they even dig deep holes to conserve water, providing other animals with water. Unlike other elephants who drink daily, it has been observed that they were without water for up to four days. The black rhinoceros of Kaokoland experienced a similar fate to the elephants, and in 1983 the population in the east was exterminated, while in the far west of Kaokoland only a few individuals survived, making it a very rare sight. Nowadays there are some organizations that do their best to ensure the survival of these rare and unique animals.