Although not as well-known as the Fish river canyon, this trail remains the preferred one in the country for quite a few seasoned hikers.
The route through the Naukluft (Narrow gorge) mountains presents the perfect balance between a true physical challenge and a scenic hiking experience with the added bonus of surprisingly diverse vegetation in the south of Namibia, a mostly arid region.
Note however that the Naukluft hike, even the 4-day option, is not meant for first timers or those uncomfortable with heights and the use of chains to find their way over and around some really huge boulders. With regard to the physical challenge, we strongly recommend doing the Fish river canyon or a similar hike before.
As is the case elsewhere in the country, high summer temperatures also impact here. The trail can be done each year from the beginning of March up to mid-October.
Apart from two rather steep ascends, the route follows a relatively even zebra path for most of the day. Once on the plateau, hikers are rewarded with great views onto seemingly endless plains some 300 metres below.
Overnight at Putte Shelter, the name referring to a nearby well. Accommodation on the trail comes in the form of basic stonehuts with corrugated roofs. Distance for the day – 14 kilometres
After about 3 hours of easy going in the morning, Bergpos (Mountain post) is reached where the trail turns toward the magnificently scenic Ubusis gorge. This also provides the first encounter with chains on the route. At the entrance of the gorge remnants of shelters used during battles between the local Witbooi people and the German Schutztruppe around the turn of the previous century are passed by. 15 kilometres
Through the gorge back toward Bergpos in the morning. As the stretch for the day is not too long, there is time to appreciate the beauty of Ubusis a little longer. Reaching Adlerhorst (Eagle’s eyrie) our next shelter in the afternoon. Be on the lookout for Hartmann’s zebra, kudu, oryx, as well as springbok in the area. 12 kilometres
Through the narrow Tsamsriver valley (‘Tsams’ a Nama word with reference to the softness of a woman’s breast or the udder of a cow) before another knee-crunching rise. After a deserved break and a chance to enjoy more panoramic landscapes, a waterfall with an ice-cold pool and vegetation is reached that leave the impression of paradise found. A true highlight of the Naukluft.
Sleeping at Tsams Ost (East), marking the end of the four-day trail. This is also the point where rations and other necessities can be stored for the second half of the 8-day hike. 17 kilometres
Up the aptly named Broekskeur (Torn pants) Pass to start the latter half of the trail. Stands of moringa, quiver trees and milk bush around. Later on during the morning a chance to fill up water at Fonteinpomp (Fountain pump). More or less even terrain in the afternoon before finding the next hut at Die Valle (The Falls). 17 kilometres
The day starts with a short stop at the impressive falls, although mostly dry. Another steep climb follows as the path leads up Groot Hartseer (Big Sorrow) Pass. Breakfast and a chance to swim in mountain pools with great views over the Naukluft. More chains on the route as well as an opportunity to explore a few caves. A long stretch in the afternoon leads to Arbeid Adelt (Work is noble) valley. Overnight at Tufa shelter, the name referring to a type of limestone occurring throughout the area. 16 kilometres
For some the toughest day of the hike. After about 90 minutes of walking, hikers arrive at a rock face 30 metres high with the accompanying chain required to scale it. Certainly not the average hiking experience (Stok-en-Hoed provides the option of a somewhat easier ascent by means of extra gear). But with risk comes reward – on the plateau one last time with lunch at Bakenkop (Beacon head), the highest point on the trail. Spectacular views over the Tsondab valley.
Spending the last night on the Kapokvlakte, its name derived from the cotton bush growing on the plains here. 14 kilometres
All too soon the final day of hiking this wonderful landscape arrives. Descending with care as a few stretches with loose stones are negotiated down to the Naukluft river. Pools in the river with a chance to refresh weary frames before reaching the end about an hour later. 15 kilometres
Distance ∼ 120 kilometres over 8 days (58 for the 4-day option).
Drop ∼ a range in altitude of close to 700 metres.
Difficulty ∼ definitely not for casual hikers; a must-do though for more serious ones as the Naukluft trail is without doubt one of the finest in the region.