Although not as well-known as the Fish river canyon, this trail remains the preferred one in the country for some seasoned hikers.
The route through the Naukluft 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, an otherwise arid region.
Note however that the Naukluft hike, even the four-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.
We get going from Naukluft Camp. 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 three-hundred metres below.
We overnight at Putte Shelter, taking its name from a nearby well. Accommodation on the trail comes in the form of basic stonehuts with corrugated roofs. Distance for the day – fourteen kilometres.
After about three hours of easy going in the morning, we arrive at Bergpos where we turn toward a highlight of the trail, the magnificently scenic Ubusis kloof. This also provides our first encounter with chains on the route. At the entrance of the kloof, we pass by remnants of shelters used during battles between the Witbooi and the Schutztruppe. Fifteen kilometres.
Through the kloof back toward Bergpos in the morning. As the stretch for the day is not too long, we pause in Ubusis, appreciating its beauty a while longer. In the afternoon we reach Adlerhorst, our next overnight shelter. Be on the lookout for Hartmann’s zebra, kudu, oryx, as well as springbok in the area. Twelve kilometres.
Through the narrow Tsamsriver valley before we face another knee-crunching rise. After a deserved break and a chance to enjoy more panoramic landscapes, we make a descent to reach a waterfall with an ice-cold pool and vegetation that leave the impression of paradise found. A true highlight of the Naukluft.
We overnight at Tsams Ost, 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 eight-day hike. Seventeen kilometres.
Up the aptly named Broekskeur 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. We traverse more or less even terrain in the afternoon before reaching our next shelter at Die Valle. Seventeen kilometres.
We start the day with a short stop at the impressive falls, although mostly dry. Another steep climb follows as the path leads up Groot Hartseer Pass. Breakfast and a chance to swim in mountain pools with great views over the Naukluft. We find more chains on the route as well as a chance to explore a few caves. A long stretch in the afternoon takes us to Arbeid Adelt valley. We overnight at Tufa shelter, the name referring to a type of limestone occurring throughout the area. Sixteen kilometres.
For some the toughest day of the hike. After about ninety minutes of walking, we reach a rock face of thirty 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 – we then reach the plateau one last time and take our lunch break at Bakenkop, the highest point on the trail. Spectacular views over the Tsondab valley.
We overnight at Kapokvlakte shelter, its name derived from the cotton bush growing here. Fourteen kilometres.
All too soon the final day of hiking this wonderful landscape arrives. Descending with care as we have to negotiate some stretches with loose stones down to the Naukluft river. Pools in the river with a chance to refresh weary frames before we reach the end about an hour later. Fifteen kilometres.
Distance ∼ hundred and twenty kilometres over eight days (fifty-eight for the four-day option).
Drop ∼ a range in altitude of close to seven hundred 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 best in the region.