A troop of baboons whoop and holler at our approach then retreat up the cliffs, posting sentries and outriders. The alpha male is the last to withdraw after all the family are safe. As we pass they send out a screaming challenge.
This is the Namib Naukluft desert of Namibia, considered the world’s oldest desert, and I’m here to explore a number of walking trails following the canyons and highlands of the Naukluft Mountains.
The Waterkloof Trail (17 kilometres, six hours) climbs gradually along the river bed, through a brilliant ochre-coloured canyon.
There are clouds of white butterflies and stagnant pools green with algae. Three Klipspringer antelope are surprised to see us, bounding shyly away on their tiptoes up the rocky hillside. They make me feel clumsy in my hiking boots.
Later the thundering clatter of 10 rare and elusive Haartmann’s Mountain Zebra taking off up the hill makes me feel a bit better. Four female Kudu observe the intruders carefully before moving off.
Eventually we emerge from the canyon and walk along the tops enjoying 360 degree views of the mountains and desert for miles around, before descending through more dry riverbed to the campsite.
The Olive Trail (a 10 kilometre loop, four hours) is named for the African Olive trees that line the path. There are podgy Hyraxes, which startle and disappear into their cliff tunnels – marked white with their pee and poo.
There are many examples of the ubiquitous Namibian Quiver tree (Kokerboom aloe), so named by the Khoisan bushmen used the trunk to make quivers.
An interesting section has a chain handrail assist for sidling along a rock wall. Then the fantastical shapes of the root system of a Rock Fig tree lead to a ridgeline and even more views.
For scenery, wildlife and a real African experience, Namibia is hard to beat!
Hiking in the Namib Naukluft Park
I stayed at Kudusrus Campsite, a shady camp in the Namib Naukluft National Park with drinking water that makes a good base for walking the Olive Trail and the Waterkloof Trail. These hikes are achievable for people of moderate fitness, just make sure you carry plenty of water and wear good hiking boots!
By Natasha von Geldern
Have you been to the Namib Naukluft National Park in Namibia?
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