Expert Reviews – Khaudum NP

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Wild Elephant Wilderness
Overall rating

Khaudum is wild and it is remote. Consequently, tourists are few and far between in this rewarding off-the-beaten-track game reserve. In addition to being completely self-sufficient, visitors need a real 4x4 to tackle the park's deep sand tracks. In spite of lion, cheetah and wild dog roaming the park's arid expanses, Khaudum is best known for its incredible concentrations of elephants. These grey giants congregate in their hundreds to drink and mud bath at the park's 14 boreholes and natural springs – which supply the only permanent water supply within this sun-baked wilderness. The waterholes function like magnets for all manner of wildlife and a handful of adventurous safari enthusiasts. According to Dries Alberts, Warden of Khaudum, "The Khaudum National Park was established with conservation in mind and not for cash generation. This simple guiding characteristic gave birth to the true wilderness feel that embraces one's soul when visiting the park. It is wild, and we want to keep it like that." Personally, I couldn't agree more ... If you are enamoured by elephants and relish exploring untamed Africa, Khaudum certainly won't disappoint.

An adventurous safari in a huge expanse of dry woodland savannah on the edge of the Kalahari
Overall rating

Remote and little-visited, Khaudum is a vast region of dry, brittle thornveld, and like Kaokoland in Namibia’s northwest, a tough part of the country to travel in – you need a four-wheel-drive in a convoy of at least two vehicles, have experience in driving in soft sand, and be completely self-sufficient. Overall animal sightings are rare, but that doesn’t mean they’re not there, and there are healthy numbers of tsessebe and roan antelope, red hartebeest, elephant, and predators including lion, spotted hyena and wild dog. Here, game viewing is a real skill; you have to be patient and know something about the animals and their movements, and perhaps track spoor as the San (Bushmen) do; animal tracks can be seen in the red Kalahari sand if you look hard. Khaudum is an adventurous destination, but being in such a wild place can be ample reward for the challenging terrain.

Well off the beaten track, on the trail of elephants and wild dogs
Overall rating

Kaudom (sometimes spelt Khaudum or Khaudom) is little visited as it’s difficult to reach (you have to choose between flying in or, once you’ve left the main road, a long, sandy journey by 4WD) and there are no lodges, just areas set aside for camping. Despite this, I think getting there is worth the effort, especially if you like the idea of heading off on a back-to-basics wilderness camping trip on which you’ll see wildlife, but no other travellers.

Close to the Botswana border, the landscape here is an open patchwork of thinly vegetated savannah. It may be part of the Kalahari, but it’s surprisingly green after the rains, and a certain amount of underground water remains all year round.

While in general the park infrastructure is rudimentary, there are hides overlooking the permanent waterholes. Hang out here for a while and you’re likely to see some of the elephants which pass through in large numbers as they travel between Namibia and Botswana. You may also have the chance to watch roan antelopes, hartebeest and tsessebes. I find predators rather hard to see here as there’s plenty of cover, but hyenas, lions and leopards are present and if you’re lucky, you may see wild dogs, which are more numerous here than anywhere else in Namibia.

Getting lost in Namibia’s wildest national park
Overall rating

Khaudum is certainly not for the faint-hearted. Most of the park’s “roads” are comprised of deep, soft sand and are tough going even for more seasoned 4x4 drivers, while the unfenced self-catering campsites have minimal amenities.

Khaudum is also not an easy place to spot game, though rumour has it there is plenty around. Personally, in two days in the park I saw just one elephant, one giraffe and a handful of bird and antelope species. That was about it, and I was generally much too focused on not getting our vehicle stuck in the sand to pay much attention to the wildlife (or lack of).

But while this will undoubtedly put many of you off, for those looking for a truly wild experience this scenically-beautiful and underdeveloped park still has an undeniable allure, and you’ll certainly have no trouble getting away from the crowds. I’m not sure we saw a single other vehicle during our visit.

Adventure on the High Sands
Overall rating

This park is a major challenge even for experienced African hands. Remote and largely undeveloped, a safari here should only be attempted by at a convoy of at least two vehicles and you need to be experienced in travel through Africa’s harsh desert regions. At the very least you will need GPS and topographic maps for navigation as there is little in the way of signage. Awaiting here though is an unscarred wilderness adventure perfect for those seeking to get under the skin of Namibia’s intoxicating landscape. Unusually for a Namibian park, Khaudum has a protected lion population and is the only place in the country where you may spot an African wild dog. We weren’t lucky enough to see those but elephants, zebras, giraffes, kudus, and tsessebes all crossed into view of our binoculars.

Khaudum: Predators in the Wilderness
Overall rating

Khaudum won’t be for everyone. Safari infrastructure is almost non-existent, restricted to two barely maintained wilderness campsites. The trails here are also sandy and heavy-going, and the park authorities require a minimum of two vehicles per convoy for those visiting the park. But for those who love adventure, the rewards are many. Nowhere else in Namibia is there that same sense of remote wilderness that you get in Khaudum – the sense of silence, the infinity of stars undimmed by lights, the absence of other vehicles. In some ways, this is a return to the old safari ways, to the days of do-it-yourself safari experiences that led to total immersion in the African wild. It’s a vast park and so wildlife can be elusive, but it remains one of the best places in Namibia for lions outside of Etosha, while African wild dogs are also a highlight here. There’s terrific birdwatching (over 300 species), as well as elephant, kudu, gemsbok and fleet-footed tsessebe.

Average Expert Rating

  • 3.3/5
  • Wildlife
  • Scenery
  • Bush Vibe
  • Birding

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