Skeleton Coast, a hostile yet intriguing beach is infamous for its shallow rocky water, strong winds and unpredictable tides. It got its name from the bones and debris of the whales and ships that are washed along the beach. Referred as “The Gates of Hel” by Portuguese sailors and “The Land God Made in Anger” by the inland bushmen, Skeleton Coast turn into enigmatic landscape where the cold currents of Atlantic Ocean meet the dry tall dunes of Namibian desert.
This inhabitable harsh coastal region is one of few coastal areas where the desert meets the oceans and forms an exotic experience that is both terrifying and enthralling.
Skeleton coast is situated on the remote western coastline of Namibia stretching 40km wide and 500km long along the Atlantic Ocean. This narrow coast that stretches from south of Angola from the Kunene River south to the Swakop River, is a foggy and rock shallow waters of rusting shipwrecks along the beach of whale skeleton and shipwreck debris.
The Skeleton Coast can be divided into two regions. The easily accessible southern region that stretches from the Ugab River up to Torra Bay comprises dunes, canyons, mountains and saltpans north of Swakopmund. The remote, harsh desert coast of the northern part from Torra Bay up to the Kunene at the Angolan border is dominated by the thick fog and cold sea breeze that forms a mystic landscape of shipwrecks and large sand dunes.
Undeterred by the harsh desert conditions, wildlife has evolved to sustain in this pristine environment. Large mammals such as desert elephants, rhinos and giraffes have adopted to dig deep in the river beds in search of fresh waters. The freshwater springs from barren sands forms pockets of life sustaining oases supporting wildlife adopted to the desert life.
Skeleton Coast is home to one of the largest cape cross seal colony. This attracts some of the desert adopted predators like desert lions, brown hyenas, jackals and rarely cheetahs. In spite of harsh climate several animals like oryx, kudus and zebras have adopted to the desert conditions along with an incredible endemic birdlife including a rare tern, flamingos and pelicans.
The dense fog that covers the coast at times supports vegetation and several species of insects. Welwitchias, nara melons, lithops succulent plants, lichen and pencil bush are found here despite the lack of rainfall.
The Skeleton Coast climate is characterised by the heavy fog and cold breeze that forms the misty mornings. The fog is cleared as the day progress into a typical desert environment. The dry winter months from April to October are relatively mild experiencing dense fog and strong winds with average temperature around 21°C/70°F. The wet season that runs from November to March sees very less to no rain at all. The average daytime temperature is around 25°C/77°F.
Best time to visit
The warmers months from November to March with clearer skies and less fog is ideal time to visit the enchanting landscape of cold Atlantic breeze hitting the tall dunes of the desert. As the migrant birds appear during this period, it is also a good time to watch wildlife who tend to scatter away to hide cold breeze coming from the ocean.
Located in the remote north eastern region of Namibia, Skeleton Coast is a mystic coast that is home to large number of shipwrecks, bones of whales and fishes and a rock shallow water. One of the fierce beach that meets the large sand dunes is a must visit place in Namibia.