A mountain range full of surprises
Both its formation and its mysterious 80 km shift south, as well as its historic value as habitat for the San thousands of years ago and as refuge and hiding place during the war of the 19th and 20th century render the Naukluft Mountains one of the most interesting places in Namibia.
Today the Naukluft Mountains are an important tourist destination and protected nature reserve boasting impressive landscapes, fascinating flora and fauna and many hiking trails.
Geographical location of the Naukluft
The Naukluft forms part of the Great Escarpment and the Namib Naukluft Park, one of the most important National Parks in Namibia. The mountain range is situated at the eastern edge of the Namib Desert between Sesriem and Solitaire. It rises up to 1000 m from the surrounding land and reaches an overall height of 2000 m above sea level.
The formation of the Naukluft
The following information has been researched with the help of the very recommendable book “Namibia – Fascination of Geology” written by Nicole Grünert.
About 550 million years ago the Naukluft Mountain Range was situated about 80 kilometres further north in the vicinity of the Gamsberg Mountain.
This is the area where the Damara Mountain Range was formed. Back then the collision of tectonic plates caused enormous rock formations to pile up onto the 1-billion-year-old basement rocks. The Naukluft Mountains were also formed by different rock blankets (nappe or thrust sheets) shifting over each other. The term “Nappe“ is the French word for tablecloth in allusion to a rumpled tablecloth being pushed across a table.
Long before the Damara Mountain Range formation this area was covered by salt lakes, where countless organisms and salt sediments were deposited and compressed of time. Extreme pressure and heat conditions transformed these sediments into a lubricant mass and the tectonic forces pushed the massive Naukluft Mountains 80 km south to its present location (remnants of the lubricant can still be seen today in the vicinity of the Naukluft Camp).
Most of the Naukluft consists of limestone and dolomite. Karst formation process over millions of years have changed the structure of the mountain considerably. Today the Naukluft is characterised by its deep and narrow gorges, which also give the mountain its name, derived from Afrikaans: Nau = narrow and Kloof = gorge.
The Naukluft and its historic significance
Due to the geological peculiarity of the Naukluft, as one of the few elevations in the area, to be able to store rainwater for a very long time and release it into springs, people have lived here for thousands of years.
Discoveries of lithic tools and ancient fire places, found for example on the “Blässkopf” on farm Blässkranz, prove that the San occupied the area already 50.000 years ago.
The Naukluft has also been inhabited in the more recent past, for example by resistance fighter Hendrik Witbooi, who sought protection here with his Oorlam troops after a battle against the German colonial power.
In August 1894 Witbooi had to surrender to the German „Schutztruppe“. After two weeks of fighting in the Naukluft Mountains Witbooi was forced to take up negotiations with the German troops during which he had to sign a protection treaty.
Today the Naukluft Mountains are part of the Namib Naukluft Park.
Fauna and flora of the Naukluft
Visitors travelling along the C36 between Solitaire and Sesriem or passing the Naukluft to its south or north, are often unaware of the richness of flora and fauna hidden within the high mountain range.
More than 50 mammal and over 200 bird species are found in the Naukluft mountains. Main reason for this abundance is the availability of water throughout the year, which the Naukluft retains like sponge, even though the annual rainfall average lies at only 120 mm. Furthermore, the inaccessibility of the mountains offers ideal hiding opportunities especially in the steep gorges for shy animals.
Springboks, oryx antelopes, duiker, klippspringer, warthogs, kudus, baboons and the endemic Hartman zebra as well as predators like leopards, cheetahs and brown hyenas and smaller wild cat species call the mountains their home. Apart from that many eagle and owl species are found here including the majestic African black eagle. Even fish are found in some of the crystal-clear rock pools
The Naukluft offers a diversity of habitats (mountain slopes, gorges, plateaus and dry river beds), which differ in vegetation and fauna. This is mainly due to the different amount of rainfall measured in the north-east and the south-west of the Naukluft. Plant coverage and animal numbers tend to be higher in the gorges of the Naukluft than on its outer mountain slopes.
Tourism in the Naukluft
Overnight facilities and camping
Only one accommodation facility is found within the central area of the Naukluft Mountains; the Naukluft Camp which is run by the state-owned provider Namibia Wildlife Resorts (NWR). Visitors can either camp here or stay in one of the six bungalows. A restaurant and a bar are available.
Alternativly some attractive accommodation facilities can be found around the Naukluft:
BüllsPort: BüllsPort Guestfarm is a cattle, horse and game farm and guest lodge situated in the scenic Naukluft Mountains in Central Namibia. As a true owner-run guestfarm, BüllsPort is popular for its relaxed atmosphere and personal service by the hosts Ernst & Johanna Sauber. 14 guest rooms, 2 camping sites and lots of adventurous activities are offered.
The following pictures are subject to the copyright of BüllsPort Guestfarm
Ababis: Ababis is one of the oldest guest farms in the south of Namibia and offers 8 double rooms, of which 5 have aircon, 1 self-catering farmhouse and several campsites. The guest farm offers plenty of activities, for example training programs for off-road driving and hiking trails in the Naukluft Mountains.
Tsauchab River Camp: Tsauchab River Camp offers 14 thatch-roofed chalets and 12 exclusive campsites. The Camp ist home to a collection of iron art created by owner Johan, several natural springs and a wild fig forest. Two hiking trails are offered as well as a 4x4 trail and a sundowner point.
Namib Naukluft Lodge: The Namib Naukluft Lodge is located on the Nam Hau habitat in the Namib Desert. Guests will find a lodge with 16 rooms, an affordable adventure camp with 15 chalets as well as a campsite. The Namib Naukluft Lodge offers a swimming pool and a 9-hole golf course.
Activities in the Naukluft - Hiking
The Naukluft is a hiker’s paradise and best discovered on foot Some lodges and guest farms offer more activities:
In the central Naukluft 3 main hiking trails are offered:
Olive Trail: 10 km, 4-5 hrs: For hikers that can handle heights the „Olive Trail” is highly recommendable. Breath-taking views, impressive landscapes and a very special kind of surprise guarantee an unforgettable experience.
Waterkloof Trail: 17 km, 6-8 hrs: Very motivated hikers can tackle the “Waterkloof-Trail”. Between the year-round water-bearing rock pools of the Naukluft Mountains, you can embark on a wonderful and varied hike with swimming opportunities.
Naukluft Hiking Trail: The Naukluft Hiking Trail is one of the most daring hiking trails in southern Africa and is only recommended for the experienced hiker. The complete trail covers over 120km in 8 days. Alternatively one can take a shorter route in 4 days. Hikers have to carry their own equipment and supplies. At designated stops supplies can be deposited at a certain cost.
Further Activities in the Naukluft
Apart from various hiking trails BüllsPort Guestfarm also offers horse riding excursions. These range from hourly lessons for beginners to two-day excursions for advanced riders. A 45-minute horse-drawn carriage ride is also offered. Furthermore, 4x4 trails and farm drives can be booked. LINK
Ababis Guestfarm offers something special of which travellers can profit on the rest of their journey through Namibia, namely an off-road and safe driving training. Hot Air Balloon flights offered on a neighbouring farm can be booked through Ababis and hiking trails are also offered. LINK