Eben has travelled extensively throughout southern Africa, yet Namibia remains close to his heart. He loves it because it is his home, of course, but also because it offers some of the best overlanding opportunities in the world.
Namibia is one of the least populated countries but it is also one of the most popular international holiday destinations. Why is this? Well, Namibia possesses some of the most stunning landscapes in Africa, and a trip through the country is one of the best road adventures one could undertake.
Namibia boasts 7200km of tarred roads, allowing easy access to the “highlights”, such as Etosha National Park, Sossusvlei, Swakopmund and the Fish River Canyon.
Etosha, one of Africa’s largest game reserves, is home to 114 mammal species. The Sossusvlei dune landscape is breathtakingly beautiful and is surely one of the most photographed areas anywhere.
The Fish River Canyon is one of the largest canyons in the world. With challenging hiking trails, amazing scenery and fascinating geology, it is a must-visit destination.
Swakopmund is a picturesque “old world” seaside town with charming German architecture and quaint little shops. It is also a thrill seeker’s dream, as it offers a wide range of adventure activities.
But what does Namibia offer the off-road enthusiast? Apart from the tarred roads, there is a 38000km network of well-maintained gravel roads that opens up destinations such as Twyfelfontein, Damaraland and Kaokoland.
Until recently, Kaokoland was accessible only by 4×4, and even today places such as Van Zyl’s Pass and the river road from Swartbooisdrift to Epupa require a proper 4×4 with low range. But the main attraction in the area, Epupa, is easily accessible in a smaller SUV, and you even encounter brave tourists pitching up there in a sedan (an Avis rent-a-car is the best 4×4, after all!)
The good news is that there is an endless number of 4×4 tracks and places to discover in the more remote and least populated regions of Namibia. Authors such as the late Jan Joubert and Sakkie Rothman have documented many of them. More recently, Johan Snyman published comprehensive guide books on the routes and tracks in Kaokoland and Damaraland. There are, for instance, 12 riverbed tracks and close to 50 unproclaimed roads and tracks in the Damaraland area alone.
What amazes me is not only the rugged beauty of Namibia but the wonderful animals that have managed to adapt to this harsh environment. Desert lions, desert elephant, rhinos, giraffes and a variety of antelope can be found in the harshest parts of the country.
Venturing into these remote areas, you could travel for days without seeing other vehicles.
Some time ago, I took visitors down one of the river tracks in Kaokoland, and when we came across some of the desert elephants, someone remarked that these were “real wild animals”. He was right. Unlike animals found on game farms and in large game parks, they are not fenced in at all. They really are “wild”.
The same goes for the 4×4 tracks in these regions. They are “real 4×4 tracks”. Created by prospectors, hunters, wildlife officials and hawkers who traded with the local tribes, the tracks were created organically, simply through use.
Kaokoland is home to the remarkable Himba people. Many of the tribes still live according to their traditional customs and beliefs. The hills are of great interest to geologists, and the scenery is stunning.
To the east lies Boesmanland, home of the last true Koi San communities. It is an area of dune belts, thorny veld and desolate splendour.
Testimony to the harshness of the area is that no more than 10 000 people live in this massive region. From the administrative centre, Tsumkwe, various tracks take you past massive baobab trees and to some of the Namibian wetlands (yes, Namiba has wetlands!), such as the Nyae Nyae Pan, which attracts thousands of wetland birds.
The Khaudum Game Park comprises two very different types of landscape. To the south there is open savannah while the northern part is a type of woodland.
From an off-roading perspective, the “roads” north, towards Katere, are challenging. One can never build up speed because of short sections of deep corrugations that need to be negotiated slowly.
I could go on and on about this fascinating country. The opportunities to enjoy your 4×4 in a variety of landscapes and conditions are almost endless. If you’ve never been there, what are you waiting for?