Kaokoland, occasionally referred to as Kaokoveld, and known officially as the Kunene Region, is a place of extremes.
With an average elevation of 1 400 m and a population density of one person every 2 km², it’s one of the wildest, least populated, and most mountainous areas of Namibia.
The Kunene Region occupies the north-western reaches of Namibia, stretching from south to north from the Hoanib River to the Kunene River bordering Angola.
Before the arrival of the colonists, the Ovambo, Nama, and Herero people dominated the Kaokoland.
A group of Herero crossed into Angola in the late 19th century, mixing with the local bushmen there and later returning to Namibia to become the forebears of modern Himba people.
The first people to arrive in this area were Boers trekking northward from the Transvaal, but they soon departed for Angola, leaving behind only a few ruins in the 0 Otavi and
In 1884, Germany took occupation of the area, and many of the Herero folk adapted their lifestyles to mimic these new immigrants.
At the end of WWI, South Africa took over German South West Africa, and applied the principles of apartheid to the country, establishing a Bantustan for the Himba people in Kaokoland.
In 1989, as Namibia transitioned towards independence, the Bantustan was abolished and the Kunene region became a political unit of this fledgeling nation.
You won’t find many accommodation options in this sparsely populated part of Namibia, but there are a few high-end safari lodges to choose from near Opuwo, along with well-run campsites on the banks of the Kunene River.
Near Sesfontein, you can stay in a lodge styled after the original Fort Sesfontein, built by the German Schutztruppe in 1896.
Most travellers to this part of the world opt for guided tours of the region, which emphasize opportunities to spot desert elephants and cultural immersion with the local folk.
The colourful, interesting Himba people welcome you to several villages in the area where you can learn more about their unique lifestyles and traditions.
Beautiful waterfalls dot the landscapes in Kaokoland, especially at Epupa and Ruacana along the Kunene River. The Ruacana Falls are one of Africa’s tallest and most beautiful water features.
Rafting the Ondurusa Rapids and trekking amongst unspoiled nature are popular activities in Kaokoland.
No trip to Kaokaland is complete without going in search of the desert lions, rhinos, and elephant found only in this area. Other more common wildlife sightings include springbok, zebra, giraffe, and oryx.
4×4 enthusiasts will find plenty of adrenaline pumping trails to challenge their skills, especially along Van Zyl’s Pass.
Fauna and Flora
The Kaokoland is a sparse area that boasts limited numbers of game, but it’s spectacularly beautiful and diverse.
In the north, the Baynes and Otjihipa Mountains dominate, while the Hartmann Mountains punctuate the eastern horizon. Lush, green landscapes abound along the Kunene River, as well as the Hartmann and Marienfluss Valleys.
Baobabs, ana trees, mopane trees, and Makalani palms are common in these green spaces, while a variety of grasses, succulents and dwarf trees are more common in the drier areas.
The desert-adapted subspecies of African elephant is the most notable game species of the Kaokoland. These ecosystem engineers roam freely over three thousand square kilometres of the area, modifying and shaping the landscape that includes the Huab, Hoanib, Hoarusib, and Khumib River beds.
Black rhinos were re-introduced in 1983, and you may also catch sight of springboks, ostriches, giraffes, mountain zebras, kudus, and oryxes during your travels.
The portion of the Namib desert between the mountains and the
There is extraordinarily little development in Kaokoland, and only a few roads. If you don’t have a 4×4, the only accessible road is the dusty C43 between Sesfontein and Opuwa.
As a result, most visitors fly in by chartered plane from the nearest game lodge, Windhoek, or Swakopmund.
If you do decide to drive to Kaokoland, it’s advisable to travel in a 4×4 and take all your supplies along with you.
Directions from Windhoek:
- Take the Western bypass from Bach Street and Florence Nightingale
- Take the B1, C38, and C40 to the C43 in Kunene Region
Directions From Swakopmund:
- Take Tobias Hainyeko Road to Henties Bay in the Erongo Region
- Follow the C34 and C39 to the C43 in Kunene Region
Experience the Best of Namibia
Kaokoland is another one of Namibia’s surprising and amazing areas waiting for you to discover it.
Start planning your trip to this diverse and fascinating destination by reading our travel guide for inspiration, or consulting our travel maps for trip planning ideas.
Remember, if you’re flying in to Windhoek, Arebbusch Travel Lodge is the top choice to get your journey off to a memorable stay and start.
Please Note: The details shared herein were correct at the time of publishing. However, with time some of this information may change. We recommend confirming information with suppliers prior to making final travel arrangements. If you do happen to find an issue with any information we’ve shared here, please feel free to contact us so that we can make the relevant changes.