The northwest of Namibia – known today as Kunene Region, but formerly as Kaokoland and Damaraland – is one of the most untouched stretches of land in Southern Africa.
About 70 000 people live in an area twice the size of Belgium, and you must have a fully-equipped 4×4 if you’re going to explore anywhere off the main gravel road that runs north to south, from Palmwag to Epupa.
It’s a place that must be seen at least once in your life. Unlike the south of the Namib desert, which is characterised in places by huge sand dunes, the northwest is a mixture of foreboding mountains in the east, huge gravel plains and valleys, and the sand dunes of Skeleton Coast National Park adjacent to the Atlantic Ocean. Around every corner is a new view, and there’s much more wildlife than in the south, while there’s far fewer tourists – my kind of place!
As spectacular as it is from the ground, there’s no better way to get a sense of the epic scale and grandeur than from the air. From the Wilderness Safari camp of Doro Nawas, I was flown in a small plane with two other guests to Serra Cafema, another Wilderness Safaris camp on the banks of the Kunene River, which forms the border between Angola and Namibia. More to come on the incredible scenery up at Serra Cafema, but for now, have a look at these photos that I snapped through the window of the Caravan plane.
It made me realise just how harsh the desert can be, and how difficult it must have been for the early pioneers – both Himba and European – to make a life for themselves here. But when they arrived, they would have found elephants, rhinos, lions, gemsbok, springbok, giraffe… creatures adapted to the desert. The lifeblood are the ephemeral rivers which flow from the mountain escarpment in the east all the way to the coast. They flood every few decades after heavy rains, then dry up, but the ground water and springs are almost always available. Without them, this place would be nearly impossible to live in.