ǁKaras is a region in southern Namibia. This area is rich in gem quality diamonds and has restricted access, so you can only enter the area as part of an organized tour. There are several ghost towns to explore.
- 1 Ariamsvlei
- 2 Aus
- 3 Berseba
- 4 Bethanie
- 5 Karasburg — a town on the national road B3
- 6 Keetmanshoop
- 7 Noordoewer
- 8 Lüderitz
- 9 Oranjemund
- 1 Ai-Ais Richtersveld Transfrontier Park
- 2 Fish River Canyon Park
- The southern part of the Namib-Naukluft National Park
ǁKaras (the consonant at the beginning is a lateral click, comparable to the sound used by a rider to urge on a horse) is the southernmost and least populated region of Namibia. It is situated on the Atlantic Ocean and borders to South Africa in the South and in the East and to the Hardap region in the North.
A large 26 000km2 area known as the Sperrgebiet (Forbidden Territory) in the west of ǁKaras stretches long the coast of the Atlantic Ocean between Lüderitz and Oranjemund.
Three main biomes cover the region; their tripoint is approximately at Aus: The Southern Namib desert, the Nama Karoo, and the Succulent Karoo. If the area gets winter rain then the wildflower bloom is a spectacle that warrants a visit: just like in the Karoo in South Africa, barren lands suddenly come alive for a few weeks in August and the landscape is covered with blooming wild flowers.
Due to the scarcity of other options, most travellers will arrive by car, either from South Africa or from the north of the country. The major highways in the region are the B1 that crosses Namibia from North to South and passes Keetmanshoop and Noordoewer, the B3 from Keetmanshoop to Ariamsvlei, and the B4 from Keetmanshoop to Lüderitz.
The vast area is covered with small airstrips, suitable for 2 and 4 seaters. However, only Oranjemund (OMD IATA) and Lüderitz (LUD IATA) can be reached by scheduled flights, departing from Cape Town and Windhoek.
There is a train service from Windhoek to Keetmanshoop a few times a week. As the train is predominantly for freight with only one or two passenger cars, it will stop at every tree to load and unload goods. The 500 km journey from Windhoek takes almost a day. The rails from Keetmanshoop to Lüderitz are intact but there is no passenger service on this line.
By public transport
Between towns you can catch a minibus, and Keetmanshoop is on the route of the big coaches that travel to Windhoek, Cape Town and Johannesburg.
There is no public transport to tourist destinations, you have to get around by car or private airplane. You can book private tours (a 4x4 and a driver) in the bigger towns of Keetmanshoop and Lüderitz.
The highways (B-roads) are tarred and in very good condition. Most C-roads are gravel roads and in fair condition, easily passable with an ordinary sedan. All other roads (D-roads, F-roads, and those without letters or numbers) tend to be rough, rarely graded, and will require a sturdy vehicle. Expect to be able to drive 120 km/h on tar, 60-80 km/h on good gravel, and about 30 km/h on minor roads. Many of the small access roads to farms require good ground clearance and considerable driving skill. Phone the host whether you need a 4x4 or not.
Farms are private properties. Don't drive onto a farm road, even if the gate is open, unless your destination is signposted there, or you intend to visit that farm. If you open a farm gate to drive through, close it again.
- Kolmanskop -- A ghost town just outside Lüderitz
- Wildflower bloom around Aus in the early weeks of August, only if there was some rain in June or July
- Canoe on the Orange River: The Orange River is the only permanently flowing river in southern Namibia, and it has no large animals like crocodiles or hippos. Virtually every lodge and campsite on the river has canoes for hire, and many establishments offer guided canoe tours, from multiple hours to several days. Suitable for beginners.
- Explore the ghost towns of the diamond rush around Lüderitz. Kolmanskop you can visit on your own while for Pomona and Elisabeth Bay you have to book a tour; they are still in the forbidden zone.
There is accommodation in all towns and villages, the smaller the place the more basic the facilities. However, not every name on the map is indeed a settlement. This particularly applies to place names along the railway, many of which are today at best an abandoned station building, and at worst only a sign next to the rails.
Between the major tourist destinations there occasionally are additional options:
- 1 Seeheim Hotel, Seeheim (45 km west of Keetmanshoop; turn off the B4 in southern direction and follow the signs for about 1 km). Impressive hotel in the middle of nowhere, or actually, at an important railway junction. In the days of the diamond rush (started 1908) travellers to Lüderitz had to stay overnight to change trains, that's why the hotel was built. Bar and restaurant, both slightly overpriced. The menu is not very creative, toast with something or chips with something. There is a campsite with small trees and little shade, a bit neglected. Light is available, no power sockets. There is a small petrol station right on the campsite, and a small but deep pool. Wi-Fi is available near the bar but the owner asks that it is not used in the bar... rightfully so. Camping 160 N$ per person, children full price. Pool usage 20 N$ for campers and day visitors. Pay cash.
- 2 Koiimasis (the farm is signposted from the C27 but cannot be reached in that way: one of the gates of the neighbouring farm (that one would have to transit) is locked; instead use the District Road D707 and turn east at the signpost; although the trail is a bit sandy a 4x4 is not needed). Installations and buildings blend into the surrounding rocks. During dusk and dawn small antelope and rock dassies are all over the place. There are chalets, rooms, and a campsite. There is also a pool, unfortunately only for the guests of the lodge. Camping 200 N$ per person, children half price.
- 3 Orange River Lodge, Noordoewer (at the B1 National Road, next to the petrol station). B&B and restaurant, contrary to the name not directly situated at the river. The rooms all have aircons. This is important as the place can be very hot at times, and regularly over 40 °C. Doesn't look very promising from the outside but the food is not bad, and the outdoor tables as well as the rooms are in a nice, shady garden. Lunch 90 N$, kids' menue 60 N$.
- 4 Amanzi Trails, At the shore of the Orange River (leave Noordoewer towards Aussenkehr on the C13; turn left after about 10 km, the place is signposted). Beautiful campsite with huge lawn plots in a park-like setting. Overlanders welcome. No dogs. You can bring your own boat if it is not motorised, no extra charge. No Wi-Fi and proud of it ("Talk to each other!") but there is ordinary cell phone reception from nearby Noordoewer. Camping 170 N$, kids 130 N$, some reduction for the few unshaded places. Canoe hire 200 N$ per day. Pay cash.
- 5 Wildheim Guesthouse (Wildheim Wes Game Farm), Between Koës and Aroab (80 km from the Rietfontein border), ☏ , firstname.lastname@example.org. Check-in: 15:00, check-out: 12:00. Wildheim Wes is a private game ranch in the Kalahari close to the southeastern border of Namibia. Three self-catering chalets equipped with en-suite bathrooms and a fully decked-out braai area. Camping N$ 250, Chalet N$ 250.
- 6 Koës Hotel, 2 Fontein Street, Koes, ☏ . Check-in: 15:00, check-out: 12:00. Koës Hotel offers 8 en suite rooms and 1 chalet. Some rooms have shared facilities. Campsites are also available with clean ablution blocks, hot and cold showers, a flush toilet, wood for sale while breakfast is available upon request.
There is a petrol station and a supermarket or at least a general dealer in all settlements listed as cities above. Additionally, you can re-stock food and petrol at:
- 1 Aussenkehr. Small mall with supermarket, clothing store and ATM.
- 2 Grünau. Several petrol stations on the B1.
- 3 Rosh Pinah. Supermarkets and a petrol station.
Specific items for sale are:
- Diamonds: If you have the means and the ambition, there is a large variety of local diamonds for sale at the old casino in Kolmanskop, 10 km outside Lüderitz. Namibian diamonds are among the best in the world for jewelry, and prices at Kolmanskop are reportedly very competitive.
- Table grapes: When you pass the settlement of Aussenkehr at the Orange River in summer, try the grapes that are grown in the Orange River valley. The biggest, sweetest, and cheapest you have had in a long time, you can buy them from mobile vendors or at the Aussenkehr Spar supermarket.
ǁKaras shares borders with the:
- Northern Cape province of South Africa to the south and east. Visit the Big Hole at Kimberley, or the August/September Namaqua Wildflower bloom at Namaqua National Park.
- Hardap region to the north. Visit the Namib-Naukluft National Park with its tourist attractions Sossusvlei and Sesriem.