What to see & do
Animals are seldom seen in this mountainous area, so hiking is the main activity here. A recent addition is the 4WD off-road driving trail, which takes two days and is aimed at local enthusiasts testing their vehicles to the limits.
Naukluft has two circular day-hikes, the Waterkloof and Olive trails. Both can be started from the campsite, and don't need booking ahead, or any special equipment. That said, at least a day's water, snacks and a medical kit should be taken along, as rescue would be difficult if there was an accident. Walkers should be fit and acclimatised, and strong hiking boots are essential, as the terrain is very rocky.
There is also one long eight-day trail, rated as one of Africa's toughest hikes. Like the others, this is unguided, but simple diagrammatic maps are available from the park warden's office.Waterkloof Trail
The Waterkloof is 17km long and starts near the campsite. It takes six or seven hours to walk comfortably, and is marked by white-painted footprints on the rocks. At first the trail follows the Naukluft River upstream, through some beautiful gorges, and in the early months of the year you'll often find pools here, complete with tadpoles and frogs.
After a gentle two hours you reach a painted rock marking the last water point (though bring water, don't rely on this), beyond which the canyon opens out. After about two hours more there's a marked halfway point, from where a steep climb leads you to the trail's highest point: a 600m peak with fine views all around.
From there the trail winds down through a stand of Euphorbia into a large valley, to follow the course of the (usually dry) river. It cuts off several of the bends, and keeps left to avoid some steep shelves, which form waterfalls in the rainy season. In this area some large cairns mark the route of the old German cannon road, which also follows the river valley for a while, before climbing steeply up to the main southern ridge of the plateau. Below those waterfalls, you meet the Naukluft River, and turn left to follow the trail for a few kilometres back to camp.Olive Trail
This starts about 4km from the park office – clearly signposted off the track from the entrance gate. You can walk here, or drive and park in a small parking area.
The Olive Trail is 10km long and takes about four hours to complete. From the parking area it gradually climbs to the top of a small plateau, before descending through a series of river valleys and gorges (using chains in places), to meet a rough 4WD track which leads back to the parking area.Naukluft Trail
This 120km trail starts from the park office, where there's a bunkhouse known as Hiker's Haven. Hikers can use this on their first and last nights. Initially it follows the (usually dry) Naukluft River south for a while, as it flows out of the mountains, before climbing up to the edge of the escarpment, with excellent views to the left over the plains. The Putte shelter is reached about 14km (6 hours) after starting.
On the second day the route covers 15km (6 hours), crossing a rolling plateau to the Bergpos junction, before dropping down the narrow Ubusis Kloof to reach Ubusis Hut. Day three starts by retracing your steps to Bergpos, and turning left across the plateau to Alderhost shelter (12km, taking 6 hours).
On day four the trail is level, before dropping down to a shelter at Tsams Ost for the evening – 17km later (6 hours). There's a rough 4WD track from here down and west to the main C36, and hikers doing only a four-day trip can be collected here.
Day five is steep and then undulating, though it levels out towards the end where it follows a tributary of the Die Valle River, to reach the Die Valle shelter about 17km (6 hours) later. Day six is a tough one, climbing up a narrow gorge to reach a high point called Quartz Valley, before dropping down the Arbeid Adelt Valley to the Tufa shelter, 16km and about 6 hours later.
On day seven the trail climbs steeply, using chains in places, back up to the plateau and some excellent views, to reach Kapokvlakte shelter after 14km (5 hours). Finally, on the last day, the trail descends gradually, then steeply, to meet the Waterkloof Trail and follow the Naukluft River back to camp. Energetic hikers could combine the last two days into a 30km walk which would take about 11 hours to complete. An early start from Tufa shelter is essential, and if there are less than five hours of daylight, then you should stop at Kapokvlakte shelter.
Open: from March 1 to the third Friday in October. Walks start every Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday for the first three weeks of each month. Book in advance at the NWR in Windhoek, group limited to 3–12 people.
This is a 73km two-day trail for those with a 4WD and the experience to use it properly. After the first 28km there is an overnight camp, where four stonewalled, partially open, A-frame shelters have built-in bunk beds. There are toilets here, water, a solar-heated shower and a braai area. Bring your own firewood, camping kit and supplies.
Open: all year, weather permitting. Book in advance at the NWR in Windhoek. Groups of 1–4 vehicles, with a maximum of four people per vehicle.
Rates: N$220 per vehicle, excluding park fees, which are paid separately.