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 Kunene is a perennial river that rises in the highlands of Angola and carves its way along the Namibian border through wild and arid mountains before reaching the Atlantic. The rivercourse is an astonishing contrast of sub-tropical growth amid the rocky outcrops and treeless plains of Kaokoland.
The attraction of Kaokoland lies in its wild and uncharted valleys and mountains. Rugged trails take you through impossible terrain that test the engineering of your vehicle and the skills of your driver. Wading through flash floods or bumping over rocks is all in a day's work. It is the most isolated and undeveloped region of this mostly isolated and undeveloped country.
The Himba people - traditional pastoralists who rely on their hardy cattle and goats for survival - have fascinating traditional garb that, until recently involved a daily coating of goat fat and red mud ostensibly as protection from the fierce heat of the sun. Their cultures, lifestyle and dress have been well documented and they live side by side with the wildlife in the region much like the proud Maasai people of Masai Mara in Kenya.
The Kunene is a crocodile-infested river with a profusion of makalani palms, sycamore figs, leadwoods and jackalberry trees. Two of southern Africa's rarist birds are found along its banks: the Cinderella waxbill and the rufous-tailed palm thrush. Adventure-seekers can shoot the rapids in inflatable rafts on guided expeditions.
Epupa Falls, remote and wonderfully difficult to reach, is one of only a few waterfalls in Namibia. Water cascades into a spectacular chute and there are several natural rock pools where you can take a refreshing - and much needed - dip. Ruacana Falls, about 120km east along one of the most rugged tracks in the country, is another excellent birding site although the falls have been reduced to a series of sluices from the hydro-electric dam upstream.
Hartmann's Valley and Marienfluss are two vast wilderness areas in the west of Kaokoland. This is off-roading territory and the valleys support a fragile arid ecosystem. Marienfluss is the more accessible of the two and, being more easterly, it has more vegetation, birds and animals than the desolate Hartmann's.
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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 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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