Southern Kalahari & Fish River Canyon
If you have journeyed north from South Africa's vast parched plateau, the Karoo, or come out of the Kalahari from the east, then the arid landscapes and widely separated towns of southern Namibia will be no surprise. Like the towns, the region's main attractions are far apart: the Fish River Canyon, Brukkaros, the Quivertree Forest, and scattered lodges of the Kalahari.
Perhaps because of their separation, they recei
ve fewer visitors than the attractions further north, so if you want to go hiking, or to sleep out in a volcano, or just to get off the common routes – then this southern side of the country is the perfect area to.
The major sections this chapter are:
Despite being the administrative centre of the large Hardap Region, which stretches from the Atlantic coast to Botswana, Mariental still avoids being a centre of attention by having remarkably few attractions. It is central and pleasant, with a sprinkling of efficient businesses serving the prosperous surrounding farmlands.
Hardap Dam Recreational Resort
About 250km from Windhoek, and less than 25km from Mariental, lies the Hardap Dam, creating Namibia's largest man-made lake. This dams the upper reaches of the Fish River to provide water for Mariental and various irrigation projects. It is surrounded by a small reserve, complete with restcamp.
East of Mariental and the b1: the Kalahari
The Kalahari Desert often surprises people when they first see it. It is very different from the Namib. First of all, remember that the Kalahari is not a true desert: it receives more rain than a true desert should. The Kalahari is a fossil
desert. The Kalahari's dunes are very different. They are often equally beautiful, but usually greener and less stark – and with this vegetation comes the ability to support more flora and fauna than a true desert.
The road from Mariental to Keetmanshoop
Between Mariental and Keetmanshoop is a 221km stretch of tar road that most visitors see at speed. However, a few places are worth knowing about as you hurry past:
Keetmanshoop lies about 480km south of Windhoek at an altitude of 1,000m. The tar roads from Lüderitz, South Africa and Windhoek meet here, making it the hub of southern Namibia's road network, as well as the administrative centre of this region.
The Deep South
South and east of Keetmanshoop, Namibia's central highlands start to flatten out towards the South Africa's Karoo, and the great sand-sheet of the Kalahari to the east. Many of the roads here are spectacular: vast and empty with enormous vistas.
Fish River Canyon
At 161km long, up to 27km wide, and almost 550m at its deepest, the Fish River Canyon is probably second in size only to Arizona's Grand Canyon – and is certainly one of Africa's least-visited wonders.