Visiting the Himba People


Skeleton Coast & Kaokoland

Visiting the Himba people The Himba People

Sparsely populated, Kaokaland is home to only 16,000 people. About half of these are the much-spoken of Himba people, who live in scattered settlements throughout the Kaokoland. These hardy pastoralists are semi-nomadic, roaming the desert plains. They survive on the indigenous plants and animals that thrive in these harsh conditions. But their way of life is under threat as the modern world starts to encroach in the form of roads, infrastructure and, yes, tourism…

Their beehive huts are traditionally made from mopane saplings, covered with a mixture of mud and cattle dung. These settlements are often found deserted, as the Himba are semi-nomadic. This means they are continually on the move with their cattle and goats in search of grazing. The Himba are a tall, graceful people, who protect their skin by rubbing it with a mixture of red ochre, butterfat and a wide range of aromatic herbs and bark. This is a practice which is central to the Himba people’s identity.



Visiting the Himba people Married women can be distinguished by their leatherhead dresses and other adornments. These include copper bracelets, necklaces and the ohumba, a white conch from the Skeleton coast.

Some Himba groups have moved further south and settled in permanent villages. In these villages, tourists are able to visit them more frequently. These villages have become sort of ‘show’ villages. They are worthwhile visiting if you haven’t got time to trek far north and would like to know about the Himba people.

Alternatively, from the northern lodges of Damaraland, we can arrange guided 4×4 excursions with a local expert who understands this fragile ecosystem and its cultural sensitivities. Given the semi-nomadic nature of the Himba people, these excursions are not always possible.