By Sven-Eric Kanzler
A steep rock face broken by the odd ledge towers above our heads. Despite the iron chain it is not easy to make our way up the high ledges hand over hand, our backpacks balanced precariously.
Our route follows one of the hiking trails that have made the Naukluft conservation area in Namibia’s south-western region popular – a craggy mountain paradise of great variety. Narrow gorges lead up to the high plateaus, gentle meadows end abruptly in steep rock faces, numerous springs feed acacia groves and pools of water that entice the hiker to take a dip.
One of the most demanding hiking trails in Southern Africa is the 120-km-long Naukluft Hiking Trail, which takes about eight days to complete. Due to climatic conditions the route is open to hikers only from the beginning of March until the end of October.
Those who find the 120-km hike too long, can hike for four days and 61 km and stop at the farm Tsams Ost, or take a roundabout route of 55 km (also four days). A booking receipt from Namibia Wildlife Resorts (NWR) and a doctor’s health certificate are required for the Naukluft Hiking Trail.
There are, however, two more trails that are accessible all year round and do not require prior booking.
The Olive Trail (See Map Below) is 10 km long and takes about four hours to complete and the 17-km Waterkloof Trail (See Map Below) requires at least six hours.
Both trails provide the visitor with a good insight into the stunning surroundings of the Naukluft range. All hiking trails begin and end near the Naukluft Campsite. Those who prefer not to camp can choose one of several guest farms in the area.
The adventurous visitor who doesn’t enjoy hiking can opt for the 4×4 trail. Inaugurated in 1995, the 73-km cross-country route takes two days to complete. It also requires booking with the NWR.
Naukluft Hiking Trail
The 8 day Naukluft Hiking trail is one of the toughest experiences in Africa. – READ ABOUT ONE HIKERS FULL EXPERIENCE HERE
The trail starts on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays of the first three weeks of each month. Camping facilities and water are available at stopover points. Groups should consist of a minimum of 3 and a maximum of 12 persons. Visitors provide their own food and equipment. Demand is high so reservations should be made well in advance. Contact Namibia Wildlife Resorts to make inquiries regarding rates and to make bookings.
Open fires are not permitted and therefore, you must bring a gas cooker. Because it is a very dry area, you must fill up your water bottle (2 litres) every morning.
The route leads through difficult terrain. A pair of hardy hiking boots is absolutely necessary. Some warm clothes are also strongly advised, since the temperatures in winter often drop below zero.
The old farmhouse in the Naukluft can be used before and after the hike for an overnight stay. Here, beds, a kitchen, basic bathroom and an outside fireplace are supplied. If you want to spend more than one night there, you have to book a camping spot. During the hike you can rest in shelters made from stone and in a hut. These places offer running water and toilets.
The Naukluft offers hikers 2 more options:
It takes 6 to 8 hours and can be done all year round. The Waterkloof Trail starts at the Naukluft parking lot and is not guided. With a bit of luck you’ll encounter Mountain Zebras, Baboons, Oryxes and Springboks.
This hike takes 4 to 5 hours and can also be done all year (just follow the yellow footprints). The fee for the hike is included in the camping fee.