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Stunningly remote, the Hartmann Valley is a desolate yet entrancing moonscape of sand and rock. Located in the extreme northwest of Namibia, the region offers a profound sense of wilderness and unusual juxtaposition of habitats, as the Kunene River nurtures a band of lush vegetation amidst one of the driest deserts on earth, while sea mists creep in from the coast. The valley is home to the Himba, one of the last true nomads in Africa.
The Safari Experience
A wild and remote part of the vast Namib Desert, the Hartmann Valley can be explored in a number of ways. Nature drives by open 4x4 vehicles offer immense desert vistas, and exploring on foot or by quad bike is a fun way to experience this starkly beautiful area. Care is always taken to have as little impact on the delicate landscape as possible. Walks and hikes through the mountain and river valleys reveal a land of contrasts. Boating on the Kunene River offers Nile crocodile sightings and great birding. Visit the neighboring Marienfluss Valley after a rainy green season, as both valleys become carpeted by grasses, interrupted only by the mysterious fairy circles found here for many years. A cultural interaction with the local Himba people is very rewarding. One of the last true nomadic tribes in the world, their traditions and dress are fascinating to witness.
While not a primary wildlife destination, exploring the Namib Desert by safari vehicle, quad bike or on foot reveals subtle and striking signs of life, such as brown hyena tracks across the sand; tiny, camouflaged desert chameleons; or a dramatic herd of gemsbok galloping in what appears to be slow-motion, miles away, but in your line of sight. Besides the Kunene River, much of the area’s moisture, as in Namibia’s other coastal deserts, comes from the Atlantic fog that rolls far inland every morning, affording survival to reptiles, insects and a few shrubs and tough grasses in the valley. Home to many Nile crocodiles, the Kunene River is also a haven for water birds, and the Burchell's courser and Benguela long-billed lark are two of the most commonly found semi-desert and subtropical grassland species in the area.
How to Include Hartmann Valley in Your Safari Itinerary
Recommended Number of Nights
Nature Travelers: 2 nights
Photographers: 2 nights
Families: 2-3 nights
Active Travelers: 3 nights
Other Regions to Include
Moving south to north as you explore the varied areas of the Namib Desert is an optimal way to see this country. Sossusvlei offers towering rust-colored sand dunes and sunken vleis, or clay pans, with the option of scenic ballooning, while Damaraland features craggy mountains and desert-adapted elephant and rhino, tracked by 4x4 wildlife drives each morning and afternoon. Each complements the Hartmann Valley’s stark, open desert, contrasting lush Kunene River oasis, and cultural encounters with the Himba people. Etosha National Park and Okonjima add a stronger wildlife element to each of these areas, Etosha having solid lion, leopard, elephant, rhino and plains game populations , with Okonjima a haven for cheetah research and rehabilitation along with other feline predators. Botswana’s Okavango Delta and Linyanti regions further enhance the wildlife experience with different antelope species, Cape buffalo, a plethora of birdlife, wild dog and other predators.