Skeleton Coast, so named from the bleached bones of stranded whales, sailors and ships.
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Skeleton Coast & KaokolandThe remote northwest of Namibia, known as Kaokoland (or the Kunene Region), is home to dramatic scenery, small populations of game and the Himba people – and beside it lies the equally remote coastline of the famous Skeleton Coast.
This north-western corner of the country is very remote and often difficult to visit – but there are two ways to see it: you can drive yourself along the southern section of the Skeleton Coast, or you can take one of two excellent, but very different, fly-in safaris to the more remote north of the coast.
In addition, you can also visit the very north of the region, staying beside the lush Kunene River. This can be an interesting Kaokoland add-on to either of the fly-in safaris, or as a destination in its own right.
Driving along the Skeleton CoastDriving north from Swakopmund you will travel through the section of coast is known as the National West Coast Tourist Recreation Area. This area will give you a good feel for what the Skeleton Coast is like – desolate and barren. However, despite this harsh environment, you will still see evidence of life when you look hard enough – lichen fields, vegetated dune hummocks, insects, snakes, and jackal.
The first amazing sight you come across is an enormous breeding colony of Cape fur seals at Cape Cross. You can detour here en route to Damaraland, or stay for a night at the cosy Cape Cross Lodge. Further to the north, deep within the Skeleton Coast National Park, Terrace Bay is a simple government-run restcamp about six hours' drive north of Swakopmund. It's the only place to stay for a very long way!
Fly-in safaris to the Skeleton CoastTo explore the Skeleton Coast and adjacent Kaokoland in more depth you need to get into the remote wilderness areas north of Terrace Bay. This means a different kind of trip altogether, as these areas are only easily accessible by small plane. Two first-class operations (with top professional guides) can do this: Skeleton Coast Safaris and the Skeleton Coast Camp.
Both operations will take you to very remote areas, to the western escarpment and into the narrow coastal belt, and show you a spectacular region. Both can be integrated into longer fly-drive or fly-in trips. They're both amongst the best trips in Africa, but neither is cheap. So read on, then talk to us for a comparison, and we'll help to choose the right one for you.
Skeleton Coast Safaris
Skeleton Coast Safaris is a small, family-run operation that has organized trips here for 20 more than years. They take up to eight passengers, using light aircraft to hop between remote beaches and private airstrips. You get to see a large, stunning area of north-west Namibia, flying over and landing at number of destinations which highlight the many varied landscapes.
Each trip is usually escorted by one of the Schoeman family, who acts as pilot, driver and expert guide. You spend every night in a different area, sleeping in dome tents at tiny permanent camps – Kuidas Camp and beside the dry Huab River; Purros Camp near a spring in the Hoarusib River; and Kunene River Camp, on the lush banks of the Kunene River.
The Schoemans are amongst the best guides in the country, and will open your eyes to this unique wilderness. These trips are hugely informative, giving unparalleled insight into the area and we cannot recommend them too highly.
You can find further details of the itinerary by looking at Expert Africa's Skeleton Coast safari trip, and also by checking out the three camps used on this safari.
Fly-in safari to the Skeleton Coast CampThe Skeleton Coast Camp offers a completely different concept with a more permanent base. This high-quality tented camp is situated on a small island in the dry Khumib River which is found in an uninhabited private reserve area of 3,000km² in a remote corner of the wilderness section of the Skeleton Coast National Park. Consequently there is no chance of bumping into anyone else whilst here!
During your three- or four-night stay at the camp (departing Windhoek every Wednesday or Saturday respectively) you explore various stark and beautiful areas within the reserve area and just outside it, with your professional guide. These may include trips over the vast dune belts to the coast or travelling inland to visit a Himba settlement. You may also get the opportunity to see lichen fields, desert-adapted elephants and visit a cape fur seal colony and ancient stone circles. With so much to see and do in this fascinating area you will not get bored – most people choose to take fully day trips from the camp having a delicious picnic en route.