You can find the Skeleton Coast in the northern part of South Africa’s Namibia coast. It stretches alongside the Atlantic Ocean, south of Angola from the Kunene River. Over time, it has been referred to as “the gates of hell.” But the Skeleton Coast isn’t just a destination for horror fanatics. In fact, despite the storied history of crashed vessels and shipwrecks, the Skeleton Coast is popular today as an excellent place for surfing.
Curious about the history of the Skeleton Coast? Eager to hit the waves? Explore the Skeleton Coast of Namibia on your African safari journey and take home a story to remember!
About The Skeleton Coast
The Skeleton Coast gets its name from a myriad of sources. For one, when the whaling industry was at its peak, whale and seal bones littered the shore, leaving literal skeletons behind as the rest of the animals were harvested. Today, a different type of carcass can also be stumbled upon: rusting ships and boat debris from the numerous accidents and tragedies that have befallen sailors who took on the seas while unprepared, battling intense winds and shifting currents as well as a cold, dense fog.
One of these vessels, the MV Dunedin Star, ran aground in 1942. A complicated but successful mission saved all of its passengers and crew, and the historical rescue was documented in a novel by John Henry Marsh, published in 1944. The book’s title? Skeleton Coast. The name has stuck to maps and with locals ever since.
The Skeleton Coast National Park contains the most inaccessible shores, seized by a combination of harsh weather conditions, loose sands and massive shipwrecks. To best navigate the coast, the park is divided into two sections, north and south. The southern section can be traversed by 4-wheel drive vehicles, and you can drive as far up as the Ugab River Gate before the terrain becomes too dangerous. The northern section can only be explored by plane.
Salt Pans, Clay Castles and Seal Colonies
But it’s not just a bleak history tour. In the northern half of the park, you can visit the Agate Mountain salt pans and the clay castles of the Hoarusib River for some breathtaking views or ideal photography opportunities. For an extra delight, you can also go to Cape Fria and see a huge seal colony, with almost 50,000 seals taking advantage of the fish and plankton that fill the waters.
Epic Surfing Spots
Then, in the southern region, grab a surfboard and join the many thrill seekers in the ocean. Swells consistently hit along the Skeleton Coast and, with enough training and tact, you can find some epic spots to surf. The water produces waves in fast and thick bursts, with strong tidal rips crashing in. Follow the line of surfers from May to September and keep an eye out for sharks — for surfer enthusiasts, the experience will be well worth it!
Namibia Safari Tours: See More of Africa
It sounds brutal, but despite its perilous reputation, the Skeleton Coast is a beautiful spot to discover — and certainly unique as a tourist destination. Some tours can be costly, particularly to the northern region of the park, where extra travel precautions must be taken. However, a trip to the Skeleton Coast will more than make up for it with the exclusivity of experiencing one of the best kept secrets of Namibia.
So what are you waiting for? Namibia safari tour packages are available right now and can be customized however you choose. Earn your bragging rights by braving the Skeleton Coast. Or, at the very least, make friends with some seals. Book your trip today!
Jill Liphart for Roho Ya Chui