For the true explorer the wilderness that awaits is worth the effort of getting there.
A remote tourist destination, but its stark backdrop is amongst the most beautiful on Earth. Although the entire coastline of Namibia is about 1572 km long, hemmed in between the wild Atlantic and the rugged Hartmann Mountains, the remote northern section of the Skeleton Coast National Park, is the stuff of National Geographic documentaries.
The Skeleton Coast National Park is a 40 km wide and 500 km long coastal stretch, a hostile but captivating area. The southern part, stretching from the Ugab River to Torra Bay, is freely accessible. The Skeleton Coast Park, proclaimed in its present form in 1971, covering an area of 16 845 km². It protects about one third of Namibia’s coastline. A Permit is needed from Ugabmund and Springbockwater gate. The northern part from Torra Bay up to the Kunene at the Angolan border is however not accessible and restricted to a few operators who operate fly-in safaris around Namibia.
The Skeleton Coast derives its name from the numerous rusting shipwrecks and bleached whalebones seen along the shoreline. This was mainly due to the dense fog, rough seas and unpredictable currents and stormy winds caused by the cold and unpredictable Benguela current of the Atlantic Ocean clashing with the desert landscape of northwestern Namibia.
The climate strongly influenced by the interplay of the Atlantic Ocean and the Namib Desert. Due to the cold Benguela Current the temperatures drop significantly compared to the temperatures inland. The Benguela Current cools the prevailing southwest winds to such an extent that prevents the formation of clouds. However, a fog bank is formed above the Atlantic floating above the coastline on 200 days of a year, sometimes spreading quite far inland.
The sun, sea, has destroyed many of the wrecks on the harsh coastline and wind but a few are still visible. Perhaps one of the most well known shipwrecks, the ‘Eduard Bohlen’ shipwreck is famous for its strange location stranded in the middle of the desert. If you want to get as close as possible, you can go on a guided 4×4 tour or you can also embark on a fly-in safari that will take you over the wreck.
The ‘Dunedin Star’ wreck is in the far north of the Skeleton Coast National Park and as such, you will not be able to drive yourself there. Flying into the northern section of the park is the only realistic option if you want to explore these famous wrecks.
In refreshing contrast stands the avian-rich riverine strip along the western Kunene River as it carves its way towards the coast, separating Namibia from Angola. Fly-in safaris to the region are the only way to access this isolated wilderness. They are about marvelling at the vast and varied desert scenery, seeking out smaller creatures and the extraordinary plants that have adapted to the unforgiving arid environment; and learning about indigenous people from the Himba, who still inhabit some areas, to the early Khoisan beachcombers, whose ancient ruined shelters and rock art give clues to their way of life.
Wildlife manages to thrive here despite the region’s inhospitable nature. Species like the desert elephant, rhino, and lion are specially adapted to life in this waterless environment of northwestern Namibia. Animals in this area are free roaming and not restricted by game park fences. Birders will also find plenty of interest with as many as 247 species of birds. Plants found in the area solely depend on the daily fog from the Atlantic Ocean such as the Welwitschia mirabilis, Nara melons, several lithops succulent plants, also called “living stones”, lichen and pencil bush.
The Cape fur seal colony at Cape Cross is a must see; one of the largest breeding colonies of Cape Fur Seals in the world with a population of approximately 700,00 adult seals and 138,000 juveniles.
Luxury accommodation to more affordable options is available and situated in truly isolated spots in the park and on the Angolan border. The Skeleton Coast National Park is a year-round destination with moderate temperatures and minimal rain, but the warmer months from October to March enjoy less mist and offer up the best angling opportunities.
Never stop exploring, your next adventure is one click away.