I’ll never forget my first sighting of the Spitzkoppe. We arrived late in the afternoon, when the air was starting to cool after a typical hot Namibian day. Seemingly growing out of the plains of the Namib desert was a sandstone mountain massif, a sight that will be forever imprinted in my memory.
Ablutions: Dry toilet (showers at reception)
Known as the Matterhorn of Namibia, the Spitzkoppe are found to the north east of Swakopmund, with the closest town of Usakos some 50km away. It’s an imposing “sharp head”, rising some 1 728m off the desert floor.
Adjacent to it is the minor peak, the Little Spitzkoppe. This smaller peak lies 1 584 metres above sea level. Hard to believe, but the mountain is reckoned to be 700 million years old!
The local community runs the Spitzkoppe Rest camp, with the 31 campsites spread over a large area in the shadow of these iconic mountains. A maximum of 8 persons is allowed per site. Campsites 2, 3, 4 and 5 are for overlanders only.
At the camp, you really feel that you have these mountains all to yourself.
Each campsite has a dry toilet, and there are showers with hot water available at the reception area. Rubbish removal from campsites is done daily by the community, with a donkey cart.
It’s pretty basic. But that’s what I loved about the camp; it is real bush camping at its best.
However, if you are looking for a bit more civilisation, head down to the reception where there’s a restaurant with a liquor licence. It would be extremely strange not to enjoy a Windhoek Draught or my favourite Tafel, whilst tucking into a hamburger. Breakfast, lunch and dinner are available on a pre-booked basis.
Although we camped at Spitzkoppe with Conqueror off-road trailers equipped with showers, some of our party headed off to the reception for showers and a beer.
This takes you to a look-out point at the top of the Spitzkoppe. It’s a climb of approximately 4 to 5 hours, so you need to be mountain fit.
Only for experienced mountaineers, and you need to be very fit to complete the 6 – 8 hour route. No climbing gear needed.
Bushman Circle Route:
This includes a chain climb up a steep area to Bushman’s Paradise, and afterwards a flat walking surface with sand and rock. Approximately 7 hours to walk: you need to be fairly fit.
However, there is plenty to do at the Spitzkoppe aside from chilling. This famous landmark was first climbed in 1946 by a team of climbers from Cape Town. The extreme northern route was taken by a party consisting of O’Neil, Shipley and Schaff.
Another well-known feature is the nearby dome-shaped Pondok Mountain, which has a chain at the eastern end to enable visitors to scramble up the steep rock to the Bushman’s Paradise site. The rock amphitheatre is well known for the flowers found high up in the sandstone rock.
There are some 37 rock-art sites in the Spitzkoppe. Sadly, many of these have been badly damaged, and for some of them you need to have an official guide. (There are three hikes that all require a relatively high degree of fitness. These hikes all require an official guide, and one can be organised from reception.)
A couple camping close to our group told us that they were avid birders. The Spitzkoppe area is apparently an excellent birding venue. Keep your eyes open for the Herero Chat, Rüppell’s Bustard, White-tailed Shrike, Namaqua Sandgrouse, and various falcons and eagles.
Stargazing out here in the open is excellent, especially during the dry winter months when there are no clouds and the crisp winter air makes for clear viewing. In the winter, you can see constellations the Southern Cross and Scorpio, and in summer, The Great Square, Orion and Leo.
By Richard van Ryneveld