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Backpacker Magazine – November 2013

best wildlife walk: Naukluft Hiking Trail, Namib Naukluft Park, Namibia

Seize a rare opportunity to hike unguided through big-game country.

by: Fiona McIntosh

Light on his feet: these 15,000-pound mammals can reach 11 MPH. (Morris)
Light on his feet: these 15,000-pound mammals can reach 11 MPH. (Morris)

Want to see wildlife, don’t want a guide? You’ll love this DIY game walk on the 75-mile Naukluft Trail—Africa’s reputed toughest trek—where white rhinoceroses, leopards, hyenas, snakes, and scorpions will keep you on your toes. With your group (three-person minimum), kick off this eight-day thru-hike from the Naukluft Rest Camp. After a short safety briefing, follow ankle-twisting game paths 8.7 miles along a dry riverbed. On your way, spy chartreuse rosy-faced lovebirds darting through the prickly, yellow-budded acacia canopy and listen for the clatter of zebra and antelope hooves. From the Putte shelter, knock off 9.3 miles down a cable-lined, boulder-strewn canyon and across a ravine, home to zebras and gemsboks, to the Ubisis cottage. Next day, cruise 7.5 miles out of the canyon and across a dry plateau (home to zebra and kudu) to the Alderhorst shelter. Then, follow the Tsams River 10.6 miles as it snakes through a dolomite-walled valley lined with fig trees, where rowdy baboons holler. Continue past a 260-foot-high, often-dry waterfall and through an open grassland (look for rhinos, but keep a safe distance) to the halfway point, Tams Oos shelter (mile 36), where you can leave yourself a food cache ahead of time. Day five, knock off 10.6 miles through quiver trees and past klipspringer herds to the Die Valle shelter at the foot of a 330-foot waterfall frequented by a noisy troop of baboons. Next day, kick off a 10-mile section with a 650-foot climb—take a dip in one of three pools overlooking the cascade to cool off—and then follow a pink quartz gorge to the Tufa shelter. Complete the 8.7-mile section to the Kapokvlakte shelter the following day via a climb up a chain-lined dry waterfall course (smothered in a web of roots) and a traverse across an acacia-dotted plateau, home to oryx, springbox, and zebras. The path follows the edge of an escarpment 2,000 feet above the Tsondab River to the hut (listen for leopard howls and hyena laughs at night). To complete the Naukluft, hike 10 miles, descending to the valley floor and following the sandy shores of the Naukluft River.

Season Trail is open March to third week in October; late August through September for peak wildflowers. Permit Required; about $40 Contact Namibia Wildlife Resorts (nwr.com.na)


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READERS COMMENTS

Star Star Star Star Star
dsswaney
Mar 14, 2014

I've done this hike a couple of times (I wrote numerous editions of Lonely Planet's Africa, Southern Africa, ZimBotNam, and Namibia books) and this is an amazing part of the world. However, you won't see elephants or rhinos (not ever!) You may well see baboons, springbok (springbox? in your article), mountain zebras, and even the odd gemsbok (oryx). Leopards are present but extremely difficult to see - they blend in and disappear in a flash - and they don't howl - listen for a sound like sawing wood; that's the sound they make. The hike gets five stars, and although I love Backpacker, your article rates a one, as your writer clearly hasn't done it.

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