The Naukluft Trail wanders through extremely rough terrain and conditions in southern Namibia. Though its length is relatively short, the trail reaches both far above and far below sea level. Due to the harsh conditions, it is highly recommended to hike this trail with a guided group. Many consider this trail to be one of the most difficult long distance hiking trails in all of Africa. This is due to the combination of very difficult terrain, along with arid conditions, infrequent water/resupply points, and other issues. Some of these can be mitigated by hiking with a guided group (as most hikers do), but do not underestimate the physical challenges of hiking this trail. Hikers are required to bring a recently-issued medical report that certifies physical aptitude for hiking the trail.
The trail traverses the Naukluft mountains as it skirts the edge of the Namib Desert located in central Namibia. Hiking the entire trail will contain many arduous climbs, as the elevation changes significantly over relatively short periods. The route also passes through gorges and waterfalls, which are very steep, but also make magnificent sights.
Water is typically available at the overnight shelters, some of which have water pumps for hikers to use. The conditions are extremely dry though, so hikers need to be very careful in both carrying lots of water, and conserving water rations along the hike. When hiking with a group, the guides will have all the necessary information for how much water you will need, and when and where you can refill your supply.
The Naukluft Park has storage available at the midway point of the trail (Tsams-ost), where hikers can leave supplies. For those looking to make use of this, you will need to store your supplies there ahead of time, and then circle back to the start of the trail. Besides for this, there are no opportunities for resupply, so it is important to plan out the supplies accordingly. As the length of the trail is relatively short, there should not be a significant need for additional supplies.
The weather conditions are very typically very dry. So dry, in fact, that hiking is not permitted outside of the prime hiking season for this reason. Additionally, the temperatures overnight can drop below freezing, so proper sleeping gear and warm clothing is mandatory. This is particularly important since the shelters are open and do not provide much insulation.
This trail is almost always hiked as part of a guided group, so navigation will be taken care of by the Naukluft Park guides. Namibia Wildlife Resorts will provide hikers with a map of the trail, as well. Besides for these, there are no published guidebooks available for the trail.
The extreme heat and very strenuous conditions can be dangerous for hikers who are adequately fit to hike the trail. The Naukluft Park is also home to much wildlife, including wildebeest, zebras, baboons, giraffes, rhinos, snakes, scorpions, and more. Most of these will not present any significant danger to hikers, but guided groups will be briefed on all safety recommendations ahead of time.
The Naukluft Park and the long distance trail, are very isolated, as they are located in a remote area of Namibia. You will typically only interact with the people who are hiking as part of the group, along with the group guides. That said, the actual bookings for guided trails are popular, so hikers will need to book early to reserve a spot (must have a group of 3-12 people for reservations).
Most hikers will access the trail by first going to the capital city of Namibia, Windhoek. The city is accessible by air at the Hosea Kutako International Airport. It can also be reached by road, as many hikers will be coming from South Africa. It is important to arrange visas in advance via the consulate. Naukluft is a three hour trip by road from Windhoek, but the roads can potentially be dangerous depending on weather conditions. Transportation while on the trail is essentially non-existent.
The trail starts out near the Naukluft Park office at an old farmhouse called Hikers Haven. This is equipped with basic accommodation like beds, mattresses, and a shower. Hikers can stay at Hikers Haven at both the start and end of the trail. Along the trail there are some shelters available for hikers -- most of them are very basic as a stone shelter or hut, but also have running water and toilets. At the very least, hikers will need to bring their own sleeping gear.