Skeleton Coast & Kaokoland
A dangerous and remote stretch of coastline once littered with shipwrecks and whale bones is aptly named the Skeleton Coast. It’s as dramatic as it is desolate. Stretching from Swakopmund to Kaokoland in the north, this is untouched Africa.
Miles and miles of emptiness with lost stone circles and a very few Himba settlements. We saw the odd jackal and impala, plus seals on the coast, but mainly we simply revelled in wilderness. I just loved it.
The strong Benguela current, shifting sandbanks and dense fog make this a particularly dangerous yet fascinating stretch of coastline. It was once littered with shipwrecks, though many of these have now been claimed back by the sea.
The northern region of the Skeleton Coast National Park and an area stretching inland is known as Kaokoland. This extreme and stark terrain is true wilderness, Africa for adventurers, home of the nomadic Himba and Herero tribes. It is an area less visited, but if you do have the time and the budget it’s a very special place that will leave a lasting impression.
Perhaps surprisingly the area sustains an array of wildlife both at the turbulent seashore and inland. The stunning rock formations, dunes and plains are home to desert-adapted elephant, brown hyena and many more species while the coastlines are the domain of the Cape fur seals and hungry scavengers. At first glance you wouldn’t think anything could survive here, but it does!
- Photography: Crashing waves and swirling mists make for atmospheric photographs.
- Scenic flights: A flight along the rugged coastline gives appreciation to the vast expanse of it all.
- Cape Cross Seal Colony: North of Swakopmund and accessible by car is the Cape Cross Seal Colony, it’s absolutely huge. There is a viewing platform that allows you to get quite close to the seals without bothering them.
- Scenery: The coastline is as atmospheric as it is awe-inspiring, and the stark beauty of the area is captivating. Further north and inland the dunes give way to drought-hardy grasslands, dry riverbeds and dotted rocky outcrops. You’ll mostly have the place to yourself. It’s untouched Africa.
- Culture: Kaokoland is the home of the Himba, a semi-nomadic people who still live very much as they have for generations. Known for their intricate red matted hair braids, their skin is covered in the same ochre mixture and their clothing made from animal skin. Himba are pastoral people whose lives centre around cattle and goat herding.
- Epupa Falls: These falls lie close to the Angolan border, remote and untouched with excellent birding opportunities.
- Accommodation: Places to stay on the Skeleton Coast are scarce, though located slightly inland we like Hoanib Skeleton Coast Camp and also the quirky Shipwreck Lodge. Their remoteness means access is best by light aircraft rather than self-drive. Also at the very tip of the country, by the Angolan border is Serra Cafema Camp, about as remote as you’ll get, but no compromise on luxury.