Dramatic Damaraland and Skeleton Coast
Source: Cable & Grain, Words Fiona Macintosh
Rugged, wild and remote, Damaraland is known for its dramatic geology, desert-adapted wildlife and its magnificent rock art. Bounded by the Skeleton Coast, the Kunene and Kaokoveld and the Etosha National Park, this arid region is breathtakingly colourful and diverse. The landscape of the south east is defined by the beautiful burnt orange granite domes of the iconic Spitzoppe and Erongo mountains. The red rocks of Twyfelfontein, the spectacular basalt slabs of the Organ Pipes and the multi-coloured rocks of Burnt Mountain dominate the central area. Further north, black basalt, flat-topped mountain ranges are surrounded by wind blown grasslands, studded with acacia trees.
Despite the harshness of the environment, the wildlife is plentiful thanks to ephemeral river systems. In addition to magnificent oryx and other plains game, desert adapted rhino and elephant migrate throughout the region, surprising unsuspecting drivers as they wander across the gravel roads. Tracking these wonderful animals on foot is one of the exhilarating game viewing experiences offered at various lodges.
The vast open-air gallery of 6 000-year-old petroglyphs etched into the sandstone rock at Twyfelfontein, Namibia’s first and only World Heritage Site, is one of the largest and most important rock art concentrations in Africa. The full spectrum of the country’s wildlife, including giraffe, rhinoceros, seals and ostriches is represented among the 5 000 engravings, along with human figures and the famous ‘Lion Man’, a long tailed lion with human toes.
The region is also a treasure trove of rock paintings, the most famous of which is the White Lady of Brandberg, a somewhat faded depiction, surrounded by animals, just north of Uis. The hour-long hike to the White Lady is straightforward, and trips to view the less accessible, extra-ordinarily well-preserved paintings of the Brandberg massif can be arranged for fit enthusiasts.
There’s also plenty for those of a cultural bent. The Damara Living Museum offers visitors an insight into the lives of the Damara people, traditionally hunter-gatherers who, along with the Bushmen, are among the oldest inhabitants of Namibia; while the charming town of Omaruru, the gateway to the Erongo Conservancy, is home to a vibrant community of artists.