On Top of the World in Namibia

by | Jan 11, 2013 | Namibia | 22 comments

When it comes to beautiful views in Namibia, most people think of sand dunes. I didn’t make it to Sossusvlei — Namibia’s most famous sand-dune viewing destination — on my recent trip, although I did check out the dunes around Swakopmund and Walvis Bay (coming up in a future post).

The dunes are indeed beautiful. But the breathtaking view from the top of the Waterberg Plateau in northeastern Namibia will give even the most dramatic sand dune a run for its money.

resting on plateau

Beat that, Sossusvlei.

My friend Michelle and I spent two days in the Waterberg Wilderness at the end of our Namibia trip. The Waterberg doesn’t get much attention in Namibia’s travel books and guides; it’s overshadowed by Sossusvlei and Etosha National Park. But despite a few hiccups (including a near-death rhino encounter), Michelle and I were really glad we stopped in the Waterberg. The Waterberg is practically on the way from Etosha to Windhoek, and it gave us the chance to chill out and experience a type of geography that you can’t see elsewhere in Namibia.

wilderness lodge

The Waterberg Wilderness Lodge.

The Waterberg Wilderness is a private nature reserve bordering the Waterberg Plateau National Park. It’s a beautiful, peaceful spot, and thanks to my generous travel companion we stayed in a lovely two-level suite at the Waterberg Wilderness Lodge. The reserve also offers a very nice campsite and a super-posh luxury lodge at the top of the plateau. The Wilderness Lodge, where we stayed, is the mid-range option.

We enjoyed our stay at the Wilderness Lodge. But we learned a hard lesson on our first night: Do NOT leave your windows open after dark, especially during rainy season. There are no screens on the windows, but also no air-conditioning or fans. We foolishly left the windows open during dinner to let in some cool air. And the cool air did get in, along with 1,000 giant brown moths and one huge, very noisy beetle. (Apparently the giant moth hoards come every summer to this part of Namibia.) Michelle and I spent the night cowering inside our mosquito nets, listening to the insects buzz and batter against the walls and dreaming fitfully of death-by-moth. It was not very pleasant. We would have appreciated a friendly warning from the staff.

lodge bedroom

My upper-level bedroom in our suite at the Wilderness Lodge, looking peaceful before the onslaught of insects. Thank God for the mosquito net.

We weren’t in the best humor when we awoke the next morning. But fortunately we had booked a hike to the top of the plateau with two young Waterberg Wilderness guides: Uapindika and Astofel. Despite our best efforts to remain grumpy, Uapindika and Astofel turned our day around.

uapindika and astofel

Uapindika (left) and Astofel (right), our Namibian plateau guides. We loved them. They were fun, enthusiastic and knowledgeable.

There are several self-guided hiking trails around the reserve, but you can only go to the top of the plateau when accompanied by a guide. The three-hour climb/hike wasn’t too strenuous — nothing like the Cederberg Wilderness hike that Michelle and I took last year — but it was enough to get us sweating and breathing heavily. Fortnately Uapindika and Astofel stopped often, pointing out interesting plants, animals, and geological formations.

plateau view

View across the valley to another section of the plateau. The plateau is about 200 meters high, between 8 and 16 kilometers wide, and 49 kilometers long. Due to the springs flowing beneath it, the plateau is less arid and more biologically diverse than the surrounding countryside.

dassie on plateau

This adorable fat dassie (like a rat, but cuter) found us more interesting than the striking view behind him.

acacia leaves

Acacia leaves. Uapindika and Astofel also showed us a fascinating parasitic plant (can’t remember the name) that inserts poisonous thorns beneath your skin and makes you sick. I didn’t get a good photo of that one.

black mamba skin

Huge black mamba skin. This is actually just one section of it. The rest of it wouldn’t fit in my frame.

waterberg waterhole instagram

The top of the plateau is dotted with little waterholes. Astofel’s parents used to tell him that the holes were dinosaur footprints.

dung beatle

Giant dung beetle. Only slightly larger than the beetle that kept us awake the night before.

waterberg sliding rocks

Uapindika called these “sliding rocks”.

heather and michelle on plateau

In addition to being a great assistant guide and aspiring microbiologist, Astofel is also a talented photographer.

top of plateau

Kalahari sandveld, as far as the eye can see. Our jaws dropped when we first saw this.


Instagram of The View.

If you go to Namibia and find yourself driving between Windhoek and Ethosha, don’t pass up the opportunity to check out the Waterberg. It’s well worth it, if only for The View.

Just keep your windows closed at night. And don’t get out of your safari vehicle when there are rhinos around, no matter what the guide says.

The View

One more shot of The View.

Next up: Lions, giraffes, hyenas and stunning sunsets in Etosha National Park.


  1. Derek Smith

    Nice post Heather and great PIx – The Skeleton Coast and Kolmanskop is on my bucketlist for this year and another mission is to fly to Livingstone – stay over for a couple of days with a friend that has a sawmill close to the Vic Falls and the drive back throught Bostwana with him

    • 2summers

      Vic Falls is on my list too!

  2. Dean

    Awesome pics! Really breathtaking! Your photos always bring out the cerebration because they are so clear and colorful. It’s as though you can reach out and touch the rocks, etc.

    • 2summers

      Thanks Dean! Glad you enjoyed the post.

  3. Anne Livingstone

    I can’t believe you used ‘cute’ and ‘dassie’ in the same sentence. They’re just waiting for you to turn your back…

    • 2summers

      Hahaha. Every time I see a dassie I think of our Kruger hike. That was the first time I ever saw one.

  4. eremophila

    Shame about the insects…… know the feeling well! But wow! What a place!! Loved the ‘footprints’ 🙂 and especially the dung beetle – the world needs these little critters! 🙂

    • 2summers

      I know, dung beetles are so cool.

  5. Jeroen

    Nice – but don’t write off the Sossusvlei views just yet…

    • 2summers

      Haha, yeah I know. I wish we’d had time to go there on this trip but we had to choose our locations carefully. Next time!

  6. beeseeker

    Couldn’t agree more: Namibia just kept offering us different experiences – the Waterburg was superb- to climb to the top, stand (or sit) and look across the “world” trying to see where the so-perfectly-straight roads went …

  7. chuckv88

    Lovely… I’m putting it on my bucket list too.

  8. Owls

    Jealous! 🙂

  9. lisa@notesfromafrica

    Absolutely stunning – the place & the photos! Looking at your posts I’m getting excited about our trip there. How long in advance did you make bookings for accommodation?

    Lucky you that you only found the Black Mamba skin, and not the snake itself!

    • 2summers

      True that about the black mamba skin 🙂

      We booked things a couple of months in advance, but only because we went over the holidays. And we definitely needed to for Swakopmund because a lot of people go there over Christmas. But at other times of the year I really don’t think it’s necessary to book ahead. Even over New Years Eve, the Waterberg Wilderness Lodge wasn’t full and they were accepting walk-ins.

      • lisa@notesfromafrica

        Guess most Namibians head to the coast over the Christmas holidays. How hot was it when you were there?

        • 2summers

          Yeah, the coast was definitely more “crowded” (by Namibian standards, which is still not crowded at all). I never looked at the temperature, but to be honest I didn’t find the heat to be too unbearable. Especially on the coast — I thought it was really quite cool! But it was hot in Etosha during the day — I’m guessing low 30s.

  10. Sine

    I also loved the Waterberg plateau and the views from it (although I have to say by far the best views were in Damaraland, just too breathtaking to describe (perhaps still coming up in your series?). You know I’m surprised you only had to content with some giant moths in your room and not something much bigger. We couldn’t leave our door open there for even a split second, or the baboons would come running in and help themselves to anything edible. This totally freaked out our girls who were on constant baboon watch while we were there. Oh, and by the way, we DID hike up to the plateau all by ourselves. We stayed at the Waterberg Camp (operated by NWR, a local outfit with lodges that are not that luxurious but reasonably priced).

    • 2summers

      Sine, we didn’t make it to Damaraland unfortunately — just not enough time in our 10-day trip. Plus we didn’t have a 4×4, and I believe you need one to self-drive to Damaraland? Anyway, next time I hope. We didn’t see any baboons near to our lodge at the Waterberg. I guess they must stay inside the national park. (Lucky for us.) Are you allowed to hike up the plateau on your own inside the park? The guys we went up with said it used to be allowed in the Waterberg Wilderness Reserve, but people were getting lost all the time so they had to change the rules.

  11. megzii

    breathtaking pictures


Leave a Reply