Skeleton Coast Shipwreck Lodge: Our full report
Skeleton Coast Shipwreck Lodge – often referred to simply as Shipwreck Lodge – lies just inland of the Atlantic ...... Coast, at the mouth of the Hoarusib River in Namibia’s wild and mysterious Skeleton Coast National Park. Opened in 2018, the lodge offers an oasis of warmth and comfort in desolate and otherworldly surroundings.
For many, the Skeleton Coast conjures up images of shipwrecked sailors, whalebones and predators scouring the mist-shrouded coast for their next meal. The combination of mystery and isolation has captured the imagination of many travellers, perhaps fuelled by dramatic accounts from survivors of wrecks such as the Dunedin Star in 1942, or maybe stunning images of the area’s desert lion, filmed in the BBC’s Planet Earth 2 and reproduced in the book the Vanishing Kings. Now, with the opening of Shipwreck Lodge, travellers can finally access this coastline in a way that until now has been impossible.
Constructed of wood and glass, the lodge’s ten rooms, including two family rooms, call to mind images of a shipwreck strewn across the dunes. Inside, each is vaguely reminiscent of a ski chalet, with lots of light wood brightened by colourful pillows and blankets, while large windows looking out to sea give a light, airy feel. Comfy twin or king-size beds have bedside tables and reading lamps, while the family rooms also have a chaise longue that can be made up as a third bed for a child on request. In all, a wood burner helps to keep the room cosy even in the most inclement weather. In fact, on our visit in April 2019 we found that with the wood burner lit we had to open the windows to keep us from overheating.
Separating the bedroom from the en-suite bathroom is a small link room that serves as a luggage storage area, with shelves and a small safe. This is also where you’ll find a small writing desk, along with tea and coffee.
The bathroom itself is a wet room whose power shower is particularly impressive given the lack of water here. There are twin basins and a flush toilet, too, while privacy is provided by screens of upcycled driftwood, fishing gear and other flotsam collected from the beach. Natural light is provided courtesy of stylised porthole windows.
At the time of our visit, the rooms were linked to the lodge’s main area by sandy paths across the dunes – a fairly arduous walk, particularly from the furthest rooms. Fortunately, the planned addition of wooden walkways should make this easier.
Once inside, the main area is an inviting place to relax away from the often harsh outside conditions. In structure and design, the open-plan building feels like an enlarged version of the individual rooms, with more large glass windows looking out to sea, colourful fabrics and light wood. A large wood burner sets the scene, with plenty of comfy seating including window seats, sofas chairs and pouffes. Then there’s a proper bar, as well as individual dining tables, a bookcase stacked with plenty to read on the coast and on Namibia as a whole, and board games to while away those odd moments of downtime.
When the weather allows, the deck in front of the main building, complete with some rather optimistic sunloungers, comes into its own. But even on less clement evenings, being wrapped in a blanket, gin and tonic in hand, and watching the sun set as the mist comes rolling in on the wind and the sea crashes in the distance is an eerie and wonderfully refreshing way to enjoy a sundowner.
The Skeleton Coast doesn’t feature significant densities of wildlife so come for the location, the scenery and to escape the real world. Desert-adapted elephant, brown hyena and even lion do inhabit the area, but any sightings are very much a bonus.
Activities from the lodge reflect the environment, with 4WD excursions heading either up the Hoarusib River, or south down the coast. The first takes in highlights such as the seemingly improbable Clay Castles and the surreal roaring dunes, with a chance of sighting of some of the area’s elusive wildlife. To the south, you’ll pass the remnants of the Suiderkus and Karimona shipwrecks and the abandoned Westies diamond mine, before ending up at the seal colony at Möwe Bay.
Those wanting a break from the larger 4WD vehicles can also go quadbiking in the dunes around camp, giving a fun and very different take on the surroundings. You can also try your hand at shore fishing (subject to permits) and set out along one of the walking trails through the dunes between the lodge and the beach.
To explore further, consider combining Shipwreck Lodge with its sister property, Hoanib Valley Camp. As part of the 4WD transfer from one lodge to the other, guests spend a full day exploring the Hoanib and Hoarusib riverbeds: a spectacular trip and a unique opportunity to get to grips with yet more of Namibia’s most remote landscapes.
Staying at Skeleton Coast Shipwreck Lodge is a real wilderness experience. With its extremes of weather, ranging from foggy mornings and evenings to scorching sun, high winds and bitterly cold nights, this is the Skeleton Coast at its rawest and most spectacular. In contrast to the environment, the lodge is a comfortable, cosy and eminently photogenic hideaway with attentive staff, and a good range of activities allowing guests to explore the surrounding area.
Country manager: Namibia
- Skeleton Coast & Kaokoland, Namibia
- Ideal length of stay
- Given the location and the logistics of getting here two nights is the minimum stay, but three would be better.
- Fly-in guests are met at Möwe Bay airstrip followed by a 2–3 hour 4WD transfer to the lodge. Self-drive guests get themselves to Möwe Bay, and then use the same transfer.
- Accessible by
- Self-drive or Fly-and-Transfer
Food & drink
- Usual board basis
- Full Board & Activities
- Food quality
- In April 2019, the food was fresh, the choice at dinner in particular was greater than we are used to seeing at a Namibian safari lodge, and the execution of everything we ate was excellent. We understand that with advanced notice most dietary needs can be catered for.
A buffet breakfast of cereals, fresh fruit, cold meats, cheeses, fresh pastries or muffins, tea, coffee and fruit juices, is followed by hot dishes prepared to order.
For lunch we were treated to a very special if windy beach BBQ. A selection of freshly cooked meats was served with green, pasta and potato salads.
Our three-course dinner started with the option of onion soup or a bacon and potato rose (a kind of sautée/fondant potato cut into the shape of a rose). This was followed by either fish, or feta and tomato stuffed chicken, or tomato penne pasta. Dessert was then a choice of a cheeseboard or chocolate brownie and ice cream.
- Honeymoon or not, Namibia is synonymous with escaping into the wilderness and Shipwreck Lodge is about as remote as you can get! This stylish lodge beautifully contrasts the Skeleton Coast’s hostility with cosy cabins, perfect for a romantic escape.
- See ideas for Honeymoons
- Photography holidays
- The desolate landscapes, eerie shipwrecks and windswept beaches of Namibia’s Skeleton Coast National Park are worthy photographic subjects in their own right. Combined these with the modern and stylish Shipwreck Lodge and it becomes a photographer’s dream destination.
- See ideas for Photography holidays
- Attitude towards children
- Families with children are welcome.
- Property’s age restrictions
- No minimum age. Children under the age of 16 may not take part in any quadbiking activities.
- Special activities & services
- Sandboarding can be arranged for children on request.
The lodge can arrange for childcare on request, but please note that this will not be conducted by a trained childcare professional.
- Cots can be arranged on request.
- Generally recommended for children
- Given the remote location, relatively adult feel and long transfers to and from Shipwreck Lodge, we think that it is better suited to older children.
- Although the lodge is unfenced, the area around is relatively safe and children can be given quite a lot of freedom – but we would still advise adult supervision at all times.
Our travellers’ wildlife sightings from Shipwreck Lodge
Since mid-2018, many of our travellers who stayed at Skeleton Coast Shipwreck Lodge have kindly recorded their wildlife sightings and shared them with us. The results are below. Click an animal to see more, and here to see more on our methodology.
- Power supply notes
- There is a backup generator in case the solar power system fails.
- WiFi is available in the main area.
- TV & radio
- Water supply
- Water supply notes
- The fully plumbed bathrooms include flush toilets and hot water is provided by solar geysers.
Health & safety
- Malarial protection recommended
- Medical care
- The managers are trained in first aid. The nearest hospital is in Swakopmund.
Quadbike warning: Quadbiking is sometimes available as an activity from Shipwreck Lodge. As with any potentially dangerous activity, it's vital that you take responsibility for ensuring that you have adequate travel insurance prior to getting involved. Be aware that some insurances cover quadbike activities only for bikes with lower engine ratings: check such clauses particularly carefully before you get on a bike.
- Dangerous animals
- Moderate Risk
- Security measures
- The camp’s managers and guides all sleep on site.
- Fire safety
- There are fire extinguishers in each room and the main area.
Guided walking safari
- Disabled access
- On Request
- Laundry facilities
- Same-day laundry is included, depending on the weather.
- Each room has a small electronic safe.
- Accepted payment on location
- The camp accepts cash in Namibian dollars or SA rand and card payment by AmEx, Visa or Mastercard.
Other lodges in Skeleton Coast & Kaokoland
Alternative places to stay in this same area.