The Ugab River
Its catchment area stretches as far as Otavi, so the Ugab is a long and important river for the Namib. It flows at least once most years, and you drive across its bed just after the gate into the park. Although much of the visible vegetation is the exotic wild tobacco, Nicotiana glauca
, there are still some stunted acacia trees and other indigenous plants, like the nara bushes, Acanthosicyos horridus
, with their (almost leafless) spiky green stems, and improbably large melons.
Shortly after passing the Ugab, look east to see the view becoming more majestic, as the escarpment looms into view above the mirages, which play on the gravel plains. Near the mouth of the Ugab is the wreck of the Girdleness, though it is difficult to see.
Ugab River hiking trails
For keen, self-sufficient hikers there is a two-night, three-day hiking trail, guided by one of the Nature Conservation rangers, which explores the Ugab River in much more depth. Trails run throughout the cooler months, from April to October, starting on the 2nd and 4th Tuesdays of each month, and ending on the Thursday afternoon. Most people camp at Mile 108 for the previous night.
This covers a total of about 50km, reaching as far inland as the foothills of the escarpment where there are some natural springs. Groups are limited to between six and eight people, and the guiding costs N$200 per person. You need to bring a sturdy rucksack with all your own camping equipment and food, and make a booking for the trail with the Nature Conservation office in Windhoek as far in advance as possible (ideally 18 months or so). Then all the participants will need a medical certificate of fitness issued a maximum of 40 days before the hike commences. Having gone to all this trouble, you won't regret it – participants confirm that it is fascinating.