Epupa Falls – Namibia

Jesse and Olivia could not say the name without laughing hysterically!  For them this was up there with toilet talk.  But they were also beyond excited to see the waterfalls featured in the animated movie, Zambezia.

Epupa Falls is one of the most incredible places to visit.  Situated in the northern most region of Namibia in the Koakaland on the Angolan border.  It is fed by the Kunene River and is 0,5km wide and drops down in a series of waterfalls that spread over 1.5 km.

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Epupa Falls taken close to the town

Getting there

The road to Epupa is pretty amazing.  Like most roads in Namibia it is gravel, but it is well maintained and a 4×4 is not necessary.  It is possible to get there without having to do a whole overlanding long trip, like we did.  You can fly into Windhoek and rent a standard car and drive up.  It is far more accessible than I expected.

Taking the trip from Windhoek, you will need to look at overnighting en route.  It is never worth pushing distances in Africa just in case something goes wrong.  A great place to overnight is around Etosha.  There is a new camp on the northwest side called Olifantsrus that has camping and chalets that friends stayed at and raved about.  We spent three days on our way up in a Game Reserve called Erindi and then overnighted in the town of Opuwo before getting to Epupa.  If you decide to rather push the distance and stay in Opuwo, we stayed at the Opuwo Country Lodge.  I would forgo staying in Opuwo unless necessity requires it as it is not a great town.  They have a good campsite, though you definitely need to book during school holidays.  We stayed the night on the weekend, so there was lots of music and partying going on in the surrounding area.  The road up to the lodge was a bit tricky and the area you go through not great.  The lodge area is well fenced and there is security.  The hotel itself has an amazing view.

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The view from the hotel

Fuel and Food

We did our major food shop in Windhoek, as you can get pretty much everything.  Fuel is something you have to plan for as you always want to have a bit more that needed just in case a petrol station doesn’t have, which is possible.  You are pretty much guaranteed to get good diesel at Kamanjab.  We filled our jerry cans at this point.  When we got to Opuwo we just topped up the main tank.  This is due to not always being able to get 50pp diesel there.  At the main garage in Opuwo there is also a decent Shoprite if you need to get some basics you have forgotten.  I had forgotten flour to make bread, so could get a local brand there.  Click here for my yummy beer bread recipe.  There was also cash machines and banks if you need access.

Culturally

Just before reaching Opuwo, you will start to see Himba people.  If you have children, it is a good idea just to show and discuss with them what to expect.  The women are completely topless at all ages.  When we got to the garage to fill up diesel, our car was inundated with Himba women trying to sell their wares and then also young kids from different tribes begging for sweets and money.

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Olivia watching the children

My son found it very overwhelming and our friends son, who was 12, didn’t know where to look.  So discussing their culture is a good way to prep so that the children know what to expect and can be respectful.  I love showing them such diverse cultural differences.  It shows that diversity is beautiful and that respect is a human right regardless of how different we are!

Himba Women

Himba women riding to get water

If you do stop to take a picture, you will have to ‘pay’.  They want sweets or medicine, which you don’t want to give as they are both addictive.  Supplying fruit or food is better.  Also paper and pencils or pens are great, especially for kids.  Be mindful of giving things in plastic, as the packets/bags/wrapper will most likely just be thrown onto the ground and not disposed of properly.

They are also a nomadic people, so you will see shells of villages and camps.

Himba hut

Outside an abandoned Himba hut

Epupa itself

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Our first Baobab just before reaching Epupa

Epupa is like a little green oasis.  The campsites and lodges are all along the river right above the start of the waterfall.  We stayed at one of the most furthest along campsites called Epupa Camp.  Don’t get confused by Epupa Falls Lodge, we went there and then panicked as they were full and didn’t have our booking.  We then worked out we were in the wrong place.  It is a quieter campsite a bit higher up the river.  They have both camping and little chalets.  The main area has a bar and a swimming pool and wifi.  You can sit and have a drink and a dip in the pool or walk across the bridge to a little island.  You can’t swim in the river because of crocs and must just be wary when walking along the river bank.

The campsite was treed with date palms.  There was a shower and loo ablution stand per two camps with a donkey boiler.  The staff would light the donkey boiler morning and night, though the mornings tended to be a bit tepid as needed more time.   The showers don’t have a roof, so you shower at night looking at all the stars.

 

Just beware of monkeys, don’t leave any food out unattended.  They are so quick and if you turn your back for a second, they grab and run.

If you need any washing done, there will be local ladies at the gate to the campsite in the mornings.  You give them your washing and your powder, though I would supply the powder per wash as they pretty much used most of what we had budgeted for the whole holiday.  The rate charged depends on how many garments there are.  You also buy firewood at the gate from the locals.  Make sure that you have lots of change as you have to pay exact amounts.  This goes for pretty much all remote places throughout Namibia.  So often we wanted to buy wood etc but only had large notes and the local didn’t have any change.

With regards to safety, always beware of petty theft.  So don’t leave things unnecessarily out and unattended.  Walking through the town to the falls was very safe and we didn’t feel worried at all.

Activities

IMG_8110The falls itself is free to access.  We walked from our campsite and you can stand right on top of them.  There is even a walk down to the bottom of the valley.  If you want to go to the view point, you will have to pay money.  It wasn’t a lot and the best time of day is definitely later towards sunset.

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Above Epupa Falls

There is a village tour and also a river rafting trip.  Both are organized through your place of accommodation.  We did the river trip with the kids, which was such fun.  You get driven roughly 8ks up the river and then you paddle back down.  The rapids were very mild, so very safe with the kids.  We saw crocodiles and birds and had our snack and cooldrink on the Angolan side of the river.

We spent 3 nights at Epupa, but I could have happily spent more.  It is tranquil and beautiful and so culturally rich!