The Skeleton Coast

38 The coast of NamibiaFor pure adventure, it’s hard to beat the Skeleton Coast of Namibia on the southwestern coast of Africa. Strewn with shipwrecks, glittering with gemstones, and often enveloped in thick fog, the Skeleton Coast is a place of mystery and harsh beauty. The entire coastline of Namibia was previously referred to as the Skeleton Coast, but now the name more specifically applies to the land contained within the Skeleton Coast National Park.

The 16,000-square-kilometer park is bordered by the Kunene River to the north and the Ugab River to the south, encompassing fully a third of the country’s coastline. The inhospitable nature of the area is reflected in the various names that have been given it over the years. The area has been dubbed “The Land God Made in Anger” by indigenous tribes and “The Gates of Hell” by Portuguese sailors.

Local lore contains tales of shipwrecked vessels, stranded sailors, offshore rocks, impenetrable fogs, fierce surf, sun-bleached bones, and man-eating crocodiles. A stroll down the shore will confirm many of these details, as the hulks of wrecked ships can be found along the length of the shore.

For photographers, the park’s massive sand dunes and many notable wrecks provide ample subject matter, as do the populations of cape fur seals and flocks of seabirds that frequent the shoreline. Travelers on safari will not be disappointed as there are many species found within the park’s perimeter, including lions, baboons, elephants, black rhinos, hyenas, and cheetahs, as well as zebra, giraffe and springbok. Birdwatchers will be enthralled by over 200 species of birds within the park’s territory, and fishermen and whale-watchers will also find the area full of adventure.

Tourists may enter the southern region of the park via car (there are entrances at the Ugab River in the South and Springbokwasser in the east). The northern portion of the park is a conservation zone only accessible via fly-in safari.

Accommodations are available both inside and outside the park, but choices are somewhat limited. From rustic campsites catering to fishermen to comfortable fly-in lodges and tent camps, there are choices in several price ranges.

There are few places in the world that retain the rugged isolation and unspoiled beauty of the Skeleton Coast, making it a perfect choice for the true adventure-seeker.