Kaokoland extends from the Kunene River southwards across a sparsely populated and harsh environment down to the Hoanib River. The area holds a special allure for lovers of remote and wild places to negotiate its challenging and rugged terrain in four-wheel-drive vehicles. Attractions include the desert-adapted elephants, scattered Himba settlements, the impressive Epupa Falls, off the beaten track destinations such as the expansive Marienfluss and Hartmann valleys, the wild and beautiful Khowarib Schlucht, and Witbooisdrift, site of a Dorslandtrekker monument.
With its scenically beautiful surroundings, Epupa is one of Namibiaâ€™s prime tourist destinations. The falls are a series of cascades where the Kunene River drops a total of 60 metres over a distance of about 1.5 km, separating into a multitude of channels and forming a myriad of rock pools. Enhanced by richly coloured rock walls, a variety of trees including wild figs, baobabs and waving makalani palms, spectacular sunsets and perennially flowing waters, the Epupa area offers much to see, do and experience.
Bird-watching is rewarding, especially for the rare Rufous-tailed Palm Thrush. Also seen are Bee-eaters, African Fish Eagles, Kingfishers ranging from the Giant to the tiny Malachite Kingfisher, Rosy-faced Lovebirds, Paradise Flycatchers, Turacos, Bulbuls, Hornbills and Rollers.
Scattered settlements of Himba are an especially interesting feature of the area.
Although officially declared as a town only at the end of 2000, Opuwo has long acted as the capital of the Kunene Region, and as the gateway to Epupa Falls and the land of the Himba people. The town itself doesnâ€™t offer much for the tourist, except in the form of hand-made jewellery and other crafts, which can be found at street stalls and at the open market. The Kunene Craft Centre is also a good place to stock up on souvenirs from the area. Opuwo has well-stocked grocery shops, Internet cafÃ©s, a post office, banks, fuel stations, a hospital, and everything else a traveller might need.
Opuwo is connected to Kamanjab and Windhoek by a tarred road that is in excellent condition. Thereâ€™s an airfield in town, managed by the Opuwo Country Hotel.
The Ovahimba Living Museum
A newly opened Living Museum
now allows visitors to discover the mysteries and wonders of Ovahimba culture. An exhilarating, energetic demonstration, the living museum gives you the opportunity to learn about the intriguing traditional life of the Himba people. This includes their dress, food and crafts (wood carving and metal work). Guests learn about how the homestead is built, with the Holy Fire at its heart, where all the important communication with the ancestors takes place. They also have the unique opportunity to sit in a hut with a bevy of Himba women learning about their intricate beauty rituals. The Ovahimba Living Museum opened officially in November 2016 and is the sixth of its kind. The museum can be found on the C43, 40 km north of Opuwo.
At 120 metres high and 700 metres wide, the Ruacana Falls on the Kunene River are one of the largest waterfalls in Africa. However, for most of the year the waterfall is dry, due to the Ruacana Hydropower Plant upstream, which meets more than 50% of Namibiaâ€™s electricity requirements.
CAMPING ON THE KUNENE
Amidst spectacular scenery and splendid solitude, the Okarohombo Community Campsite on the banks of the Kunene River offers four separate campsites under giant Ana trees.
A very exclusive camping spot is Enyandi Camp, located at the junction of the Enyandi and Kunene rivers. The camp is accessed from the road between Swartbooisdrift and the Epupa Falls, and only seasoned 4×4 drivers in well-equipped vehicles should attempt to drive there. As far as amenities go, there is no water other than from the river. The camp is managed by the Kunene Conservancy.
The Hippo Pools Campsite, accessible from the C46 road from Oshakati, is located 37 km west of Ruacana, within hearing distance of the Ruacana Falls in the Kunene River. It has well-appointed ablution blocks, and each campsite has its own braai facilities. Guided walks are offered to view the falls and the NamPower hydroelectric power station.