After scouring the internet for more information and photographs, I was all ready taken with how incredibly majestic and free the wild horses of the Namib looked. Winston Churchill said “There is something about the outside of a horse that is good for the inside of a man.”
When making arrangements to go down to Luderitz, I contacted a tour operator who said that they could not guarantee that we would see any wild horses. As we were traveling from South Africa in our own car we decided that we would take a chance. How difficult could it possible be, to see these wild and free horses roaming their land.
We were coming from Ai-Ais which means “burning water” in in the local Nama language, its a convenient place to stop as its about an hour and half from the Namibian border. It’s a hot water springs spa and resort which lies at the southern end of the Fish river conservation area. An hour before we approached Luderitz, on the right hand side of the road there is a concrete sign in the shape of a mini pyramid. Pointing the way to wild horses viewpoint. Next to is a dirt road which we followed for about 20 minutes, stopping at the viewing point. After a long day of traveling we where all eager to get out of the car and escape to the shade. Within half an hour we could see these extraordinary horses approaching their waterhole along with Ostriches and Springbuck. The sun was going down fast and we still needed to check-in, we decided that we would go back the following day as it seems all the horses where making their way back to the waterhole for sundowners and that is was probably their daily ritual.
After spending the morning at Kolmanskop ghost town which is an absolute must see for anyone with a camera, there are amazing photographic opportunities there. You can purchase the tickets/permits at the entrance gate. We headed back in our car towards the horses viewpoint also know as Garub viewpoint. The scenery was absolutely incredible – blue sky against the yellow of the grass with red tinted mountains in the background that run in every direction. On either side of the road the gorgeous horses are making their way towards the waterhole. I had my camera ready, from inside the car I managed to get some really great shots. Then we headed towards the waterhole.
I set up my camera gear and waited for about an hour, in the meantime Ostriches, Springbuck, an Oryx and even a Jackal approach the waterhole. Then one by one they started trickling in and then the larger herds approach the waterhole using their trails that have been etched into the earth. The sun had started to set and most of the horses possessed a golden orange colour that carried through to the earth. I walked away with some exceptional photographs and my utter admiration for these amazing animals and how they have survived living here.
As they are not indigenous to Sub-Saharan Africa, they are shrouded in mystery. There are quite a few theories as to how these horses arrived here. Ranging from a ship with horses ran aground or they were released/escaped as Baron von Wolf died in Europe in World War 1. Regardless those that have survived, have some how adapted to the conditions of the Namib desert. As for the genetics of the horses 30 horses from a feral heard were examined. Genetic comparison between the Namib horses and domestic horses, shows that they had the highest genetic similarity to Arabian type horses. Even though they did not look like the Arabian horses.
Their social structure consist of breeding groups and bachelor stallions groups. Stallion groups only consist of bachelor stallions. Breeding groups, depending on the population size consist of stallions, mares and foals. They have an life expectancy on average between 20-25 years. Depending of available grazing conditions they horses can eat and sleep in bouts throughout the day and night. In cooler temperatures horses drink less, they can survive without water for a week before dehydration sets in, resulting in death.
Jan Coetzer, employee of Consolidated Diamond Mine has acted as the unofficial guardian of the wild horses, kept an eye of the population and checked on the availability of water for the horses. Replacing the reservoir with holding tanks then installing ball valves to fill the trough automatically, with the assistance from CDM.
Namibia had a severe drought in 1998 the population started to deteriorate as there wasn’t enough vegetation. The international community rallied to raise money for their supplementary feed and by March 1999 the rains returned quenching the land. As the horses are dependent on the land for grazing and as climate change – changes the face of Namibia one can only hope that in the future their cries don’t fall on deaf ears.
We stayed at the Protea hotel in Luderitz, which is quaint coastal town with beautiful architectural buildings some dating back from 1907. The town has a variety of places to stay at, but there are other places that offer accommodation near the wild horses of Namib. Such as Klein-Aus Vista which cater to various types of travelers. The Namibia Tourism Board have a branch in Cape Town Tel:+27 21 4223298 and will gladly help you with any of your queries. Have can also look at the Namibian Tourism board website,
There are a few guidelines that you should follow:
Don’t feed or touch the horses.
Stay in the viewpoint and don’t venture out near their waterhole.
Respect them an their environment.
Adhere to the speed limit on the road as horses do cross it regularly.
If you would like more information there is an interesting book on the horses.
Title: Wild horses in the Namib Desert
Subtitle: A equine Biography
Authors: Mannfred Goldbeck; Telané Greyling
Publisher: Friends of the Wild Horses
Windhoek, Namibia 2011