The desolate but breath-taking mountainous region of Damaraland occupies an area in north-west Namibia stretching from Swakopmund and the Skeleton Coast in the east to Etosha National Park in the west. The stellar views and extraordinary light make Damaraland a popular destination with landscape photographers and there are enough attractions in Damaraland to make it worthwhile doing the journey from the coast to Etosha by road.
The top attraction in Damaraland is Twyfelfontein, where rocky outcrops feature exceptional Bushmen engravings, which are considered to be some of the best-preserved etchings on the continent. This outstanding outdoor “art gallery” of over 2,500 petroglyphs is Namibia’s first UNESCO World Heritage site. The age of the engravings is between one thousand and ten thousand years old. What is remarkable is that the engravings were made without the use of metal tools. It is presumed that quartz tools were used as many quartz chips have been found there. The engravings depict hunting scenes in which the hunters are pictured with bow and arrow and also animals such as antelopes, zebras, giraffes and lions.
The Brandberg Mountain Range contains Namibia’s highest mountain peak and is also home to thousands of ancient rock paintings – most notably the White Lady. The Brandberg towers two thousand metres over the surrounding plains and is popular with hikers. The name “Brandberg” (burning mountain) derives from the glowing colours that the setting sun paints onto the mountain range. The Spitzkoppe is a group of rounded deep-red granite mountains that rise up dramatically into the spectacular “Matterhorn of Africa”, a favourite with mountain climbers. Damaraland is also home to flat-topped “table mountains”, reminiscent of Monument Valley in Arizona and is called the Ugab Terraces. The famous Vingerklip (rock finger) is the geological leftover of a Ugab Terrace. It stands on a rocky pedestal and is 35 metres tall. Another Damaraland attraction is the Petrified Forest near the town of Khorixas, which dates back millions of years and offers a haunting landscape of gigantic fossilised trees.
The scrub landscape and lack of permanent rivers in Damaraland cannot support vast, concentrated herds of wildlife, but it nevertheless boasts a varied and breath-taking assortment of desert-adapted species such as elephant, rhino, zebra oryx and lion, which eke out an existence in this near-barren landscape. Birding is excellent, with over 240 species recorded. Damaraland has been in the forefront of a new generation of safari lodge partnerships, with some of its lodges now owned and run jointly with the local Damara community.