Travel to Damaraland – Namibia’s Tribal North West
Damaraland is the name given to tribal land in the north west of Namibia. The region has a rugged beauty with rolling plains, mountain ranges and a wealth or unusual geological features and rock paintings and engravings. The area is also home to the rare desert-adapted elephant and the last free roaming black rhino.
The Rheinisch Missionary Society was aware of the plight of the Damara people and petitioned Zeraua, a chief of the Herero, who gave them the area known as Okombahe. Further land allocation took place during 1964 to 1973 during which time 223 farms were bought from white farmers and an area stretching from Sesfontein to the Spitzkoppe became “Damaraland”.
Many of the Damara are stock farmers and a large number are employed at Rössing Uranium Mine near Swakopmund. Early missionaries taught the Damara people to grow crops and vegetables and their successful efforts can be seen wherever water availability permits. The development of tourism since 1990 has drawn many Damaras into related activities such as tour guiding and nature conservation.
The Damara now make up approximately 8.5% of Namibia’s population. They have no cultural relationship with any of the other tribes anywhere else in Africa. It is believed that the Damara left their original abode in northwestern Africa long before other tribes started their migrations to western and southern Africa. They no longer possess their traditions of origin, nor former linguistic and cultural affiliations.
The Damaraland region is well known for its minerals and semi-precious stones and many Damara have turned to small-scale mining, selling their stones along the roads leading into and out of their settlements.
The Petrified Forest beyond Khorixas is worth a visit, here flood waters from millions of years ago deposited giant tree trunks up to 30m long that have become fossilized.
View ancient rock art at Twyfelfontein, the petrified forest in the Abu Huab Valley, and perhaps visit one of the local communities.
With such a wild and desolate landscape, you’ll find many beautiful spots for a lingering picnic lunch.
Private 4WD transport, fully equipped for remote travel, is essential for discovering this region.
- Head out in search of the so-called ‘Desert-dwelling Elephant’ – they are not a species in their own right but rank among the African Savannah Elephant.