The Skeleton Coast lies in the far northwest of Namibia – the wildest parts of this already remote country. We have played slightly fast and loose with our description of this area. Within our Skeleton Coast page we include not only the Skeleton Coast National Park but also the Kunene river in the far north and the neighbouring Kaokoland, home to the nomadic Himba people.
North of Swakopmund lies the Skeleton Coast National Park. However only the less interesting flatter plains in the south are accessible to normal cars. For us, the real Skeleton Coast can only be accessed by light charter flight or 4×4 off-road transfers and tours.
Life on the Skeleton Coast is an ongoing struggle for survival. This a coast of mammal skeletons, shipwrecks, roaring dunes, windswept plains, seal colonies and wild desolation. The attraction of the Skeleton Coast lies in the colours, changing moods and untouched profile of its landscape. Its aura of mystery is largely due to the dense coastal fog and cold sea breezes caused by the cold Benguela ocean currents. Shipwrecks scattered along the coast bear witness to many ships that have come to grief on these desolate shores.
The southern-most tip of the Skeleton Coast is accessible by rental car but consists mostly of gravel plains. Visitors to Swakopmund can venture up the coast to visit the Cape fur seals at Cape Cross for the day. You can even stay the night at Cape Cross Lodge. You can travel further north past Terrace Bay and then inland to Palmwag but it’s a very long way and the road can get closed by shifting sands. Most of our clients rather travel inland to southern Damaraland.
However the real Skeleton Coast is a very fragile environment and access is severely restricted so it is only accessible by safari plane. Two fly-in safaris are on offer. Skeleton Coast Safaris visit several different areas camping in dome tents. Alternatively you can fly into the remote Hoanib Skeleton Coast Camp which is then used as a base for full day excursions. Both are excellent ‘once-in-a-lifetime’ experiences with a price tag to match!
Why Visit the Skeleton Coast?
- To see a unique landscape quite unlike anywhere else in the world
- Experience the ‘roaring dunes’
- Stunning flying experience over the coast
- Explore the fascinating vegetation and wildlife
- Visit the villages of the Himba people
- Enjoy quad biking, walking and nature drives at the Kunene River
Kaokoland & Kunene
The remote Kaokoland, or Kunene region lies inland from the Skeleton Coast. Here the clash between the icy Atlantic Ocean and the warm desert air generates early morning mists which drift along the rivers and canyons, providing sustenance to wildlife and flora alike. Along the northern edge of the Kaokaland on the lush Kunene River, birds and animals not only survive but flourish.
The inhospitable Kaokoveld is a remote but stunning region of mountains and dry riverbeds. It is home to the last nomadic tribe in Namibia, the Himba people with their tiny settlements of beehive huts.
Unusual inhabitants, like the infamous lions of the Skeleton Coast have been spotted, uniquely adapted to utilize scarce resources. The lions don’t stay on the coast but use the rivers to move between the Skeleton Coast and the Kaokoland inland.
The Kunene region in the far north represents Namibia at its most primeval. This vast desert mountain country is crossed only by rugged, unsignposted 4×4 tracks.
Our clients usually visit this area in one of two ways. 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. This may include a visit to a local group of Himba people if they are in the region.
Alternatively our clients raid their piggy banks and splash out on a glorious fly-in visit to Serra Cafema Camp on the Kunene River.