Expert Reviews – Damaraland

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Shimmering desert elephants and black rhino
Overall rating
3/5

Damaraland is a photographer’s dream – with its stunning rocky, desert landscapes, contorted rock formations and huge flat-topped mountains. It is a harsh, unforgiving place, with miles and miles of “nothing” except wilderness and silence. At first glance Damaraland appears devoid of much life, but it is extraordinary the variety of wildlife that manages to survive here. Top of every visitors’ wish list are the desert elephants – it’s truly astonishing to see them plodding across the shimmering landscapes. I also spent a day tracking black rhino. Finally, after 8 hours with my guide, one appeared from behind a euphorbia bush, looking like a dinosaur in the heat haze. You can also hope to see photogenic giraffe, oryx and springbok. Damaraland has a number of endemic bird species too – including the Ruppell’s korhaan, with its frog-like croak.

Some lodges in the north of the region also offer visits to the semi-nomadic indigenous Himba people.

A landscape dotted with unusual rock formations and home to free-roaming elephant
Overall rating
3/5

I always enjoy Damaraland’s uniquely striking landscape; the gravel plains are dissected by sandy dry riverbeds and give rise to flat-topped hills and unusual eroded stacks of giant boulders known as inselbergs (‘island mountains’). It encompasses some of Namibia’s most dramatic natural features such as the massifs of Spitzkoppe and the Brandberg while the red-hued rocks at Twyfelfontein shelter Namibia’s largest collection of San rock art. Although not a typical wildlife region, the highlight for me is seeing (desert-adapted) elephant; most memorable was watching a huge male gleefully rip massive shards of bark from what seemingly appeared to be the only tree in the valley. I’ve also spotted rare raptors including the Peregrine falcon and booted eagle, and springbok are plentiful (as are goats and their goatherds). On my drives through the region, the gravel roads have been fairly well-maintained and there’s a good choice of lodges and campsites.

The desert-adapted elephants of Damaraland
Overall rating
3/5

I set out to Damaraland to find the desert-adapted elephants. Desert-adapted elephants really look like any other elephants, but seeing these giants in this rugged, rocky terrain was an amazing experience. With little food and water around, the elephants seem to be permanently moving and finding them can be a challenge. We eventually found them feeding next to a dry riverbed. Many of the rivers in the area only flow once every few years, but this was a wet year and rain seemed to be following us around. This was the first and only time I witnessed a flash flood. Out of nowhere the water started running through the bone-dry riverbed. I was obviously not the only one who had never seen this before. I expected the thirsty elephants to love this sudden abundance of water. I expected the youngsters to play in the river, as they usually like so much. But the elephants were watching the river with suspicion. A few hours later, after a lot of deliberation, they crossed the river. The youngsters seemed to need a lot of convincing from the adults and after a quick drink, they left the river behind. Wildlife densities are low in this area, but aside from the elephants, you might see other ungulates like giraffe, kudu and steenbok. Black rhino is present, but rare to see.

Average Expert Rating

  • 3.7/5
  • Wildlife
  • Scenery
  • Bush Vibe
  • Birding

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