Damaraland & Surroundings

NAMIBIA

Brandberg & Surroundings

The Brandbergis famous for its numerous rock paintings, apparently 50 000 of them found all over the mountain.

Damaraland occupies a huge, harsh stretch of landscape to the northwest of Namibia located between the Brandberg (Burnt Mountain) and the little village of Sesfontein. The contrast to the rest of Namibia makes this landscape so magical; a real treat for the avid photographer, the wildlife lover, and the traveller in search of some peace and quiet.

Damaraland is one of the most scenic areas in Namibia…
A huge, untamed, rugged beautiful region to explore.

Take in the breathtaking views and endless landscapes of Namibia’s highest mountain (Brandberg), centuries old rock paintings in Twyfelfontein, a petrified forest, a huge rock finger, and a Living Museum presenting the traditional culture of the Damara; catch a glimpse of the desert-adapted elephant. If you are lucky, you could even find the elusive and magnificent desert-adapted rhino and desert lion found in the area.

Brandberg (Burnt Mountain)

Brandberg rock painting

To the South, 90 km from the Atlantic Ocean is the Brandberg (Burnt Mountain)a panorama of desolation with coloured rocks contrasting vividly against the grey-black surroundings. The name derives from the glowing colours of the setting sun that paints onto the mountain range as if the mountain was on fire. Climb the highest point in Namibia at 2573m.

The Brandberg is famous for its numerous rock paintings, apparently 50 000 of them found all over the mountain; some of the 2000 to 4000 year old paintings are difficult to access. Scientists today are sure the paintings were by the San (Bushmen), who inhabited the area. Apart from depictions of warriors or hunters, there are large amounts of different animal paintings, an indication that wildlife must have been abundant during that time.

The “White Lady”

The most famous known rock painting is located close to the road from Khorixas to Hentie’s Bay, in the area of Uis on the Brandberg Massif. The painting is in a cave known as Maack Shelter and portrays several human figures as well as oryxes (a type of antelope) on a rock panel measuring about 5.5 m x 1.5 m. The White Lady is the most detailed human figure in the group, and measures about 39.5 cm x 29 cm. The route to the White Lady, which today is unfortunately not intact, is about 5 km long and a local guide has to accompany all guests visiting the painting to avoid further vandalism to the paintings. Bars secure the collection of paintings including the White Lady.

The Organ Pipes

A mass of basalt slabs in a ravine gouged out by a river is another geological curiosity in the area. The self-styled Organ Pipes situated near the small Inselberg of Burnt Mountain. They are a rock formation that comprises a group of columnar basalts resembling organ pipes. The closest town to visit is Brandberg and Uis, which is a short distance of 30 km and offers several overnight facilities.

The Petrified Forest

A cataclysmic event millions of years ago deposited giant tree trunks that subsequently turned to stone. The name is a bit misleading as it is not exactly a forest, which turned to stone, but rather an accumulation of enormous fossilised tree trunks about 280 million years old.

Scientist found that these trunks have not grown in today’s Namibia but washed down a river in ancient times when one of the many Ice Ages ended. Today the Namib’s living fossil plant, Welwitschia mirabilis, grows among these prostrate fossilised trunks. The official Petrified Forest situated about 50 km West of Khorixas is on a plateau and reached by normal sedan vehicle.

Craters (calderas) – Doros Complex is a differentiated igneous intrusion in the Damaraland region of Namibia. The gabbroic lopolith intrusion is about 17 km2 in area with a thickness of 500 m. It lies to the northwest of the country’s highest peak, Brandberg Mountain. There is evidence of early human habitation found in and around the crater that further adds to its wealth.

The Messum Crater to the southwest of the Brandberg resembles the shape of an amphitheatre and extends over 22 km in length. The Messum Crater is not like other craters in Namibia – it is composed of both intrusive and extrusive rocks. Between 132 and 135 million years old, Messum has a diameter of 18 km. It is indeed worth seeing!

Damaraland

The flora and fauna of the region have adapted perfectly to the harsh weather conditions of high heat and persisting droughts. Here you find the desert-dwelling elephants who with elongated limbs and broader soles are able to handle the extreme rock and sand desert better and can travel for kilometres in the dry riverbeds in search of water.

elephants

Animals travel vast distances between feeding grounds and scattered waterholes that sustain them in the dry season. Other animals that live in the area include the giraffe, zebra, gemsbok, and springbok. In addition, the critically endangered desert lions managed to adapt to the arid climate. Damaraland have numerous endemic desert plants from the poisonous but photogenic Euphorbia Virosa and the ancient Welwitschia mirabilis. The Welwitschia mirabilis are endemic to the Namib Desert and only consist of a root a small stem and two leaves.

Twyfelfontein

Twyfelfontein (meaning doubtful fountain) is home to 2500-plus rock paintings, estimated to be 6000 years old, Africa’s largest and most noteworthy concentration of rock art. Twyfelfontein has a wonderful representation of animals, animal tracks, and geometric designs, though there are surprisingly few human figures.

Etched into the rock are stories within stories, eternalised as our legacy of the past.

The mountains in the Twyfelfontein area are extraordinary. The Mowani Mountains called the Red Mountains because of their flame colour. Himba and Herero women in traditional garb sell stones and crafts on the road between Twyfelfontein and Uis.

The Living Museum of the Damara situated 10 km north of Twyfelfontein is the first traditional Damara project in Namibia and the only one of its kind opened in February 2010. Within the framework of the Living Museum of the Damara, an attempt made to reconstruct the ‘lost culture’. You can experience their daily routine, including traditional blacksmith (making of weapons and tools), tanning of leather (production of traditional clothing), jewellery and crafts, dancing, singing, and their traditional games. Together with the Bushmen, the Damara belong to the oldest nation in Namibia. Due to their loose social structures, the Damara were not able to defend themselves against aggressors during the colonisation of Namibia; their culture largely has fallen into obliviousness.

Vingerklip

Vingerklip (huge rock finger) stands like a monument 70 km west of the little town Outjo. Situated halfway between Outjo and Khorixas, the Vingerklip is one of Namibia’s most famous and remarkable rock formations attracting substantial numbers of tourists.

The Rock Finger stands on the hilltop and has a height of 929 m above sea level; the rock itself is 35m high. Visitors can climb the hill to view the rock formation, but prohibited to climb the Vingerklip.

Spitzkoppe

Rising an impressive 1728m above the ground, Spitzkoppe is a striking landmark on the Namibian landscape. Unaware of the beauty that awaits, many self-drive visitors have driven straight past these peaks. Made up of a number of large distinctive peaks, the main known is the Gross Spitzkoppe rise up in different areas on the landscape. The other peaks are Klein Spitzkoppe, Pondok Mountain and the Inselbergs or ‘island mountains’.

Located in the Namib Desert, a visit to Spitzkoppe offers incredible hiking and rock climbing prospects, magnificent panoramic views, wonderful photographic opportunities, and the chance to immerse yourself in the stillness and beauty of the desert.

Weather

Namibia covered by vast areas of desert is your typical climate as to what you would expect from a desert country. Daytime temperatures are hot (extremely hot in summer) and nights are cold, some areas frequently go below freezing in winter. Rainfall is sparse; with the north eastern areas of Namibia getting the most rain, (this area is tropical) and rainfalls decreasing as you travel south and westwards.

During the Namibian summer months (November to March), Damaraland temperatures’ can rise above to 40°C and more. The annual rainfall is low, some years it is completely absent. The numerous wide riverbeds meander; turn to torrential rivers after a heavy rainfall within hours.

Damaraland should be the first destination on your list as a first-time visitor to Namibia. Camping on a self-drive safari is a very popular means to discover the hidden secrets of this unique area or track the elephants on guided excursions offered by one of many luxurious facilities.A fly-in safari is truly a splendid way to gain perspective on the dramatic landscapes and dry riverbeds.

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