On the westernmost limit of the Omusati Region lies the near-deserted town of RUACANA, which came into being to house workers for the construction of the dam and underground power station on the Kunene River in the 1970s, before hosting an SADF base during the war for independence – the dam and power station were bombed by the Cubans in 1988, just as the South Africans were retreating from Angola. Despite its elevation to “town” status in 2010, Ruacana has a population of just three thousand. There’s nothing to detain the visitor here, but since there’s no fuel for miles around you should fill up at the busy petrol station, which also has a well-stocked shop with ATM, though a nearby supermarket offers greater choice. The border post here is underused and suitable for 4WD vehicles only.

The Ruacana Falls were once a truly spectacular sight, a 600m-wide wall of water, plunging 120m into the gorge below, making it one of the largest falls in Africa. However, a hydroelectric power station and dam built in the late 1970s – now Namibia’s main source of power – soon put an end to this natural wonder. Yet, on the rare occasions that heavy rains produce too much water, the sluice gates are opened upriver in Angola (generally Feb–April), and the dramatic aquatic show is resumed, albeit only temporarily. However, even in the dry season the bare, sheer rock face and the impressive gorge below are worth the short detour if you’re in the area, provided you ignore the heavily littered viewpoint.

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