After Caprivi, we were heading toward Kaokoland, Namibia’s most north-western region. At the same time, it is also the country’s least populated area, with only one person per any 2 square kilometers. The main inhabitants are Himba people.
We didn’t have firm plans, nor any reservations, for this part of the trip, so we could go by our instinct and daily inspirations. From Divundu, we didn’t want to push too far in one day. We decided to take a bit more leisurely pace and rather spent some more time shopping in Rundu, the last larger town for the next few days, and to find our shelter for the night at Taranga Safari lodge, some 30 km west from Rundu. They offer campsites on lush green grass and their position, few kilometers off from the main road, right on the Kwando river (and on the Angolan border at the same time), ensure a very quiet setting.
Next day, we continued west along the northern border with Angola, formed by Kavango River, which flows from west to east, until we reached a town (actually more like a village) of Ruacana, where we reached another river that forms a natural border with Angola – Kunene river. This one flows from east to west until it finally reaches the Atlantic ocean at the northern fringes of Namib desert.
At Ruacana, we said goodby to smooth tarred roads for the next few days. From there on, we will follow gravel road D3700, which runs along the Kunene river all the way to Epupa Falls. Not so long ago, this road was a serious 4×4 adventure, but a few years ago they improved it considerably so that now it doesn’t impose any serious problems. But thankfully, the scenery around the road was not affected by roadworks – it remains wild and beautiful. We also met our first Himba people here.
We decided to spend two nights at the beautiful Kunene River Lodge. As its name implies, it is positioned right on the river, in a beautiful stretch of its flow. We enjoyed the tranquility of this oasis for the next two days. While in camp. we were entertained by a residential water monitor lizard and many birds. We also found occasional refreshment in a small water pool.
One evening, we set on a sundowner boat cruise on the river from the lodge. It was a beautiful experience and Pete, our skipper and the owner and manager of the lodge (together with his wife Hillary), was a wealth of information about the region. We had our gin & tonic sunset drink on the Angolan side of the river, so we can proudly say we also set our foot in Angola! 😉
At the lodge, they also arrange a visit to the local Himba family. Actually, one of the young members of this family works at the lodge and he guided us to his village. They showed us their homes, some of their daily routine and explained about their everyday life. It was authentic and pristine, not staged, as it is often the case with this kind of visit.
From Kunene River Lodge, it is some three hours drive to Epupa Falls, our next destination. The road was relatively good after it’s recent improvements, but there are still some steep exits from dry river beds, which can be quite tricky during the rainy season. The road sticks close to the river, whose lush vegetation forms a stark contrast to an arid and barren surrounding country.
When we arrived at Epupa Falls, there was some kind of local traditional market going on. It was very colorful, with many Himba people from nearby villages, in their traditional clothing, buying and selling various items.
We settled at Epupa Lodge campsite, the closest to the falls. It was quite full, with some big overland trucks, but they were well behaved, so it was not noisy at all. Lodge also has a nice pool, large enough to refresh in it with some decent swimming strokes.
Epupa Falls, with its unspoiled environment, is one of the major tourist attractions in Namibia. But as they are well away from major tourist routes and due to relatively uncomfortable and long access, they are still not too crowded, even in high season. Here, the Kunene river falls in a series of waterfalls into a gorge below. Some baobab trees look very attractive, growing right out of the cliffs amid waterfalls. To get the nicest view on the falls in the fading evening light, you have to climb on top of the nearby hill. It really offers a breathtaking sight.
From Epupa Falls, we finally left the Angolan border, which we were following almost for a week, and turned south toward the town of Opuwo, the regional capital of Kaokoland. There we spent some time to retrieve money from ATM, refuel and buy some groceries for the rest of our trip.