Skeleton Coast National Park
Located on Namibia’s western shores, the Skeleton Coast National Park is one of the last areas of true wilderness on the planet and a real highlight for most visitors. The coast is dotted with shipwrecks, desert-adapted wildlife and luxury lodges that combine to make a truly unique and unforgettable experience.
About the Skeleton Coast National Park
Stretching across 16,390 km² the Skeleton Coast National Park is a unique ecosystem of other-worldly landscapes with towering dunes, vast gravel plains and a desolate but compelling coastline. Although historically the name ‘Skeleton Coast’ was used to refer to the entirety of Namibia’s coastline, today it describes the 500 km expanse north of Swakopmund, and 40 km east into the arid Damaraland region.
Unpredictable weather patterns in this region have caused the demise of many vessels and their crew, and shipwrecks can be seen scattered along the beaches. One of the main culprits is the thick, lingering fog which is caused by the icy waters of the Benguela ocean current combining with the intense heat of the African sun.
The fog plays an important role in the ecosystem, acting as a source of water for many of the desert’s inhabitants. The ocean breeze drifts eastwards across the Namib Desert and into Damaraland, carrying with it the moisture of the fog. This provides ample nutrients for succulent plants to survive, which in turn offer a water source for wildlife. As a result, game drives and wildlife viewing are exciting and unique activities on a tailor-made Skeleton Coast holiday.
Skeleton Coast Wildlife Safaris
Game viewing in the Skeleton Coast National Park is unlike safaris elsewhere in Africa. There is a variety of desert-adapted wildlife such as elephant, black rhino, giraffe, kudu, hyena, jackal and sometimes even lion. Such iconic species are seldom found in such unusual settings anywhere in Africa. Although wildlife isn’t as prolific as in places like Etosha National Park, sightings are unique and very often incredibly interesting.
4×4 game drives in the Skeleton Coast National Park can be arranged through your accommodation or can be done as a self-drive experience in a hired vehicle. Nature walks can also be a fantastic way to experience a holiday on the Skeleton Coast, and there are few excursions quite as exciting as seeing an elephant whilst out on foot. However, Skeleton Coast nature walks also provide an insight into small desert lifeforms, such as lizards and desert plants, which are often missed on a 4×4 safari.
Best Things to Do on the Skeleton Coast
The ghostly remains of former vessels protrude dramatically from the sandy shores all along the Skeleton Coast. They make for excellent photo opportunities and serve as a stark reminder of the danger of the nearby ocean. The South West Sea, the Winston and the Zeila are all easy wrecks to visit and don’t require a guide. They are well signposted from the main road and simple to find during a bespoke Skeleton Coast holiday. The Zeila and the Winston are both located to the south of the National Park. The history of many of the wrecks can be explained by an expert during a guided tour, and some wrecks in remote areas of the park require special permits and/ or the accompaniment of a registered guide.
There are huge colonies of Cape fur seals that live off the Skeleton Coast, with some numbering in the hundreds of thousands. Boat trips to see the seals are one of the highlights of a tailor-made holiday on the Skeleton coast.
Visitors between November and January are likely to see battles between large males as they determine territories and breeding rights. Seals can be seen year-round, but if you want to see seal-pups, come during December as this is when they tend to be born.
The Skeleton Coast National Park is one of the most dramatic landscapes in all of Namibia, and visits to the Ugab riverbed will reward travellers with sights of unearthly-looking rock formations that rise starkly from the desert floor. There’s really no place quite like it.
For those seeking an adventure on their family Skeleton Coast holiday, fishing, sand boarding and desert quad-biking excursions are available from some lodges. Contact us to discuss which of the Skeleton Coast accommodation options best suits the experience you are after.
Scenic flights over the Skeleton Coast National park are an excellent way to see the region’s incredible landscapes. Flights depart from Swakopmund and fly over the Moon Landscape as well as the Swakop, Kuiseb, and Khan rivers. It is also common for wildlife to be seen from above during flights. Scenic flights last for roughly 1.5 hours and can be arranged at time of booking your luxury Skeleton Coast holiday.
Skeleton Coast Self-Drives
Self-driving holidays in the Skeleton Coast National Park are possible and easy to arrange. Please speak with one of our team for more information on itineraries and car hire.
Best Places to Stay on the Skeleton Coast
The choice of Skeleton Coast lodges is fantastic, and all lodges in the area offer an incredible Skeleton Coast safari experience in their own right. Terrace Bay Resort and Torra Bay are also good government-run resort and campsite options along the Skeleton Coast, but be aware that campsites may not be open year-round.
Some lodges located in Damaraland are also within driving distance of the Skeleton Coast National Park and can be an excellent base to explore both areas.
Hand-picked Camps and Lodges
Best Time to Visit the Skeleton Coast
When to go to the Skeleton Coast is one of our most frequently asked questions, but the answer is quite simple as the national park is a year-round destination. The best months to visit are between October and March when the weather is warmer. There can be some rain during this time, but this keeps the skies clear for those all-important photographs.