Skeleton Coast starts south of the Orange River, includes the whole Namibian coastline and continues across the Kunene River some 200 km into Angola in southern Africa. It is part of the Namib Desert. The landscape includes sand dunes, canyons and mountain ranges all of which are synonymous with Namibia.
Dense fog and cold sea breezes are caused by the cold Benguela Current which flows offshore, meeting with the extreme heat of the Namib Desert. The wild and barren area is now a place of beauty and tranquillity.
The Skeleton Coast is famous for the over 500 ship wrecks which have met their fate over the centuries along its 450 miles of coastline. Many of these wrecks still litter the desolate beaches and coins as well as other small artefacts continue to wash ashore.
The name came from the bones that lined the beaches from whaling operations and seal hunts, but more than a few of the skeletons were human. The Bushmen called it The Land God Made in Anger and the Portuguese knew it as The Gates of Hell. Dense fogs, mighty storms and violent surf caused many ships in the past to run aground along the Skeleton Coast, and the desolate coastline has become known as the world’s biggest ship graveyard.
Those who were shipwrecked and managed to swim through the roaring surf and reach the coast, but have a small chance of survival because of the waterless, hostile, 300km wide coastal desert.
The landscape in the park ranges from sweeping vistas of windswept dunes to rugged canyons with walls of richly coloured volcanic rock and extensive mountain ranges. Its level coastline characterizes the park, only occasionally broken by scattered rocky outcrops.
Despite its arid and deadly appearance, the Skeleton Coast has a greater variety of species Large mammals include Namibia’s famous desert-adapted elephant, black rhino, lion, cheetah, giraffe, gemsbok, zebra, springbok and spotted and brown hyena, are found in the dry river beds which flow from the interior of Namibia, through the Namib Desert to the Skeleton Coast.
Benguela dolphins, killer whales and humpback whales are found off-shore. Occasionally beach-combing lions scour the area in search of marine carrion, and it has been recorded that in one instance a pride of lions were seen feeding on a beached whale at Torra Bay.
The harsh environment is home to the likes of the nomadic Himba people whose women have a custom of covering every square inch of their bodies with layer upon layer of ochre mud painstakingly ground from rocks, mixed with water and butter fat and then smeared over the face, hair and the rest of the anatomy in a daily ritual of self adornment.
The Skeleton Coast has everything, from soaring sand dunes that roar, wonderful vast pastel coloured plains, towering canyons and mountains, salt pans to seal colonies and ghostly shipwrecks.
The Benguela Current brings cool, plankton and fish rich waters all the way from the Antarctica and moderates the temperatures in the region. Summers are incredibly mild - in the desert. The cool ocean air meets the warm desert air and nearly every morning mists cover the coastline, bringing life-sustaining moisture to the desert’s fauna and flaura