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Spitzkoppe panorama

A. Introduction            More information

The Spitzkoppe (from German for "pointed hill or mountain", also referred to as the "Matterhorn of Namibia"), is a group of bald granite peaks or bornhardts located between Usakos and Swakopmund on the border of the Namib desert of Namibia. The highest outcrop rises about 1784 meters (5857 feet) above sea level. The peaks stand out dramatically from the flat surrounding plains. The highest peak is about 700m above the floor of the desert below. Other prominences stretch out into a range known as the Pontok Mountains. The Western face of Spitzkoppe was first climbed in 1946 and has since then drawn many climbers. Many examples of Bushmen artwork can be seen painted on the rocks in the Spitzkoppe area.

Hover with the mouse pointer on the markers to see description. Use the +/- on the map to zoom and drag the map left/right up/down with the mouse pointer

B. Road advisory

Spitzkoppe is shown as "A" on the map (all distances are map distances not odometer)
  1. from Swakopmund drive 122 km on the B2 (tar) towards Usakos and then turn left onto the D1918 (gravel) towards Hentjies Bay. After 18km turn right onto the D3716 (gravel) and drive a further 11km to the Spitzkoppe Eastern access gate. Accessible by ordinary sedan motor vehicle.
  2. from Windhoek take the B1 (tar) to Okahandja (80 km) and then follow the B2 to Usakos (142 km) via Karibib. From Usakos drive 24 km on the B1 towards Swakopmund and then turn right onto the D1918 (gravel) towards Hentjies Bay. After 18km turn right onto the D3716 (gravel) and drive a further 11km.
  3. from Henties Bay drive 90 km on the D1918 (gravel) towards Usakos and then turn left onto the D1925 and drive 13 km to the Spitzkoppe Western access gate.

C. When to visit

Best to visit during the cooler months (April - September). Outside of this period the temperatures get deep into the 40 degrees Celsius.

D. Climate  

Very hot in summer and cold in winter. Rain is scarce

E. Access Permit  See here for all rates

During our 2011 and 2012 visits we had to pay cash (exact amount - no change available).

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F. Best locations

There is no single best location - There are many beautiful rock formations, some resembling animals and everyday objects. At sunrise and at sunset, the character of the rock changes dramatically - with the right conditions, the rocks changes to a deep orange - "it gets seriously orange" someone commented.

Here are a few of the many spectacular locations:



1. Inside the big natural arch

Visit the big natural arch at any time - it never disappoints. It is spectacular at sunset and sunrise. The photo on the right was taken from within the arch with a Nikon D300s with 12-24mm lens at 12 mm f11. It shows the Greater Spitzkoppe on the left and the Pontok Mountains to the right.

Approach the arch through a narrow gully as indicated on the main map. It is much easier than from the other side.

Spitzkoppe

2. Southern view of the big natural arch

From the main parking at the arch, drive West and then around the arch for an unusual view.

The photo on the right was taken from this spot with a Nikon D300s with 24-70 mm lens at 48 mm f11. It shows the Greater Spitzkoppe in the background.

For those into geocaching, there is a cache hidden near this spot.

Spitzkoppe

3. View of the second natural arch

Please see the main map for the location

The photo on the right was taken from the bottom of this arch with a Nikon D300s with 12-24mm lens at 12 mm f16.

Spitzkoppe

4. Sunset view of the Greater Spitzkoppe from next to camp site 8

Please see the main map for the location.

The main Spitzkop is the highest peak on the photo to the right.

In the cliffs to it's right, several interesting rock formations are visible - a "falcon", "jaws" and what looks like another arch, but which actually is a slot in the cliff. The rising sun creates a spectacular display through this slot, especially when it is misty. The setting sun also creates a nice display when seen from it's Eastern side.

Please see the Spitzkoppe high quality photo gallery (link on the main menu bar) for close-up photos of the "falcon", "jaws" and the sun shining through the slot.

See the artist on the photo's work at Rene Snyman

Spitzkoppe

5. Bushman's Paradise

Please see the main map for the location.

From the parking area, a chain guides you high up a steep rock slope to a plateau where there are rock pools and overhangs with rock paintings. It is advisible to take a guide as the paintings are difficult to find.



5. Other interesting sights

Please see the main map for these locations:

The three legged rock

Rock pool

Spitzkoppe

G. Other things to do at Spitzkoppe and in the vicinity

1. Rock climbing

There are many routes up the Greater Spitzkop available. Have a look here

There are also other less challenging rock climbing opportunities available as can be seen on the photo to the right where climbers scale the boulder next to camp site 8.

2. Guided tour with a donkey cart

Ask at reception end what tours are available. The area between the Greater Spitzkoppe and the Pontok Mountains is fenced off with various wild animals. The only way to visit that is by guided tour.

3. Visit semi-precious stone shops

Impossible to miss them - the first one, a big formal one, where you turn off the B2 near Usakos. From that point, there are many informal ones next to the road to Spitzkoppe.

Most of them would prefer to be paid (in some cases partially) with food, clothes and other essential items. These people are more in need of food than money as they cannot easily get to a shop.

Spitzkoppe

Spitzkoppe

Spitzkoppe

H. Photography tips

1. General landscape photography tips

Have a look at the following tutorials and tips:

  1. Photography tips by Grobler du Preez
  2. 11 Surefire Landscape Photography Tips by Darren Rowse
  3. 10 quick landscape photography tips
  4. 10 Landscape Photography Tips: Beginner and Advanced by Ricardo Cunha
  5. Better Landscape Photography - Beyond Basics by Stephen W Oachs
  6. Landscape Photography Tips by Robert Caputo

2. Timing

The most beautiful photos are usually created during the "golden hour" (the first hour after sunrise and the last hour before sunset). The rocks become a deep orange under certain conditions. During the middle of the day the colours are very dull.

3. Technique

Use a tripod at all times to ensure sharp photos, even if you use a cheap point and shoot camera. You will see the difference. If possible, use a remote trigger or use the camera timer to further reduce camera shake. Even a cell phone camera could take much better photos if you use some sort of support to stabilise it.

There is no need to use a high ISO if you use a tripod unless you want to freeze action in bad light.

Spitzkoppe
Nikon D300s, 24-70 mm lens at 48 mm, f11, 1/80 sec, ISO 200, tripod, camera timer 2s
4. Equipment

A tripod is a must if you want super shart photos or use long exposures. A remote shutter release is also handy to decrease camera movement. You will need a telephoto lens for birding and wild animals like the klipspringer, and normal / wide angle lenses for landscapes. During my last visit I mostly used a 24-70 f2.8 and a 12-24 mm for landscapes and a 50-500 for birds and wild animals. Remember to take a macro lens for insects and small subjects.

If you don't have a wide enough lens, don't worry - have a look at
"TIP 2: Shooting a wide scene without using a wide-angle lens."
The panorama at the top of this page was created by stitching together 11 separate portrait oriented photos.

5. Ideas for stunning photos

  1. Use people in the photos to show the size of the boulders and arches.
  2. Spitzkoppe is not only about the mountains - be on the lookout for wild animals, birds, reptiles, interesting plants and insects.
  3. Look for interesting rock formations resembling animals and other objects.
  4. The sunsets are spectacular. Have a look at the Spitzkoppe high quality photo gallery (link on the main menu bar)
  5. Use a telephoto lens to zoom in on the rock formations opposite camp site 8. See if you could find the "falcon" and "jaws"
  6. Use a telephoto lens to make a stitched panorama of the scenery. The photo at the top of this page was created using this technique.
  7. There is virtually no light pollution at Spitzkoppe. Experiment with a few long exposures of the sky. The photo to the right was created using a long exposure of 30 seconds and selectively lighting the vehicle and rocks with a spotlight. Nikon D300s, 24-70 mm lens at 24 mm, f2.8, 30 second exposure, ISO 3200, tripod, camera timer 2s (to reduce camera shake when pressing shutter)
  8. Have a look at the photos above under "F. Best Locations" for more inspiration.

6. For even more inspiration please see the Spitzkoppe high quality photo gallery (link on the main menu bar)

Spitzkoppe

I. Accommodation at Spitzkoppe

More information

Camping31 Campsites on gravel 100's of meters from each other, some without descent shade, all with barbeque facilities and a "long drop" toilet with enamel top. No water available. Water can be bought at the office at N$1.00 per liter. No electricity. Apparently they are busy upgrading the campsites with water tanks for showers and flush toilets. Communal ablution facilities - toilets, showers with hot water near reception. Heated by donkeys powered by burning wood - at certain times no hot water.

I have only experience of two camp sites:
Camp site 5: Below the big rock arch. Many visitors during the day, but strategecally situated for night photos of the arch.
Camp site 8: Good shade, spectacular view of the Greater Spitkoppe, very popular. Overhanging boulder used by climbers even if you are occupying the site. See the photo a little higher up

Chalets and double rooms Three thatched roof rooms nestled between granite boulders giving a spectacular view of the spitzkoppe landscape. Natural building materials were used in the construction, while rustic elements were used in the interior. Two rooms each with 3 x single beds, one room with 2 x single beds & 1 x double bed. Fresh Linen & towels provided. Barbeque facility available. Separate ablutions facilities for room guest only are available with running hot and cold water.

Shop Snacks and drinks at the restaurant. Small shop and liquer store at Spitzkoppe village outside the park - very basic, cash only (exact amount, no change given). Nearest supermarket at Usakos 45 km away.

Restaurant  Restaurant and bar on site. Booking essential.

Fuel  Nearest fuel station at Usakos 45 km away

Post Office  No Post Office

atm  No ATM. Nearest bank / ATM at Usakos 45 km away.

credit cards   Credit cards NOT accepted.

first aid  Nearest doctor / hospital is Usakos 45 km away.

Swimming pool  No swimming pool, natural pools in the rainy season.

Spitzkoppe
Camp Site 5 below the big rock arch

Spitzkoppe

Camp Site 8 is where the white vehicle is visible bottom left