I often get asked by hikers ‘what is your favourite hike’. My answer along with that of many other hikers is without doubt the Naukluft Trail in Namibia. What makes this such a special hike? How does a trail in the arid Namib reach the hearts of so many hikers? It is my opinion that part of the ethos of the hiker is the search for inspiration in areas where human beings have to pit themselves against the unyielding girth of nature. The Naukluft Trail has all the attributes that go to make one of the world’s classic trails, its remoteness, its stunning natural beauty, its difficulty and length.
You begin your trail by spending the first night at the camping area close to the reserve office. A visit to the park offices where medical certificates, local levies are paid and possible transfer of some of your supplies to Tsams Oost shelter for the second part of your eight day trail, needs to be made prior to settling in for a restful night.
Day 1 – Hikers Haven to Putte Shelter 14km
The day begins at the office from where you follow a rock strewn river bed towards the park boundary fence. Following the well-marked path you now ascend steeply up the mountainside to a viewpoint overlooking the arid and sparsely populated surrounding area. You continue to climb along a narrow path which brings you to a small kloof where rest and snacks can be taken under the shade of large fig trees. You continue along the rocky path until you turn into a large kloof which you follow to the overnight Putte Shelter.
Day 2 – Putte Shelter to Ubusis Hut 17km
Although long, this day for the most part is easier than day 1 especially the first part to Bergpos windmill at the beginning of Ubusis Kloof. Beyond the windmill and at the head of the kloof you will come across Cathedral Fountain with its crystal clear pools under the shade of trees often frequented by gregarious Love Birds. This makes an ideal lunch spot. Continuing further down the kloof you come to the top of a dry waterfall which you have to descend with the help of strategically placed chains. Although the distance from the lunch spot is only just less than 4km to the hut, it will probably take you up to 3 hours to achieve.
Day 3 –Ubusis Hut to Adlerhorst Shelter 12.5km
You begin the day by retracing your previous day’s steps up Ubusis Kloof to the Bergpos windmill. You will find that the way-up is much easier and quicker than the descent and it is not long before you reach the turnoff to your next shelter. The rest of the trail can be regarded as easy as it is over fairly flat terrain and you should be able to reach your destination by early afternoon.
Day 4 – Adlerhorst Shelter to Tsams Oost Shelter 15km
Your day begins with a fairly easy walk along a mountain track until you reach a junction. Here you have the option of following the trail to the right which will take you back to your starting point at the office or continue forward to complete the eight day trail. Continuing along the eight day trail you soon enter the beautiful Zebra Kloof. Occasionally the arid area is transformed into a beautiful lush garden full of pools of crystal clear water after rains. This however, can impede your progress down the kloof. A large boulder in the middle of the kloof can further make progress slow. Once this is passed by the trail suddenly veers to the right and you now ascend steeply up the mountainside. Once on top a short walk takes you to a steep descent into the Tsams Oost valley far below. You now follow the river past a small, normally deserted campsite to a sand road which you follow to Tsams Oost Shelter.
Day 5 – Tsams Oost Shelter to Die Valle Shelter 16,5km
Day 5 of the trail start with you climbing up a 200m mountainside. From the summit your path undulates past Quiver trees and along small kloofs before it descends into a long and seemingly never ending valley. Here you follow a Jeep track crossing a dry river bed on several occasions. You eventually meet another road which takes you up to the overnight shelter.
Day 6- Die Valle Shelter to Tufa Shelter 14km
The Die Valle shelter is situated in a box end gorge that seemingly has no exit at its head as it consists of a magnificent vertical 200m high waterfall. After following the trail towards the falls for about a kilometre the markers suddenly veer to the left and take you steeply in a scramble up the mountainside until a narrow contour path is reached. The path leads you into the gorge that feeds the waterfall. You now follow the river bed as it rises over rough terrain to the watershed. Once the watershed is attained, a walk across the top brings you to your descent along an old track down to Tufa Shelter.
Day 7- Tufa Shelter to Kapokvlakte Shelter 14km
The day begins with a walk over fairly even terrain until you enter a kloof. From here you begin your ascent through beautiful boulders until you reach another near vertical dry waterfall of about 28m which you have to ascend with the help of another chain. Once over this obstacle you continue following the river bed as it takes you to the summit of the mountain and then to stunning viewpoints of the surrounding mountains and valleys far below. The trail now takes you across even ground until you reach your shelter.
Day 8 Kapokvlakte Shelter to Hiker’s Haven 15km
The final day of this magnificent trail consist firstly of a walk over fairly flat ground. This part of the trail seems endless especially as hikers are now eager to reach its conclusion. After what seems like an age, the trail begins its descent through more kloofs back towards your finishing point. As you near trail end you descend into a gorge which has pools of water and maybe a few intrepid holiday makers that peer at you as if you are mad to have walked for eight days in the Namib- Naukluft.
Long distance extreme backpack trail
The start of the trail used to have an old farmhouse, Hikers Haven as its first night but now you have to spend your first night in your own tents. Ablutions are available in a communal ablution area
This is an old holiday cottage which has beds and mattresses, a cold shower and flush toilets. Over the years, I have found that this facility has not been well looked after so be prepared!
Accommodation at all the other overnight stops are very basic and consists of a rock wall construction, open at chest high and with a tin roof. The floor of the shelter consists of fine gravel. Water is obtained by way of a hand pump. There are no showers. An elementary pit toilet is also provided.
Where is it?
Namibia, south west of Windhoek
The park is accessed from the D854. Park office is at S24 15.792 E16 14.321
What should I know about my security?
The park is government owned and is in a remote area of Namibia so no external security hazards are known. But this is an extreme trail with dangerous precipices etc. The nearest emergency helicopter is at Windhoek which is over 300km away. As with the Fish River Canyon, medical certificates completed by your doctor are required.
How fit do I need to be?
Any trail of 120km over 8 days can be regarded as an extreme trail and one that should be only attempted by fit and well equipped hikers.
Background information on the area?
A small museum is attached to the parks office (500m from Hiker’s Haven) which has relics from the days when Hendrik Witbooi and his Nama followers fought the Germans. Close to Ubusis Hut a plaque can be found commemorating the death of one German soldier.