History records that sailors who survived being shipwrecked on Namibia's notorious Skeleton Coast had little to cheer about as they headed inland into the rugged and apparently waterless Damaraland. But like many environments in Namibia, Damaraland is more than it seems at first glance.
A loosely defined region that sits between the Skeleton Coast, the Etosha National Park and the even wilder and more remote Kaokoveld, the largely uninhabited Damaraland is an area of dramatic, harsh geology. The mountainous scenery is genuinely breathtaking and the night sky is a carpet of stars - if you're in the mood for some of Africa's most spell-binding landscapes, then a Damaraland safari will deliver to your expectations.
The better-watered northern section of Damaraland is a place of flat-topped mountains and snaking river courses, acacia woodland and rolling grasslands. The drier, starker southern portion of Damaraland was subjected to immense volcanic action in prehistoric times that gave rise to some of the region's most notable geographical features which include the Burnt Mountain, Doros Crater, the Petrified Forest and the Organ Pipes.
But it is for the rock art at Twyfelfontein that Damaraland is perhaps most famous. Known informally as the greatest outdoor art gallery in the world, this World Heritage Site is home to around 5 000 carvings and paintings, created some 6 000 to 10 000 years ago by Stone Age and later Khoikhoi hunter-gatherers who lived in the area. Depicting animals ranging from giraffes and lions to seals and flamingos, the site also has several human figures and geometric imagery.
The original human inhabitants are long gone but Damaraland is still home to many of the large mammals etched and drawn onto the sandstone rocks, including the famous desert-adapted elephant, the rare mountain zebra, the highly endangered black rhino and even lion. A Damaraland safari is perhaps the best opportunity to spot these animals, and happily the region has long been at the forefront of environmental conservation in Namibia. Private concession areas offer superb safari accommodation with expert and passionate local guides who will introduce this remarkable region to you on day and night game drives, nature walks, game tracking expeditions and stargazing evenings.
At a Glance
A region of astonishing natural beauty, the harsh desert landscapes of Damaraland are nevertheless home to rhino, elephant and lion as well as geological wonders and San rock art.