Damaraland in Namibia’s northwest is about freedom. Its endless grass-covered plains shifting from gold to amber and rugged mountains are fenceless. Animals like desert-adapted elephants and black rhino roam free. This is a place to renew your spirit and reclaim your horizons.
A road trip will give you the opportunity to roam free, too, stopping wherever you like to listen to the silence and top up on nature’s therapy. With Damaraland’s good gravel roads and a choice of excellent luxury lodges, Ashworth Africa can put together an itinerary that will help you take full advantage of the magnificence of this place.
Here, ancient river courses, some seasonal, some dry, are life lines for many species. Elephant dig in the dry riverbeds until they find water. Black rhino and giraffe feed on the twigs and leaves of the hardy acacias along the banks. Hornbill squawk like babies from their lofty perch, as a lion slinks into the shade. Away from the riverbeds large herds of springbok skitter and ‘pronk’ on the rocky terrain. Africa’s westernmost baobab trees grow happily in this hard ground, and crystals and gemstones can still be found scattered about.
As well as wildlife and scenery there are unique geological and historic attractions. One of the most prominent collections of ancient rock paintings and engravings in Africa can be viewed at Twyfelfontein – which means ‘doubtful fountain’, a wry but apt choice of name for a place where water can never be guaranteed. There are about 2 500 Bushman engravings on 212 slabs of rock at this UNESCO World Heritage Site. These carvings or petroglyphs are between 2 000 and 6 000 years old – they are an offering to those of the future by those of the past, and give insight into the ritual practices and history of the hunter-gatherers who made them.
Just north of Twyfelfontein is the ‘Petrified Forest’, the remains of a series of ancient trees deposited by floods some 250 million years ago. The trunks were buried in a silica-rich environment and were excluded from contact with oxygen, preventing decay. During the course of time molecules of silica penetrated the wood, transforming the wood to stone. At present around 50 trunks can be seen on the site, with the longest being more than 30 metres long.
The Brandberg and Spitzkoppe mountains rise dramatically out of the vast flat plains around them and are both popular hiking and rock-art venues. The Brandberg lays claim to Namibia’s highest peak, the Kӧnigstein at 2 573 metres, as well as to one of Namibia most famous and beautiful examples of rock art, The White Lady. The iconic granite peaks of the Spitzkoppe are an inspiration to photographers, especially in the early mornings and evenings when the sun’s palate is on full display. The fine and detailed Bushman paintings at the Spitzkoppe convey a palpable sense of the sacred value that this site held for the nomadic people that used to pass through here.
Far north of this region is another surprise, a blue and green ribbon of life: the thundering Kunene River, creating a unique ecosystem of rare contrast amid the desert. This is where you will encounter the soulful Himba people whose ancestral lands lie along this precious resource. This is where you can relax peacefully under the thick canopy of indigenous trees listening to the lap of water and the chatter of vervet monkeys while in the distance the heat makes mirages of the desert mountains.