The Skeleton Coast & Cape Cross Travel Region
The incredible wealth of fauna at the Skeleton Coast will surprise you. Its river courses sustain large species such as Namibia's renowned "desert elephant", giraffe, black rhino, lion and many smaller species; while the plains have springbok, ostrich and gemsbok in large numbers. It's a fascinating area where interdependent dune-dwelling insects, reptiles and small mammals survive against all odds - getting sustenance from the frequent sea fogs and wind-blown detruitus.
* The Skeleton Coast & Cape Cross Highlights
- ∞Encompasses the northern third of Namibia's coastline
- ∞The Skeleton Coast is well-named for the scores of shipwrecks and old whale bones littering its beaches
- ∞Stark, arid area ranging from wind-swept dunes to rugged canyons and mountain ranges
- ∞Cold Benguela Current, dense fog and pounding surf characterise the coastal climate
- ∞Home to a great variety of adapted species - big cats, elephants, black rhino, gemsbok and more
- ∞Cape Cross Seal colony - one of the biggest Cape fur seal breeding grounds
- ∞Increasingly popular surfing destination with endless left breaks
Although Namibia's entire coastline was formerly known as The Skeleton Coast, today it refers more to the Skeleton Coast National Park which stretches from the Angolan border/Kunene River to the north for some 500 km to the Ugab River in the south, making up ⅓ of Namibia's coastline.
Fair Share of Skeletons
The area's name comes from a book written in 1944 about a famous shipwreck, the Dunedin Star, but this coastline has quite a collection of shipwrecks, ancient whale and seal bones from its former whaling station days and shell middens from early Strandlopers that inhabited the area.
The shipwrecks are the result of the swelling cold Benguela current which also causes dense ocean fogs and rough surf. With the endless movement of the dunes, some of these shipwrecks are now located many kilometres from shore - and now rest in a sea of sand.
Surprising Wealth of Wildlife
The many plant and insect species are perfectly adapted to get moisture from the dense sea fogs that engulf the coast and to feed off windblown detruitus. A fascinating example is the Welwitschia plant - only seen here and in Angola - given its own specialised botanical family. This messy-looking, two-leafed plant is known as a 'living fossil', dating back to the Jurassic period.
Despite it's arid, inhospitable appearance, the Skeleton Coast Park has a greater variety of species than many other parks in Southern Africa, including: Namibia's famous desert-adapted elephant, black rhino, lion, cheetah, giraffe, gemsbok, zebra, springbok, both spotted and brown hyena and unusual endemic reptiles like the armour-plated lizard and Nile soft-shelled turtles.
Some 247 species of birds have been recorded in the area, including the near-endemic Damara Tern, which nests and breeds on the gravel plains near the coast. Fishing is said to be spectacular and in season, June to November, you're likely to see shoals of endemic Benguela dolphin; killer, southern right and humpback whale.
Visiting the Skeleton Coast Park
Day visitors are only allowed between sunrise and sunset and permits are obtainable at the two entry gates: Ugab River in the south and Springbokwasser in the east. The area north of Terrace Bay is ecologically-sensitive and closed to the general public. It's only accessible to a few operators who conduct fly-in safaris around Namibia - a highly-recommended way to experience this extraordinary area of Namibia.
A visit to the Cape Cross Seal Colony is worthwhile - but be warned! - it has to be one of the stinkiest places in Namibia!
Its an arid desolate area which rarely gets more than 10 mm (almost 0.40 inces) of rain annually. Summer is from October to April and temperatures range from 20-40° C/68-104° F. Winter is from May to September, with temperatures from 0-23° C/32-73° F. It's good to visit any time of the year!