The Omulunga Palm Route: Namibia’s heartbeat

Posted by Claire Allison on 10 July 2014

Most people are unfamiliar with the far north of Namibia where the desert meets the Angolan woodland and people of all cultures meet. From bustling markets with unique smells, colours and sounds to the beauty of the Etosha National Park, the Omulunga Palm Route ventures off the beaten track, allowing travellers to discover Namibia’s heartbeat.

Omulunga Palm

Makalani palm. Photo: Charl Pauw of Open Africa

Named after the distinctive Makalani palms, known as Omulunga in the local Ovambo language, the Omulunga Palm Route stretches from Ruacana in the west to Nkurenkuru in the east. It is not only the gateway to Angola but also links the arid north-west region to the lush water ecosystem of the Kavango and Zambezi regions. The route is the quintessential oasis for weary travellers and serves as a practical stop-over to refuel and restock in the heart of a bustling African community.

Read: Namibia’s Four Rivers Route


Owambo men

Local Owambo men. Photo: Namibia Tourism Board

Travellers will experience traditional and contemporary Ovambo culture alongside each other and catch a glimpse of local tribal royalty. The area reveals a strong liberation history, while nature lovers can enjoy the abundant wildlife and wilderness in the world-famous Etosha National Park.

Etosha Salt Pan

Etosha Pan. Photo: Charl Pauw of Open Africa

The route also aims to uplift and sustain local communities through tourism by spreading the benefits to a number of community conservancies on the route. Offering a kaleidoscope of attractions from heritage and culture to wildlife and traditional food, the route can be split into two authentic experiences called the Roof of Namibia Experience and the King Nehale Experience.

Namutoni Fort

Namutoni Fort. Photo: Charl Pauw of Open Africa

Stretching 467km the Roof of Namibia Experience links the Kunene River at Ruacana Falls to the Okavango River. The journey takes visitors on a journey parallel to the Angolan border through numerous pans and flooded channels known as oshanas. Travellers will be able to enjoy the feeling of a rural landscape interspersed with a bustling urban landscape. Those with a keen interest in Namibia’s recent history can enjoy attractions such as the Outapi War Museum, Ombalantu Baobab Museum and the Eenhana Shrine.

Owambo women

Local Owambo women. Photo: Namibia Tourism Board

The King Nehale Experience takes travellers along a 641km expedition through the colourful towns of Oshakati, Ongwediva and Ondangwa and the rural villages that surround it. Travellers will have the opportunity to visit the Omugulugwombashe National Monument, Uukwaluudhi Royal Homestead, Uukwambi Kings Monument, Oshakati Open Market, Ongula Traditional Homestead, Nakambale Museum and Lake Oponono while also experiencing the abundant wildlife of the Etosha National Park.

Discover Namibia’s heartbeat, experience its rich culture first hand and enjoy its wildlife on this authentically African self-drive travel route.

The Omulunga Palm Route is one of three new self-drive travel routes that were developed by the Namibia Tourism Board and Open Africa in a project funded by the Millennium Challenge Account Namibia, which aims to diversify tourism in Namibia.

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