Van Zyl's Pass

Van Zyl's Pass, the wildest 4x4 trip in Namibia

Van Zyl's Pass is the most notorious pass in Namibia. Located between two very steep mountain ranges in Namibia’s Marienfluss, it gets its name from the Dutch explorer who found the way across in the 1920’s with a few hundred Himba and a Model T Ford. It’s one of the highest roads of the country.

Van Zyl’s Pass, at an elevation of 948m (3,110ft) above the sea level, is found in the far northwest of the country, in Kaokoland. The only way to get there is via the D3703 district road through Okangwati. It’s a classic extreme road, but not really a road, just a route made over the mountain by travellers over time. The outrageously steep pass itself is a pure adrenaline rush, but the lead-up route is 10-15km of tough driving, dodging its way through boulders, rocks, ravines and badlands. The descent from the top of the pass covers a distance of ten kilometres – but it will take you three to six hours to negotiate. The road is very rough, rocky driving, not be attempted without prior 4×4 experience.  If you have some experience in off road driving and not much fear, you'll do it without problems.

The pass sits in one of the Namibia’s most isolated regions. The road to the summit was built in 1965 by Ben van Zyl, Commissioner for Kaokoland. The view from the top of the mountain pass is overwhelming. If the area has received good rains there could be numerous small erosion furrows. Take into consideration that conditions of the pass change as well.
To drive this trail, you must have supreme confidence in your vehicle and your driving skills. This is an extreme 4x4 challenge which requires sound experience with cross-country driving and a skillful navigator. It is not a simple matter of just cruising downhill. Apart from the steep gradient there are uphill stretches as well. Each tyre has to scramble up and down, and the vertical rock formations which protrude from the track in many places pose additional risks to the tread. It is highly advisable to tackle this adventure in a convoy, if only to encourage one another. Van Zyl's Pass - for super-experienced 4x4 drivers only, this pass is well-known as the most challenging 'road' in Namibia and presents a great challenge to those who like that kind of thing! Leads into Marienfluss. Can only be driven in downwards direction, towards Marienfluss - too dangerous the other way, and if you were to meet anyone coming down.
Pic: Danie Du Preez


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