Damaraland, Kaokoveld & Etosha
13 days /12 nights
A guided, self-drive (4×4) tour
Comfortable Tented Accommodation
15-27 May 2023
R26 230 per person (2023)
Max Amount of Persons
- Three meals per day (from dinner Day 1 to breakfast Day 13)
- The services of a professional tour guide, camp chef and photographic tutor
- All park entry fees
- Accommodation for 12 nights (camping)
- Professional in-car radios
- The use of tents, crockery, and cutlery
- Personal vehicle costs like fuel, border tariffs, etc
- Personal drinks and snacks
- Visa (South African citizens don’t need one)
- Covid test (You must have a negative Covid
PCR test result no older than seven days – without it, you won’t be allowed across the border. NOTE: These regulations might change; make sure you have the latest information.)
Spitzkoppe – Uis – Brandberg – Damaraland – Ugab River – Goantagab River – Twyfelfontein – Aba-Huab River – Palmwag Concession – Mudorib River – Hoanib River – Sesfontein – Warmquelle – Ongongo – Opuwo – Kaokoland – Epupa Falls – Kunene River – Ruacana – Etosha
- Currently only the two big border posts (Vioolsdrif/Noordoewer and Nakop/Ariamsvlei) are open between South Africa and Namibia. Don’t try to use one of the small ones, you’ ll waste your time.
- You must have a negative Covid test (not older than 7 days) with you to cross the border. Double check all the latest Covid regulations before leaving home.
- There are Covid test facilities at the border. These quick tests cost in the region of R350 and although results are available quickly there is only one testing station, so if you happen to be there at the same time as 10 other people who require a test then you’ll end up wasting a lot of time.
- Always wear your mask at the border post and at all other times when appropriate. There are slight delays because of added health protocols but the border crossing is still straightforward and typically doesn’t take longer than an hour.
- The best vehicle for this tour is a comfortable 4×4 bakkie or SUV with good ground- clearance. A 4×4 is compulsory as we will drive off-road.
A photographer's dream
This 13-day camping tour is an adventure from start to finish and will appeal to 4×4 owners who want to improve their photography skills in spectacular settings across north-western Namibia. We will visit iconic destinations like Etosha National Park, Epupa Falls and the Twyfelfontein engravings but we also see seldom-visited corners of Damaraland and Kaokoland.
Landscapes will vary from desert plains where welwitschias flourish to ana tree lined dry riverbeds where we might encounter desert-adapted elephants. We will traverse rugged mountains, sandy plains and many kilometres of gravel road.
Although photography is a focus of the tour, you don’t have to be a photographer to enjoy the trip. Well-known travel journalist Toast Coetzer will accompany us, and he will be available 24/7 to assist with photographic queries, whether you are shooting with the latest mirrorless camera or simply your cell phone. He will make sure that you get the best out of your gear, no matter what you’re shooting with.
The tour is great for nature fans who have been keen to explore Damaraland and Kaokoland but would prefer to do it with the peace of mind provided by the presence of a qualified guide. Douwe Vlok (Heuningland Tours) has decades of experience across southern Africa, and he is backed up by a logistics team who will ensure that there is always a hearty meal ready to enjoy back at the camp (they’ll also pitch your tent, don’t worry!).
Our meeting point is Spitzkoppe near Usakos. Spitzkoppe is an inselberg – a huge rock outcrop that stands out dramatically from the surrounding desert floor. You’ll see Spitzkoppe for a long time as you drive towards it – and no doubt gets out a few times to take photos – but once you’re at the campsite right next to the granite boulders you’ll begin to experience its almost magical appeal. We’ll take photos at the Rock Arch by sunset, and you’ll have time to just sit in silence and soak up the grandeur of this very special place.
After an early breakfast and some first light photos around the campsite we will head to the small desert town of Uis, where you can fill up and buy provisions if needed. We will be able to see Brandberg in the distance (it is Namibia’s highest mountain), and drive past it on our way further north. We will cross the Ugab River and head along sandy jeep tracks towards the Goantagab River, driving through dry but picturesque Damaraland.
We will reach the Twyfelfontein area where we’ll stop at the geological sites known as Burnt Mountain and the Organ Pipes before heading to our camp next to the Aba-Huab River. Tree-lined riverbeds such as the Aba-Huab is the perfect place to see elephants – maybe we’ll get lucky!
After breakfast we will visit the Twyfelfontein rock art site, which is one of Namibia’s two World Heritage Sites. The art here consists of thousands of engravings, which decorate huge boulders – some panels are several metres long! You’ll see everything form the ‘Dancing Kudu’ to a picture of a penguin!
From Twyfelfontein we will keep pushing north, heading for Palmwag, the gateway to Kaokoland. Along the way we might see zebra and giraffe. We will sleep at Palmwag where we can enjoy hot showers or a dip in the pool – luxuries we won’t see for the following few days!
At Palmwag we will fill up with fuel and drinking water for the wilderness section which lies ahead.
We will head into a concession area to the northwest of Palmwag. We’ll spend three days here – it’s 4×4 country and you will need to be fully self-sufficient, which is why so few tourists ever see this area. Rare wildlife like black rhinoceros survive here – hold thumbs that we see one!
Our first wild campsite is near a spring called Xai-As, where animals come to drink. You are responsible for your own drinking and washing water, but our team will set up a bucket shower and bush toilet.
Day 5 & 6
Our route eventually follows the course of the Mudorib River. The dry riverbeds of north-western Namibia are unique ecosystems. Lined by huge ana trees, camel thorn trees and thickets of mustard bush they provide habitat for mammals as big as elephant and giraffe while predators like lion and brown hyena also roam large territories intersecting with these rivers. Also look out for rare raptors like Augur buzzard, and don’t forget the small creatures like Namaqua chameleons.
We’ll see the strange welwitschia plants, some of which can live to 1000 years. Where patchy summer rain has fallen, we could see antelope like gemsbok, springbok and steenbok.
We will make a wild camp along the Mudorib River and use it as a base from where we will drive out to look for animals, going as far as the Hoanib River and a waterhole called President’s Water.
The dry Hoanib River is our ‘road’ to the town of Sesfontein where we can fill up with fuel again (there is a shop too). We will drive past nearby Warmquelle to Ongongo, a campsite laid out next to a natural pool which will certainly see some swimming action, considering our past few days of roughing it!
Day 8 & 9
We will head out early as we have a lot of distance to cover, crossing the rugged Joubert Pass on our way to Opuwo, the biggest town in Kaokoland. Along the way we’ll encounter the OvaHimba, nomadic cattle farmers who call this area home.
After stocking up in Opuwo we continue to the Epupa Falls on the Kunene River, where we will camp for two nights. The sudden lushness along the Kunene makes for a refreshing, oasis-like experience after all the dusty terrain we have covered so far.
By late afternoon we’ll be in position with cameras in hand on the koppie looking out over the falls, which stretch over a wide section of the Kunene, all the way to the far bank where Angola lies.
Tonight, we will fall asleep to the gentle rumble of the nearby falls. Bliss!
Early the next morning we will go on an excursion to visit an OvaHimba settlement where we’ll learn more about their culture, traditions and farming methods. By lunch we are back at camp where you can relax until late afternoon when Toast will lead a photo walk below the falls for those who are keen to stretch their legs.
Today we will turn east and follow the course of the Kunene River via Swartbooisdrift in the direction of Ruacana. The riparian forest along the river includes beautiful makalani palm trees and the birdlife is exceptional. We will camp on the banks of the Kunene River one last time.
We refuel in Ruacana and then head southwards along the tar road to Etosha National Park’s Galton Gate in the far west of the park. We will camp at Olifantsrus for the night, where animals come to drink at a waterhole which is lit up at night. This is a small, seldom visited campsite and much quieter than the bigger camps elsewhere in the park.
This part of the tour is excellent for wildlife photography as Etosha is packed with animals which are very used to the presence of humans and cars. This means we’ll get good shots, especially around waterholes, of which there are plenty. We will drive to Okaukuejo camp, where we will spend the night, using it as a base for game drives.
We could be in time to enjoy lunch at Okaukuejo’s waterhole, which is a legendary photography spot: we will sit and watch as animals like springbok, gemsbok, zebra and maybe even rhino or elephant come to drink.
We will spend the rest of the time doing game drives. Etosha never fails to deliver: the large herds of plains’ game attracts predators like lion, cheetah and leopard. Between fireside chats in the evening you’ll have time to sit down for a feedback session with Toast – he’ll review your best photos and provide tips and advice.
After two glorious weeks our adventure winds down – until next time!
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