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The desolate and inhospitable Skeleton Coast... .
The Skeleton Coast National Park lies along Namibia’s northern edge of the Atlantic Ocean and is a remote and yet hauntingly beautiful wilderness.
The park covers 16,000 square kilometres of some of the most inhospitable terrain and is actually classified into two separate areas. The northern half is designated as a wilderness area that includes such features as the Agate Mountain salt pans, clay castles of the Hoarisib River bed and the seal colony at Cape Fria. The southern half is know as the National West Coast Recreation Area.
The Skeleton Coast received its name because of the bleached whale and seal bones that littered the shoreline when whaling was still an active industry together with the unfortunate skeletal remains of ships that were wrecked on the rocks offshore whilst cloaked in the infamous fogs. It is estimated that more than a thousands vessels are abandoned in this ship’s graveyard.
The Skeleton Coast environment is one of extreme aridity as it is located within the northern reaches of the Namib Desert, however, the ocean breezes caused by the Benguela Current moderate the temperatures and bring moisture into the desert from the coast. This is not a beach environment as you would know it - it is a land of cool mists that roll off the Atlantic Ocean and collide with the desert air producing the damp, dense coastal fogs that were the downfall of the ocean going vessels of old. The moisture within the fogs has been harnessed by the vegetation of the sand dunes.
In order to protect this natural wilderness, the Skeleton Coast National Park has been designated and is managed as an exclusive safari area. Tourists have very restricted access and currently the only way is to visit Skeleton Coast camp is on a fly-in safari which restricts numbers of visitors and impact on the area. The camp has just six tents and this exclusive experience is one of true remoteness and also guests feel the privilege of being one of the few to be allowed to enjoy it.
Due to the climate of the area, which can be extremely cold in the early morning and evening the 4 x 4 game vehicles are all closed to the elements although the pop-top roofs and sliding windows do allow passengers to enjoy the finer weather wherever possible. Activities from the camp include nature drives and guided walking and it is a mesmerising landscape. Vast and desolate plains, high rugged mountains and canyons; salt pans whose crystals shimmer like diamonds in the sunshine and immense seal colonies which thrive on the harsh coastline.
Crossing dry river beds and shifting sand dunes you will encounter the unique desert adapted animals such as elephant and giraffe that somehow manage to eke out an existence in one of the most difficult natural environments on earth. Where there are secret water places, perhaps dug out by baboons the wildlife is drawn like a magnet and include springbok, ostrich, Hartmann’s mountain zebra and occasionally you may be lucky to see a lion or cheetah.
In some areas vehicle access is not permitted at all and the only way to continue is on foot and this is key evidence that the protection of the fragile environment is the absolute priority for the continuance of such wilderness areas.