A visit to Namibia's 700 kilometres of Skeleton Coast is an unforgettable experience, and visitors are often struck by the extreme natural phenomena that takes place in this remote region. As the dusty winds from the rust-red desert meet with the cold Atlantic seascapes, a foggy atmosphere pervades along this otherworldly stretch of coast. These weather patterns have historically been troublesome, and Skeleton Coast’s name came from the bones of unfortunate sailors, adventurers and even whales that lost the fight against the force of nature. The San Bushmen called it ‘The Land God Made in Anger’ whilst Portuguese sailors once referred to it as ‘The Gates of Hell’. Many a ship have met with disaster on this treacherous coastline, and today half-buried shipwrecks are strewn along the beach which make for stunning, if somewhat stark photography.
At Cape Cross, you can see the breeding ground of the Cape Fur seals, which are in fact species of Sea Lion. The sight of hundreds of seals wallowing on the beach is impressive, although be warned of the rather clinging aroma! You may also see opportunistic jackals and brown hyenas here taking advantage of any vulnerable seals. They, along with ghost crabs are responsible for keeping the beaches clean.
Much of the northern half of the Skeleton Coast National Park is a designated wildlife area. Around the sand-bedded Hoanib River and its ribbon of vegetation is the chance to see how the desert-adapted mammals and plant life survive in this harsh environment – discover how the early morning fog provides water to these species and the pods of Albiba tree feed giraffe, elephant and springbok. Elephants need to range widely, up to 60 kilometres a day, between different springs in order to survive in this harsh environment. They also dig holes or ‘gorras’ in the dry riverbeds into which water seeps up from below providing water for the other animals living in the desert. Lion are seasonally found in the river courses as the game in which they prey on comes and goes. They are usually found at waterholes stalking an unsuspecting oryx or springbok. There is a healthy population of the critically endangered black rhino, one of the highest in the world. Needing water every second day they travel vast distances and can often be seen at these water sources or resting near a Euphorbia or Hoodia Bush. An impressive bird often seen is the lappet-faced vulture, a large bird which nests on the top of tall acacia trees. Although they are widely distributed throughout Africa they are rare and extremely vulnerable because of their long breeding cycles.
Features in the following itineraries
Like all great travellers, I have seen more than I remember, and remember more than I have seen.
- Mr & Mrs Manson, North India
- Anonymous, India
- Mr David Wallace, North India
- Leslie Siben, India
- Mr Richard Stoughton, Sri Lanka
- Jaime Benitez, South India
- Krista Weir, Sri Lanka
- Matthew Annable, Rajasthan, India
- Matthew Nicklin, North India
- Mr Geoffrey Johnson, India