Twyfelfontein, meaning doubtful fountain, is famous for the incredible amount of rock paintings and engravings found here. So much so, that in June 2007 the area was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
There are over 2 500 of these artworks dating back to between 1 000 and 10 000 years ago. Many of them depict hunting scenes and animal engravings. One of the etchings portrays a seal, which is interesting since the ocean is over 100km away!
Twyfelfontein lies within the Haub Valley in the southern Kunene Region of Namibia. It is approximately 70 km from Khorixas, 125 km from Skeleton Coast National Park and about 5 and a half hours’ drive from Windhoek.
Twyfelfontein has been occupied for at least 6 000 years. The first people who settled here were early hunter-gatherers, followed by Khoikhoi herders 4 000 years later. Both of these people seem to have regarded the site as a spiritual home, creating thousands of rock carvings during their worship rituals. Later, the Damara people also moved into this area.
At that time, the place was known as /Ui-//Ais, meaning ‘jumping waterhole’, possibly due to the unreliable nature of the water spring found in this area.
Renowned topographer, Reinhard Maack, discovered the first rock engravings at Twyfelfontein in 1921 but white settlers only arrived in the area during 1947. By 1952, more petroglyphs had been unearthed, and in 1952, the area was declared a Namibian National monument.
In 1964, the area was declared a Damara homeland under the Odendaal plan and all the white farmers were forced to leave the area.
There are several privately-run camps and lodges dotted around the area, most providing fully-inclusive stays that include guided trips to visit the rock art. There are also self-catering and camping options available.
Children can easily walk among most of the rock art sites, but smaller children may not appreciate the true magnitude of the experience. Many of the accommodation options in the area offer swimming pools, games rooms and children’s activity programs. Ask about these when you make your bookings.
Likewise, the larger establishments near Twyfelfontein offer conferencing facilities and group bookings.
The heart of all of the activities at Twyfelfontein center on walking among the eye-catching rock formations and the ancient sites. The experience is best enjoyed on a guided tour where you’ll learn more about the history of this place and the symbolism behind the etchings you’ll see during your trip.
The visitor’s center prepares you for your trip back in time by transporting you metaphorically through the stages of a Shaman’s trance. There is also a reception area, craft shop, departure point for guided walks and a restaurant on site.
The building itself is an architectural masterpiece, created to blend in with the landscape. Apart from the steel posts supporting it, the building is constructed almost entirely from recycled materials. Old oil drums have been repurposed to create unique Roman-style roof tiles, the walls are formed, from stones contained within gabion cages and the entire ablutions structure has been made from recycled oil drum lids. The building can be moved or redesigned as needed, and no concrete was used in its creation.
When you turn the corner after leaving the visitor center, it disappears from sight, allowing you to completely immerse yourself in these ancient landscapes without any modern structures imposing on your views.
Once you’ve experienced the displays in the visitor center, you can embark on several guided and unguided walks among these timeless treasures on display.
The following routes are currently offered at Twyfelfontein:
Within easy reach of the visitor center, you can see ten panels of well-preserved geometric and schematic engravings representing the first stage of trance.
This 30-minute self-guided route includes the ruins of a colonial homestead as well as the Twyfelfontein spring. Here you’ll find depictions of birds and antelope engraved into signposted sites.
Route 3 – The Dancing Kudu Route
This is a 60-minute guided walk which includes the spring, and a steep climb to a viewing platform overlooking an unusual polished engraving of a kudu and several geometric etchings. On the way back, you’ll visit the Zwei Schneider site with its paintings and unusual stone ‘sculpture’.
Route 4 – The Lion Man Route
Another guided-tour-only option, this walk takes 80 minutes and starts with a visit to the spring. The going is a little tough on this one and involves some steep climbs. The lion engraving is famous for its combination of human and animal elements as well as the shaded relief technique used to create it.
Wining & Dining
The onsite restaurant features a range of snacks and drinks as well as indoor and outdoor dining areas.
Fauna and Flora
The vegetation in this arid area is mainly indigenous grasslands punctuated by specimens of leadwood, camelthorn acacia and Mopane. From the rock art, it’s evident that many species of game once roamed the area, and you can still see leopard, rhino, spotted hyena, lion and elephant in the Kunene region.
Over 140 species of birds have been recorded at Twyfelfontein, and at least 7 of Namibia’s endemic species are found here. The most commonly seen birds are grey hornbills, rock buntings, black chested prinias and pearl-spotted owls. Black eagles and booted eagles are also common.
Drinking water, sunscreen, a hat and sunglasses are important for daytime activities in Namibia. You’ll want a camera to record the amazing things on display here and a pair of binoculars if you’re interested in scouring the horizon for wildlife and birds.
Driving from Windhoek
- Take the B1 towards Okahandja, then take the B2 towards Wilhelmstal.
- At Wilhelmstal turn right onto the C36, and turn right towards Omaruru on the C33.
- After Omaruru, continue on the C36 and turn right towards Omatjete on the D2344.
- At the T-junction, turn right onto the C35 and then left after 27km onto the D2612.
- Follow this road until the D2354 which leads to your destination.
Driving from Skeleton Coast
- From Springbokwasser near the skeleton coast, take the D39 until the D2354.
- Turn right onto the D2354 which leads straight to Twyfelfontein.
By Air: Charter flights operate from Eros Airport in Namibia to airstrips at Twyfelfontein and Mowani.
Transfers: Transfers with private operators are available by prior notice from any of the above airstrips or from Windhoek to your accommodation near Twyfelfontein.
If you’re planning to visit Namibia, Twyfelfontein deserves a place on your itinerary, and it effortlessly combines with a visit to the Skeleton Coast or Brandberg.
For more information or to book your trip to Twyfelfontein in Namibia, pop African Travel Guide a message via our contact us page, and we will gladly assist you.
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