An impressive table mountain popular with hikers and nature lovers, the extensive Waterberg Plateau National Park is located 60km southeast of Otjiwarongo; to the east, it surveys the arid Omaheke Desert – part of the Kalahari – to the west, acacia-covered savannah. The sheer sandstone cliffs that top the plateau glow a glorious deep reddish-orange in the late afternoon sun; they are surrounded by a sloping “skirt” of scree and boulders, with patches of dense vegetation clinging onto the rock face. Water is relatively plentiful, hence the name Waterberg (“water mountain” in Afrikaans). Rain filters through the porous sandstone on top, but upon reaching the impervious lower layers of mudstone and siltstone, it re-emerges as springs through fissures in the southern slopes of the plateau. Unsurprisingly, water, and the resulting abundant wildlife, has attracted human populations for many years. San rock art near one of the plateau’s waterholes testifies to their having passed through the area for thousands of years. Towards the end of the nineteenth century, the Herero settled in the area with their cattle, and it was here, on August 11, 1904, that the decisive Battle of Omahakari (or Waterberg) was fought between the Herero, who were defying colonial rule, and the German army.

The trails

Waterberg is synonymous with hiking; in particular it’s renowned for its multi-day trails, which ordinarily are booked through the NWR office in Windhoek, but for some time all long hikes have been suspended due to an increase in rhino poaching; the park authorities had stepped up security and, at the time of going to press, were still unsure when or whether the trails would reopen. In the meantime, hikers have to make do with the handful of shorter trails (maximum 3km) leaving from the camping or chalet areas. The forty-minute hike up to the plateau rim for sunset is well worth the effort, while the Fig Tree Walk is a favourite with birders. Since park visitors are not allowed to drive themselves around the park, the only way to get to know the top of the plateau is by signing up for one of the twice-daily game drives, though the ready availability of food and water plus the dense vegetation means that wildlife sightings are often disappointing.

Travel offers; book through Rough Guides

Namibia features

The latest articles, galleries, quizzes and videos.

Namibia from above: the world's most extreme landscape

Namibia from above: the world's most extreme landscape

The Namib desert is one of the world’s most extreme environments. Covering 81,000 square kilometres, its vastness can only truly be appreciated from above. He…

17 Jul 2017 • Lottie Gross local_activity Special feature
In pictures: the otherworldly landscapes of Namibia

In pictures: the otherworldly landscapes of Namibia

From the spectacular dunes of the Namib Desert to the serpentine chasm of the Fish River Canyon, the rugged mountains of the Great Escarpment to the acacia-stud…

05 Jul 2017 • Sara Humphreys camera_alt Gallery
27 awe-inspiring pictures of Namibia

27 awe-inspiring pictures of Namibia

Namibia has some of the world's most astonishing landscapes. It's home to the world's oldest desert, a long and undeveloped coastline and national parks that te…

31 May 2016 • Lottie Gross insert_drive_file Article
View more featureschevron_right

Join over 60,000 subscribers and get travel tips, competitions and more every month

Join over 60,000 subscribers and get travel tips, competitions and more every month