Namibia » Kaokoland
Kaokoland is one of the last remaining wilderness areas in Southern Africa. It is a world of incredible mountain scenery, a refuge for the rare desert dwelling elephant, black rhino and giraffe and the home of the Himba people. Although it is harsh and offers little respite at midday, the rugged landscape is especially attractive during the early morning and late afternoon when it is transformed into softly glowing pastel shades.
The topography in the south of the area is characterised by rugged mountains which are dissected by numerous watercourses, but north of the Hoarusib River the scenery is dominated by table-top koppies. Still further north, the Otjihipa Mountains rise abruptly above the Namib floor to form the eastern boundary of the Marienfluss, while the west of the valley is defined by the Hartmann Mountains. The Marienfluss valley is very scenic and relatively greener than the Hartmann's valley. Hartmann's valley is closer to the Atlantic and yet much more arid. However, it does have a strange atmosphere when the sea mists drift inland.
Kaokoland differs greatly from Damaraland in terms of accessibility and infrastructure. While quite a bit of Damaraland is isolated from the outside world it is really Kaokoland which is the back and beyond, silent, huge and for the most part empty. With 16,000 or so inhabitants, 5,000 of them Himba, Kaokoland has a population density of only one person to every two square kilometers which is about a quarter of the national average.
Kaokoland is bordered on the south the Hoanib River and on the north the Kunene River which also forms Namibia's border with Angola. Mountain ranges near the Kunene River are rugged and impressive with the highest point located at 2039m in the Baynes Mountains. It is an oddity that a river runs through this arid landscape with the only real waterfalls in Namibia along it's course. The Ruacana Falls are 120m high and 700m wide in full flood. Also along the Kunene River you'll find the Epupa falls, about 135km downstream from the Ruacana falls. The name Epupa is a Herero work for the spume created by falling water. Epupa is formed by a series of cascades that drop a total of 60m over a distance of about 1.5km and at one point reaches a total width of 500m.
The Himba people who inhabit Kaokoland are the descendants of the earliest Herero's who migrated into this area in the 16th century. The Himba are an ancient tribe of semi nomadic pastoralists, many of whom still live and dress according to ancient traditions and live in scattered settlements throughout Kaokoland. They are a slender and statuesque people. The women especially are noted for their unusual sculptural beauty, enhanced by intricate hairstyles and traditional adornments. They rub their bodies with red ochre and fat, a treatment which protects their skins against the harsh desert climate.
In terms of wildlife Kaokoland is probably most famous for it's desert elephant. The possibility of obtaining a glimpse, however brief, of a herd of desert dwelling elephants is what draws most tourists to the area.
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