Damaraland safari | Travel guide

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The Damaraland is part of the Kunene Region in the north-west of Namibia and is located between the Brandberg and the small village of Sesfontein. The Damaraland is characterised by its rocky and rugged landscapes of rough, fascinating beauty.

It is bounded roughly by Ovamboland in the north, the Namib Desert in the west, the Kalahari Desert in the east, and Windhoek in the south.

Damaraland is a place of barren plains, petrified forests, flat-topped mountains, ancient valleys and rocky outcrops; a wilderness that not only entices with its scenic beauty but also contains desert-adapted wildlife and one of the few places where Africa’s magnificent wildlife can be seen successfully co-existing with rural farms and villages.

Why visit Damaraland?

Damaraland safari

Damaraland is one the least populated parts of Namibia, situated 90km inland from the Skeleton Coast and the sense of wilderness is incredible.

The main attraction is the stunning desert environment. A wildlife game drive will show visitors the desert elephants and black rhinos this area is famous for. The region also harbors several important rock paintings and art sites.

What makes a Damaraland safari great is the unfenced area allowing animals to move freely outside the confines of parks and reserves.

Whilst tracking these animals can be tricky, getting to see them roaming free against startling desert backdrops is a far more exciting feeling than spotting game in a wildlife park.

Animals

Arguably the main attraction of Damaraland is tracking the rare desert-adapted elephant, and you get a real sense of how powerfully adaptable animals can be.

Visitors will notice this when you first witness these dust-blown animals in such a harsh environment, as they usually rely so heavily on bountiful food and water.

Black rhino have also survived on communal land without any conservation status here, meaning that Namibia is the only place in the world that this is currently true of.

Other wildlife include Hartmann’s mountain zebra, gemsbok, greater kudu, eland and springbok. The big cats are present but seldom seen.

Birds

Birding is excellent, with over 240 species recorded. The area is rich in near-endemics, which are sought after because of their restricted range.

These include violet wood-hoopoe, Hartlaub’s francolin, Rüppel’s parrot, Monteiro’s hornbill, Carp’s tit, bare-cheeked babbler, rockrunner and white-tailed shrike.

Raptors are also well represented and the majestic Verreaux’s eagle can sometimes be seen soaring above the rocky cliffs. Migratory birds are present from November to April.

Trees

The flora and fauna of the region have adapted perfectly to the harsh weather conditions of high heat and persisting droughts.

Here you find the desert-dwelling elephants who with elongated limbs and broader soles are able to handle the extreme rock and sand desert better and can travel for kilometres in the dry river beds in search of water.

Also the critically endangered desert lions managed to adapt to the arid climate. Numerous endemic desert plants are found in the Damaraland such as the poisonous but photogenic Euphorbia Virosa and the ancient Welwitshia Mirabilis

Other activities at Damaraland

Here are some other Namibian safari activities that visitors to Damaraland can look forward to on their trip:

  • Twyfelfontein: South of Damaraland, visit an important archaeological site and UNESCO World Heritage Site that contains some of the finest examples of Bushman paintings and rock engravings in southern Africa that date back some 10-20,000 years, and this makes it one of the most visited sites in the region.
    • It is also a palaeontologist’s dream, with Jurassic sites located in the area, and some of the unusual rock formations such as the Organ Pipes and Burnt Mountain add to the intriguing landscape.
  • Hiking: The mountainous scenery is genuinely breathtaking and the night sky is a carpet of stars – if you’re in the mood for some of Africa’s most spell-binding landscapes, then a Damaraland safari will deliver to your expectations with the region’s most notable geographical features which include the Burnt Mountain, Doros Crater, the Petrified Forest and the Organ Pipes.
  • Rock paintings: The White Lady is a rock painting, located on a panel, also depicting other art work, on a small rock overhang, deep within Brandberg Mountain.

How to get to Damaraland?

By Plane

Hosea Kutako International Airport (WDH) is where most visitors will enter Namibia. The airport is located 40km/25mi east of Windhoek.

By Road

Southern Damaraland is easily reached by any car on good roads, but the area becomes more remote and challenging as you travel to northern Damaraland. Most visitors to the northern section fly to one of the lodges via charter flight.

The distance from Windhoek is roughly 560km/350mi and from Etosha National Park about 380km/240mi. Driving times are approximately six and four and a half hours. Namib Naukluft can also be found on the east coast.

Carrying a small amount of local Namibian currency, the Namibian Dollar (NAD) is advised for smaller purchases.

Regulations

If you keep to park rules, you can stay with the animals as long as they are not disturbed by your presence.

Accommodation at Damaraland

Tourists at Damaraland can choose from a number of different options when deciding where to sleep.

Camps

Damaraland Camp is a beautiful, relaxed, and open community-based conservation initiative. The camp consists of ten elevated, spacious, adobe-style thatched rooms (including a family unit), each with a large deck where you can contemplate the desert.

Off the main area are a pool, open campfire, and outdoor boma – canopied with countless stars in crystal-clear night skies.

Other great accommodation options is the Mowani Mountain Camp, an upscale lodge with rustic-chic rooms & suites, plus an outdoor pool, a restaurant & breakfast and Camp Kipwe.

Camping

Staying in Damaraland is a joy, with Damaraland Camp leading the way with its remote location and authentic tented accommodation set within the Torra Conservancy.

From here it is easy to explore the wildlife of the area and being so remote you may decide to spend several days here.

Campervan

Guests on a self-drive safari with a campervan can make significant savings by sleeping in their vehicle.

Bars/restaurants/amenities

Lodges will typically have all meals and drinks included in the lodge package.

Useful information

Geography

Damaraland is located in the north-west of Namibia and is located between the Brandberg and the small village of Sesfontein. It is bounded roughly by Ovamboland in the north, the Namib Desert in the west, the Kalahari Desert in the east, and Windhoek in the south.

Weather

Damaraland has a harsh, semi-desert climate. Daytime temperatures can spike to well above 38°C/100°F during summer (November to April), with winter nights falling below freezing (October to April).

The Wet season occurs during summer and sees sporadic rainfall, unlikely to disturb your trip. In winter, conditions are extremely dry.

Best time to go

Understanding the best time to visit Namibia is important as this will impact accommodation, flight prices, availability and the weather that visitors can expect on their safari vacation.

Water is hard to come by during the drought of the winter months (May to September) and animals stay around the few waterholes still available. This makes for the best wildlife viewing in Damaraland, although it can be visited at any time of the year.

Health

Although Damaraland is a low-risk-area for malaria, you will still need to take precautions, especially in the wet months from October to April. We advise taking anti-malarials, wearing protective clothing and using mosquito repellent (those containing DEET are most effective).

It is recommended to visit a travel clinic before coming to Namibia. Several Namibia vaccinations are recommended and usually administered before your departure.

FAQs

Where is Damaraland located?

Damaraland is located in the north-west of Namibia and is located between the Brandberg and the small village of Sesfontein. It is bounded roughly by Ovamboland in the north, the Namib Desert in the west, the Kalahari Desert in the east, and Windhoek in the south.

What animals will visitors see at Damaraland?

Visitors to Damaraland will see elephants, black rhinos, Hartmann’s mountain zebra, gemsbok, greater kudu, eland and springbok.