Once upon a time, it referred to Namibia's entire coastline. Today, however, the term "Skeleton Coast" relates only to the stretch situated within the Skeleton Coast National Park. The park is 500km of shoreline, running from the Ugab River in the south to the Kunene River in the north.
The park’s ominous name has its origins in the spice trade routes, where wary sailors passed along Namibia's desolate coastline on their way to and from India. Hindered by blinding sea fog prevalent off the coast, many ships met an unsightly end giving rise to a ship graveyard of sorts littered along the shore and favoured by photographers and nature-lovers alike. Scenic flights are also popular in the area, giving visitors a bird’s-eye-view of the maritime cemetery below.
The ocean is seasonal a playground for the whale, seal and sea lion, while further inland, the riverbeds are populated by the lion, giraffe, springbok, rhino and baboon. The vast and contrasting topography of the land ranges from towering dunes, ancient Welwitschia plants, desert, lichen fields, flowering stones otherwise known as lithops, and the clay hills dotted along the Hoarusib River. The accommodation options in the area are campsites, lodges and bungalows.
We've taken the liberty to answer everything you may need to know about visiting Skeleton Coast
Skeleton Coast is located within Namibia and is found on its long stretch of coastline on the western border. To get to this coastal part of this fascinating country, most will argue that flying into Hosea Kutako International Airport will be your best option.
From here, you have the option to either hire your own vehicle and do a self-drive tour of Namibia, which includes this stop and is probably the most common way travellers experience Namibia. You could also take part in a scheduled tour with a group of like-minded travellers, or if you want to spend as much time as possible at the destination, a fly-in option is for you!
If you choose to fly in, you will arrive at Namibia's main international airport, and you will then either fly from here or from Eros Airport, just a short drive away. Either way, you'll fly via an air transfer, usually a smaller charter plane (Cessna Caravan or similar) comprising a pilot and six or so other passengers. This air charter then takes you straight to the lodge's private airstrip, where hotel staff will greet you.
If you find that you are up for a bit of adventuring to truly feel like you are in Africa and have visions of becoming Indiana Jones, consider a road trip. Choose your vehicle (2x4 or 4x4 recommended, depending on your itinerary route), grab a map or GPS, and head out on the open road! The good news is that Namibia is one of the best places for a self-drive holiday. The landscapes are incredible and unlike anywhere on earth, and the roads are long and safe.
You do not need to head straight to Skeleton Coast once you land in Namibia. There are plenty of places to go and attractions to see along the way, so make a week or two-week holiday out of this breath-taking destination.
Stretching 40km (24 miles) and 500km (310 miles) in length, the Skeleton Coast is one of Namibia's largest national parks. This national park is slightly different from the Kruger National Park or Maasai Mara National Park, where animals are the main attraction. One of the main reasons visitors come to Skeleton Coast National Park is its unique scenery and devastating yet fascinating coastline.
Of course, there are still animals to see, although much scarcer. These include the famous desert-adapted elephant that, if you are lucky enough to share a moment with, are some of the most incredible creatures to witness on this planet. Many travellers come from all over the world in search of these majestic mammals but are not successful. One would think that finding something as large as an elephant would be easy, but in one of the oldest and largest deserts, you can think twice.
Other animals to look out for include the desert lion, brown hyena, endangered rhino and, of course, the playful cape fur seal – better known as the dogs of the sea! If you ever have the chance to go diving or snorkelling alongside these curious creatures, you will see why!
Overall, when you enter the Skeleton Coast National Park, you can expect to see a lot of white sand, towering dunes and a long stretch of coast (when you eventually get to the ocean)! From beginning to end, it’s an adventure you'll never forget.
In the warmer months, to truly appreciate being in a desert! Namibia's summer months might be during your winter – so check on this! Namibia's summer months are between October and March, and the days are warmer.
The sweet spot to visit the Skeleton Coast, however, is between July and August. The chance of rain is low, and the temperatures are pleasant, averaging 21°C (70°F). We were not the pioneers of this secret season, so it has caught on, and this has become the most popular time to travel to Namibia – so plan (a year in advance is not too soon, trust us)!
December through March can get a bit wet with all the rain, but if you can withstand the elements (calling all travellers from the UK!), this is the ideal time to go – the real secret season. The rain puts off most travellers, so they avoid these months. Little does everyone know; the best things are yet to come. The rains transform the dry desert into green blankets and attract all of the wildlife to its gourmet buffet.
The Skeleton Coast, known for its many shipwrecks along the coast, is notoriously foggy. The summer months (although rainy) are surprisingly warmer, and the rain clears the mist like a drop curtain – so this is an ideal time to visit the Skeleton Coast.