Text and Photographs Elzanne Erasmus
If you’re feeling very strong you can even go all five kilometres!” This was the NWR Namib-Naukluft Camp manager’s advice to me when I asked him what he would suggest for a “relaxed adventure” during my first trip to the Naukluft in over 10 years. It was a long weekend and, like the rest of my countrymen, I was all too keen to swop hot and bothered Windhoek for another beautiful Namibian destination, preferably one with starry nights and lots of pretty birds.
The Naukluft seemed the ideal stopover for a two-night camping trip before heading for the coast. So we set up camp along the small river at the newly renovated campsites which sport beautiful ablution blocks, warm water and friendly staff who make sure that your campsite is clean and you have everything you need to make your stay wonderful. After our camp was ready we were keen to go on a little adventure! Known for its amazing hiking routes, the mountains and streams and beautiful trees of the Naukluft are a nature lover’s paradise. Taking Johannes’s recommendation to heart and feeling quite strong (!), we set off on the easiest of the four trails the park offers. The Waterkloof route is a five kilometer trail that leads up to a set of crystal clear pools and what passes as a waterfall in Namibian terms, i.e. a set of cascades down the mountainside. Cool clear spring water seeps out of the rocks into what will become the Tsauchab River, which flows from the hilly nooks of the Naukluft all the way to Sossusvlei before it continues underground to the sea.
We were equipped for our hiking adventure with a backpack full of snacks, a camera and a bottle of water, which we never needed as the river water is clean and cold and by far the most refreshing liquid I’ve tasted outside a Windhoek Lager bottle. On our feet we sported vellies of the kind they only make in Swakopmund with real Kudu leather. Though closed shoes are advisable, I wouldn’t necessarily say hiking boots are a must. I’m sure the more rigorous routes, such as the 4-day or 8-day trail, would call for proper hiking gear, but for this adventure our veldskoene were more than adequate.
The trail offered an abundance of ‘new’ trees to try and identify. As I haven’t quite mastered that particular skill yet I took pictures of every unfamiliar leaf and twig for an investigative identification session later with my newly acquired book Trees and Shrubs of Namibia. I decided to rather resort to another pastime that would most likely yield more rewarding (and familiar) results: birding. I had previously read about the wonderful birds to be seen in the park, but they all seemed to be attending some sort of aviary convention. The only winged creatures I could tick off my sad Naukluft birding list were a few red-eyed bulbuls, pale-winged starlings and a vocal grey go-away bird, made all the more depressing if you consider the fact that these are probably three of the most common birds in Namibia.
The scenery is breath-taking, however, and the hike is fairly easy except for some tricky clambering over a rock here and there. The trail is marked with yellow footprints painted on rocks at suitable intervals and an arrow or two to keep you on the right path, but I wouldn’t be too worried if you were to get lost. At least you’ll have wonderfully fresh water and red-eyed bulbuls to keep you company.
The ultimate reward awaits after a short 2.5 km trek. The water pools at the end of the route are stunningly beautiful and an ideal swimming spot. We ended up relaxing there for far longer than we actually spent hiking, so if a “relaxed adventure’ sounds like your cup of tea, the Waterkloof route is definitely a must. I’m sure avid hikers would do much better on the 10 kilometre Olive Trail, or even the 4 or 8-day routes, but for us Sunday-stroll bums the pot of gold comes in the form of pools full of cool turquoise blue water amidst undisturbed nature. I might even become a hiker if there is a promise of more such delights on the longer treks.
Be sure to take lots of pictures and to dive into the water. With good company, the sound of water cascading down the mountainside and birds chirping, all while enjoying the most spectacular views of ancient cliff faces, it could be quite easy to imagine that heaven is nestled in the heart of the Naukluft. TNN
FAST FACTS: NAMIB NAUKLUFT NATIONAL PARK
- Proclaimed in 1979 after merging Namib Desert Park and Naukluft Mountain Zebra Park
- The largest conservation area in Namibia and one of the largest in Africa
- Popular tourist attractions and features located within the park include Sossusvlei, Sesriem, the Welwitschia Trail, Sandwich Harbour, the Naukluft Mountains and Kuiseb Canyon
- The two main sections are the central and southern Namib Desert and the Naukluft Mountains
- The Naukluft section of the park was created to serve as a sanctuary for Hartmann’s mountain zebra and is a geological marvel with its impressive rock formations characterized by giant symmetrical patterns
- The NWR Naukluft Camp has 6 newly built guest chalets, 21 campsites, 4×4 and hiking trails and nature walks. Among the new renovations to the establishment are also the added restaurant area, a bar and a kiosk.
Waterkloof Trail 5 km/17 km
Olive Trail 10 km | 4-day trail | 8-day trail
For detailed directions to Namib-Naukluft Park see this story online at www.travelnewsnamibia.com
For more information or to make bookings follow this link: http://www.nwr.com.na/