Remote and relatively hostile, this 500 km stretch along the northernmost part of the Namibian Atlantic coastline, is named after the many losses endured by the ships that sank here. Despite its harsh climate and foreboding sense of danger, the Skeleton Coast is wildly beautiful and utterly fascinating, and for the true adventurer, well worth a visit.
The waters are famous for their powerful and unpredictable currents, dense fogs, gale force winds and belligerent sand banks in constant motion. These treacherous conditions have resulted in the sinking of many hundreds of ships over the centuries, the skeletons of which litter the beaches, casting eerie silhouettes along the coastline.
There is a constant, heavy surf rolling onto the beaches. Before engine-powered boats, while it was possible to get ashore through the surf, it was impossible to launch from the shore to leave – a kind of Namibian Hotel California.
You get a sense of the place when you hear that the indigenous Namibian bushmen named it, “The land God made in anger”; a sentiment very much endorsed by Portuguese seafarers who once referred to it as “The Gates of Hell”.
Despite its prevalent inhospitality, the Skeleton Coast still carries a charm, from the large seal colonies at Cape Fria, to the resilient, desert-adapted insects and reptiles who depend on the thick sea fogs for moisture.
The humidity provided by the fog pushes inwards across seemingly desolate miles, guaranteeing life for many animal species, as the coast blends seamlessly into pure, untamed wilderness. The riverbeds further inland are home to many large mammals, including elephants, black rhinos, lions, giraffes, springbok, zebras and baboons. And not least, the incredible semi-nomadic Himba people themselves.
If the Skeleton Coast was a stick of rock it would have ‘adventure’ written all the way through it.