It’s with a song in my heart that I can report that very little has changed for campers at Epupa for more than a decade. The proposed dam many of us feared would flood the entire area and eliminate the falls, will definitely not be built there any time soon, if at all.
While there are now more people living in the settlements along the river, this does not spoil the experience. If anything, it enhances it. The wonderful collaboration between the campsite operators, lodge owners and villagers has resulted in effective pollution control. (Except for the beer bottles collected in a clean-up operation, which the supplier does not seem interested in removing.)
Ten years ago it was difficult to access the falls. The road was a tricky, two-spoor track, the kind one expects in the remote areas of Namibia. Nowadays, it is a wide, well-built and regularly maintained gravel road all the way from Opuwo, although it’s a pity about the huge mopane trees that had to be bulldozed in the process. Hopefully the traffic for which that wide road was intended will not materialise. In the mean time, it’s convenient for campers with the widest range of vehicles imaginable to reach the falls safely.
The kind of campsites that existed fifteen years ago, with their grey dusty soil, long-drop toilets and evidence of campfires everywhere, are fortunately something of the past. A well-maintained community campsite is closest to the falls, with community guides trained to take interested campers on hiking trails. These guides have had proper training through NATH and can add to your Epupa experience. In some ways it’s good manners to allow your host to show you his turf. For example, it’s unacceptable to visit a Himba village without a guide (it would be better to skip it entirely).
The craft stall is well worth a visit for the good selection of Himba crafts and tribal artefacts. The salesladies are very friendly, and if you’re interested in meeting local people, this is your opportunity.
Apart from the Community Campsite, there are camping facilities also at the Omarunga Tented Camp and the Hot Springs Campsite, managed by Amos. Except for the international high season in August/September, it is probably safe to simply arrive – preferably early in the day to pitch your tent close to the water for a sublime view of the Kunene River. Epupa Camp, further upstream from the campsites, offers rafting and kayaking trips.
One last tip: don’t miss the sunset from the lookout point on the hill. And don’t complain about the small fee. A photograph of the information board alone is worth the five dollars!
This article was made possible by Cymot Namibia
This article appeared in the Feb/March ‘06 edition of Travel News Namibia.