Damaraland is where you will find Namibia's wildlife; that typical African safari with teeming plains herds, fearful predators, noble giants and an underworld of fascinating plants, insects, birds, reptiles and mammals.
Southern Damaraland, from Swakopmund up to the Huab River, has many geological and historical attractions and is a popular region for rugged off-road camping expeditions. The land rises slowly up towards the great escarpment and volcano-induced peaks break up the endless plains.
Northern Damaraland up to the Hoanib River has the greatest concentration of game. The terrain rumples into grassy hills dotted with mopane and acacia trees as you travel north-east over the plateau towards Etosha National Park.
The area is divided into several enormous private game reserves, known as concessions, that support most species of Namibia's large game and provide some of the best birding and wildlife experiences in the country - and southern Africa for that matter.
Giant inselbergs, formed millions ago when lava was all the rage, rise sheer and jagged from the barren plains of the inner Namib Desert. Most impressive of these are Spitzkoppe and the Brandberg Massif - which, in addition to being the highest peak in the country, has the allure of ancient rock paintings and the intriguing White Lady of Brandberg.
Two very large volcanic craters, also millions of years old, hold evidence of Namibia's earliest inhabitants and, at 22km across, Messum Crater is an astonishing sight. It has lost most of its outer ring but has the most fascinating rock formations and ancient plants such as the welwitschia, a variety of lichens, lithops and other desert-adapted flora.
Near Khorixas there is a nucleus of fascinating geological formations: Vingerklip is a striking finger of rock that rises vertically out of the plains while around it the lava-formed flat-tops wouldn't look out of place in Arizona.
The Organ Pipes are a series of dolerite pipes that, oddly enough, resemble organs pipes - though these ones were created 100 million years ago and are probably a bit out of tune by now.
Over 200 million years ago, a great flood swept enormous trees into the desert. These trees were fossilised by the sand and formed what is now a Petrified Forest.
If for no other reason than its great name, you should visit Wondergat: Gat means hole in Afrikaans.
As a result of some lava-induced chemical reaction over 100 million years ago, Burnt Mountain undergoes a spectacular transformation from dull grey to a hundred fiery reds every sunrise and sunset.
Among the red sandstone boulders and hills at Twyfelfontein is the most impressive collection of petroglyphs in Africa. Around 2,500 ancient rock paintings and engravings feature animals, tracks and abstract symbols. The exact age is unknown but archaeological evidence indicates that hunter/gatherers lived here more than 7,000 years ago.
Northern Damaraland rises to the Etendeka Plateau and the ground becomes more vegetated as you move north-east towards Etosha National Park. The main attractions are the private concessions that adjoin the great park and here is where you will find that classic African safari - with a Namibian edge.
The famous desert-adapted elephants traverse this vast dry land in search of water and the world's only naturally occurring population of black rhino co-exists with the Damara communities. The endemic black-faced impala, Damara dik-dik and Hartmann's mountain zebra thrive in the region as do several endemic species of bird including Rüppell's korhaan, Herero chat, Monteiro's hornbill, bare-cheeked babbler, Carp's tit and Hartlaub's francolin.
Endemics aside northern Damaraland's hilly savannah supports a large number of species including lion, leopard, cheetah, hyena, eland, kudu, giraffe, klipspringer, steenbok, gemsbok and springbok. Birdlife is prolific with over 33 raptors recorded including cuckoo hawks, Egyptian vultures and peregrine falcons - the world's fastest animal.
The list of wildlife, birds, plants and smaller fascinations is almost endless and the best way to experience this bountiful region is at the hands of an experienced professional guide: Namibia Tours and Safaris has been providing guided trips into Damaraland since 1990.
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The 10 Best Places to Visit in Namibia
Namibia has some beautiful, unique and extraordinary scenery. Attractions abound and activities are limitless. But it's the whole journey that is the most extraordinary attraction of them all. Just driving through the country will be an experience quite unlike any you've had before. While parts of Namibia resemble other places - like the Kruger Park and Okavango Delta - no other place on Earth comes close to resembling Namibia.
After the world's oldest desert in the south, the Caprivi wetlands come as a bit of surprise. The finger of land that slices between Botswana and Zambia to touch Zimbabwe is a sub-tropical paradise of perennial rivers, sodden marshes and verdant woodlands at odds with the parched country to the west.
The Kaokoveld, a vast and empty wilderness occupying the north-western quarter of Namibia, is roughly divided in two by the Hoanib River. The north is known as Kaokoland and the south as Damaraland. Although these administrative divisions fell away after Namibian independence the colloquial demarcations have persisted.
The springs of Windhoek (pronounced VIN-took) attracted pastoralists long before time was measured with alarm clocks, breakfast runs and train schedules. But since 1840 random claims and several skirmishes for dominion over the precious water have culminated in a city with more facets than a flawless diamond.
The Skeleton Coast
The Skeleton Coast is a sliver of desert that spans the 1,500km from the Orange River in the south to the Kunene River and Angolan Border. Despite its macabre name - given by sailors wary of the strong winds, shifting sandbanks and rusting wrecks - the northern section of the great Namib Desert is full of life and a fascinating place for the informed visitor.
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