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Namibia's Enigmatic Skeleton Coast

Jul 14, 2008
The Wilderness Safaris Skeleton Coast Camp is located on the dry Khumib River and offers an excellent base for explorations into this remote area. Alternatively visitors can access this area with the renowned Schoemans family who offer a range of fly-in itineraries which traverse this region. Travellers can visit Rocky Point, Cape Fria seal colony, the Himba village at Puros, the wreck of the Dunedin Star and the clay castles of the Hoarusib River. This once in a lifetime experience will inspire awe in the most seasoned traveller.

In December 2006 I was lucky enough to visit the Wilderness Safaris Skeleton Coast Camp in northern Namibia. I knew that this was an area I would love, and I was anticipating the usual mix of spectacular scenery, desert wildlife and interesting history. However, nothing could have prepared me for the sheer remoteness of this pristine area, and the haunting beauty of the ancient landscape. It was a true step backwards in time, and it was easy to imagine that any minute now we would see a hulking, wooden ship crashing to shore out of the perpetual mist when we looked out towards the Atlantic on our first morning.

The weather in this area is notoriously unpredictable. The coast is subjected to nine months of morning fog each year which stretches for up to 30km inland, and these damp and grey conditions often result in cool temperatures which persist for the whole day. This band of mist does however have its ecological benefits, providing water and thus life to the desert flora and fauna which includes 80 species of lichen and the ancient Welwitschia plants.

During our three full days of excursions in the area we visited Cape Fria with its huge colony of barking Cape Fur Seals diving playfully through the crashing waves. We learned about the wreck of the Dunedin Star and the amazing rescue mission that involved a plane (which subsequently crashed), a small boat (which was grounded) and s fleet of 4x4 vehicles (which eventually reached the stranded passengers)! We drove over spectacular dune belts and through vast gravel plains populated with a plethora of lichens resplendent in colour and size. We visited the Himba people near Puros and learnt something of their fascinating traditional lifestyle, and we meandered up the Hoarusib River bed in search of desert elephant, giraffe and oryx.

After absorbing so much of this unique environment it was difficult to decide on my favourite aspects, but in the end it was the small things which were the most memorable. Walking along an immaculate, white sand beach littered with whale bones, watching a family of Suricates (Meerkats) playing on the gravel plains near sunset, exploring and photographing a hillside covered with bright lichens, watching two desert elephant slide gracefully down a sand dune before ambling off into the lush vegetation of the river valley. It is not many parts of the world which remain as inaccessible and as wild as the Skeleton Coast, my visit was a real privilege and a truly unforgettable experience!

Africa Tourist Info (ATI Holidays) can organise fly-in safaris to this remote area as stand-alone itineraries or as part of a longer safari.
About the Author
For Namibia self-drive tours go to www.infotour-africa.com or email infotour@iafrica.com.na Tel. ++264 61 228 717
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