Namibia offers a wide variety of walks, overnight hiking trails and guided wilderness trails for those wanting to explore the countryside on foot. Keep in mind that the Namib Desert is an arid environment and often extremely hot with no trees to provide shade.
Aus and surroundings
Traverse the rugged Aus Mountains in the Gondwana Sperrgebiet Rand Park to view the wild horses that roam the plains west of Klein-Aus Vista. Along the way, hikers can explore World War I entrenchments, view interesting and rare succulents and expansive fields of desert flora (July–September). Most captivating of all are the endless views across the Namib Desert.
The six different hiking trails are the Vista Trail, offering stunning views over the Namib plains and perfect for sunset or sunrise walks (4.1 km, easy), Schanzen Trail (5.1 km, easy), Schutztruppe Trail (10.8 km, easy), Mountain Trail (6.4 km, intermediate), Geister Trail (12.7 km, intermediate to advanced) and Eagle Trail (17.7 km, or 20.4 km, depending on your choice of descent, for intermediate to experienced hikers), all indicated with coloured arrows and looping back to the starting point.
There are also two Historical Trails (either 1 hour, or 2–3 hours) that start at the Aus Information Centre and take hikers past World War 1 trenches, shelters, cannon stands, and a cave. The best time for hiking is during the cooler months (April–October). Since this is a winter-rainfall area, rain gear and sufficient warm clothing are essential.
From Henties Bay
The unmarked 18-km Jakkalsputz Walking Trail starts at the southern end of Henties Bay from the Gallows and ends at Jakkalsputz. It is best done at low tide when the rock pools are visible.
For the more energetic there are the 20-km and 70-km Omaruru River Walking Trails, both quite strenuous and best done on a cool day when it is overcast. The 20-km trail proceeds along the beach northwards to the Omaruru River mouth, up along the river and back to Henties Bay across the desert plains. The 70-km option is unmarked and water must be taken along. Hikers proceed along the Omaruru River to the big fig tree or Omdel Dam, where they camp for the night. They can return the same way or along a small track running from the dam wall in a northerly direction towards the C35 (14 km) and along the C35 to Henties Bay (27 km).
A new initiative by a local tour company, Tour & Travel Biz, offers guided half-day hikes into the Moon Landscape. The moonscape is a totally barren, undulating, rocky desert, which was formed by the valleys of the Swakop River. Tours depart from Swakopmund at sunrise.
Fish River Canyon Hiking Trail
Often compared in terms of difficulty to the daunting Otter Trail in South Africa, the Fish River Hiking Trail ranks amongst the Big Five hiking trails in the Southern African Region. The trail takes backpackers on a journey along the second-largest canyon in the world through spectacular scenery, solitude and total wilderness. Hemmed in by sheer canyon walls towering as much as 549 metres above the meandering river, the trail runs between the northernmost viewpoint of the Fish River Canyon and the thermal hot spring at the /Ai-/Ais Spa.
The trail is 85 km long, is self-guided and usually takes four to five days. Chain handholds are provided at the beginning of the trail. At the bottom is an enormous pool in which hikers can cool off before continuing further. There are no overnight stops along the route, enabling hikers to determine their own pace and set up camp where they choose. The route starts at the northernmost lookout point close to the Hobas Campsite and ends at /Ai-/Ais Hot Springs, where hikers can relax in the soothing thermal waters of the spring around which the resort was developed.
The hike can be undertaken only from beginning May to 15 September, due to high summer temperatures and the danger of flash floods during the rainy season. A medical form completed by a doctor no more than 40 days prior to the hike, must be handed in at Hobas before commencing the hike. Trailists must carry all their equipment and food for the duration of the hike. Well worn-in boots with good ankle support are essential. Bookings should be made through Namibia Wildlife Resorts.
Hikes from the Fish River Lodge
Half-day, one-day and five-night hikes are offered from Fish River Lodge on the western rim of the Fish River Canyon. The five-night luxury canyon hike is an invigorating 64-kilometre journey of discovery within 45 000 hectares of private park. The hike includes the first and last night at the lodge with four days hiking and three nights camping. Hikers carry only their lunch and water supply for the day – a back-up vehicle transports the tents and other luggage. Hikes are flexible insofar as guests can tailor-make their canyon experience from one night’s camping to four nights. All hikes are guided and are offered from 1 April to 30 September only.
Namib-Naukluft Park and surroundings
The Namib-Naukluft Park can be explored along several interesting walks and an overnight trail. In the Naukluft section of the park are two rewarding day hikes, the 10-km Olive Trail and the more demanding Waterkloof Trail, which covers 17 km and takes between 6–7 hours to complete. The Namib section of the park offers the Rock Sculpture Trail (up to three hours), and the Tinkas Nature Walk (4–5 hours). A medical certificate, issued within 40 days of the starting date, must be handed in at commencement of the trail.
Also called the Eight Day Trail, the 120-km Namib-Naukluft Hiking Trail is regarded by seasoned hikers as one of Africa’s toughest hiking challenges. It has eight-, four- and two-day options, and some sections have to be negotiated by holding on to chains, which might prove difficult for hikers with a fear of heights. Routes are along dry riverbeds (alive with almost 200 bird species, including the rosy-faced lovebird), up mountainous and winding zebra paths, offering panoramic vistas of the Naukluft spreading into infinity.
Highlights include the spectacular Ubisis Kloof; the Kudu Plains; the beautiful Zebra Ravine carved by the Tsams River; the Euphorbia Ravine; the Quiver Tree Ridge; the rosy-coloured Arbeid Adelt Valley where rose quartz abounds; Tufa Tavern, a huge cave next to an enormous fig tree; and at 1 980 metres, the highest point on the trail, Bakenkop.
Bookings are made through Namibia Wildlife Resorts, only for the period between 1 March and the third Friday in October. Group sizes must number from three to 12.
The Quiver Tree Gorge Trail is offered by BüllsPort Guest Farm for hikers who do not want to hike a full day. Visitors are driven up to the plateau in a 4×4 vehicle, and then hike through the biggest gorge with springs in the Naukluft mountains, with many large rock-pools to cool off in and plenty of quiver trees.
The owners of the Ababis and BüllsPort guest farms joined forces in 2004 to create the NAUKLUFTexperience and develop adventure activities in the area, including a hiking trail on Zipfelberg in the Naukluft. The Peter Bridgeford Hiking Trail, named after well-known conservationist Peter Bridgeford, was inaugurated early in 2005. An important aspect of the NAUKLUFT-experience project is involving the community of Nabasib, a small village 15 km south of the Naukluft massif. Seasonal work on active farming operations has been their main source of income in the past. The partners hope that by developing a product that is not dependent on rainfall and can be expanded, further jobs will be created on a more sustainable level to benefit the community and region in the long run.
A trust, the Naukluft Foundation, has been established to support community development, which includes financially supporting the Nabasib Primary School. A kindergarden, supported and run by the trust, was launched in 2010. The trust also runs a primary school. For each bed sold by the members, ten Namibia dollars will be contributed to the trust.
The NAUKLUFTexperience also offers other activities, including bird-watching, mountain biking and horse riding.
The well-known Tok Tokkie Trails, which have been in operation since 1997, are offered on the NamibRand Nature Reserve by Unlimited Travel & Car hire cc. The location is accessed from the D827, with the turnoff sign-posted 400 metres or so north of the C27–D827 junction. The duration of the desert-walking trail of approximately 22 km is three days/two nights.
Alternating between the gravel plains, sand dunes and inselbergs of the NamibRand Nature Reserve, walking is at a leisurely pace, with the focus on the desert-adapted flora and fauna. A back-up crew sets up the overnight camps in the most scenic settings with sundowners, three-course dinners and breakfasts enjoyed amongst the dunes. Lunch is provided at a shaded lunch spot. All equipment is provided, so trailists need to bring only their hiking boots, hats, sunblock and hiking clothes. They carry only a light daypack with water and snacks.
Desert Experience Trail
Similar to the Tok Tokkie Trail, the Desert Experience Trail is also undertaken on the NamibRand Nature Reserve. However, the trail is more challenging and fitness is essential. The duration of the trail is five days/four nights and entails 7–8 hours walking per day, with all luggage, including food and water, carried by the hikers themselves. Lead by an experienced guide, you will savour the remoteness and vastness of this ancient desert landscape. Temperatures can reach up to 35°C during the day, sometimes plummeting down to –5°C at night. A maximum of seven people can be accommodated on the trail.
Trails in the Waterberg Plateau Park
On the Waterberg Guided Wilderness Trail, the possibility of a face-to-face encounter with a black rhino or a buffalo is very real. The route takes hikers, accompanied by a park warden, through magnificent rock formations and interesting vegetation, affording plenty of time for birding, relaxing and savouring the unique atmosphere of the plateau. The route is 50 km, takes four days to complete and has basic overnight trail shelters with water and toilets along the way. It can be undertaken from April to November, starting on Thursdays. The group must consist of 6–8 hikers. They must be fit and able to take evasive action quickly in the event of an unexpected encounter, and provide their own food and sleeping bags.
The Unguided Wilderness Trail at Waterberg is 42 km long and is undertaken without a guide. The trail takes four days and is open from April to November. Hikers depart every Wednesday at 9:00 and return on Saturday, and must provide their own food and camping equipment. Groups should consist of 3 to 10 persons. Bookings are done through Namibia Wildlife Resorts.