Skeleton Coast Driving: Enjoy an Adrenaline Pumping Experience
Namibia is a traveller’s paradise, especially if you are a nature lover. Besides going on a safari, you can explore the vast expanses of unspoilt land with diverse and unique ecosystems. One of the best places to explore is the Skeleton Coast. This desolate stretch of coastline is simultaneously exciting and eerie. The coast begins from Ugab River and continues all the way to the Angolan border to Kunene River. Skeleton Coast driving will allow you to unearth another perspective of Namibia.
How Did Skeleton Coast Get Its Name?
The ancient bushman of Namibia used to call the coastline the Land God Made in Anger. When Portuguese explorers came to Namibia in the 15th century, they called the coast Gates of Hell. The modern-day name, Skeleton Coast, comes from a book which was penned in the 1940s and chronicled the numerous shipwrecks along the coast. This name has stuck on and is used everywhere.
When you take on Skeleton Coast driving, be prepared to see shipwrecks in the ocean and on land. The treacherous rocks are the main culprit of these shipwrecks. Most of the wrecks are from centuries ago when early Dutch and Portuguese explorers were trying to find a quick route to India around Africa.
The local legend states that the first wreck was the ship on which Diogo Cao, who was a Portuguese explorer from the 15th century, sailed.
Today, the coastline has an eerie look and feel, thanks to shipwrecks, whale bones, sand dunes and fog. The coastline is preserved as a national park, but during your driving expedition, you will be able to explore the southern part of the park.
Unique Features of Skeleton Coast
The name of the coastline is fitting. You will find skeletons of just about everything – whales, ships, disused diamond mines, trawlers, gunboats and clippers. These skeletons reveal the ferocity of the current, heat and wind.
You will definitely admire the elemental beauty as you go Skeleton Coast driving. You may think that the land has no life, but you will be surprised to learn that there are lichens, chameleons, and tenebrionid beetles that survive on water that they soak up from the mist that flows from the sea. In the dry riverbeds, you will find gemsbok, desert elephants, lions, and hyenas that have adapted to this desolate landscape. Also, there are 75 seabird species and of course, the Cape fur seals.
Even before you arrive at Cape Cross, you will be able to smell the seals. The sight of thousands of seals grunting can be overwhelming. These seals are not afraid of people, and if you go too close, they will bare their teeth to warn you.
Go Skeleton Coast Driving on a 4×4
The best way to conquer the rugged and stark landscape is in a 4×4. But remember, you can travel on your wheels only until Terrace Bay. But don’t worry, you’ll still get to explore Skeleton Coast Park as well the shipwrecks, river canyons, salt pans, rock engravings and sand dunes.
The northern part of the park is reachable only by light aeroplane or a guided self drive safari tour. Here you can indulge in activities like enjoying a walk in the desert, visiting the Himba tribe, and going on an excursion along Kunene River. Use your 4×4 to the maximum as the accommodation is in an isolated location of the park. You will also find limited accommodation close to the Angolan border.
As a part of your Skeleton Coast driving expedition, you can visit Damaraland and Kaokoland. In Damaraland, enjoy guided rhino tracking and also visit the UNESCO World Heritage Site to check out rock paintings.
Remember, when you undertake Skeleton Coast driving, stay on the road. You cannot indulge in off-road driving as this will have an adverse impact on the delicate lichens and plants that thrive along the coast. Enjoy a stop at Ungab and Huab riverbeds to spot black-backed jackal, coast birds, and brown hyenas. The distances are vast, and it is best not to try and cover the entire length in a single day. So, plan your itinerary, especially if you want to leave Skeleton Coast Park before sunset.
Enjoying Skeleton Coast Park
You can take your 4×4 until Torra Bay and then head inland before leaving from the Springbokwater Gate. You can break your Skeleton Coast driving expedition in the southern part of the park at self-catering chalets at Terrace Bay or a campsite at Torra Bay. Just make sure you book in advance to ensure you get your accommodation without any hassle.
While the landscape in the park is the same as the outside, it is worthwhile to enjoy a stay here. It will allow you to see the wrecks at your leisure and also go on walks to see the desert-adapted wildlife. If you enjoy angling, it will be a welcome break from the driving. The park is an excellent place for shore fishing.
Making it Happen
It is never too late to book your Namibia travel and go on an exhilarating Skeleton Coast driving expedition. You really have to see the landscape to understand why it attracts thousands of intrepid travellers every year.