Around 160 km to the west of Ohorongo Safaris is Namibia’s incomparable Skeleton Coast National Park. The northern part of the park that is located in the Kunene Region is not accessible by vehicle and we can arrange fly-in safaris for our guests who want to visit it for a multi-day stay while at Ohorongo Safaris. Because of the lack of tourists and its remote location, it is an incredibly tranquil place to visit and see the best of Namibia’s natural beauty. A permit has to be purchased in Swakopmund, Windhoek, or at the gate to enter the northern part. It stretches for nearly 400 km (250 mi) from Torra Bay to the Kunene River, which is also the border between Namibia and Angola.
The southern part starts at the Ugab River gate (around 360 km by road from Ohorongo), the Ugab also being the border between the Kunene and Erongo regions. It stretches to Torra Bay – a distance of about 100 km (62 mi). The southern part is freely accessible by 4×4 vehicle and can be reached by road. Together, the northern and southern regions cover more than 16 800 km2 (6500 mi2). The entire park is around 500 km (310 mi) long and 40 km (25 mi) wide. The park receives very little rain – between 0 and 20 mm (0,8 in) per year – and this falls mainly from January to March.
Place of Bones
The name of the Skeleton Coast recalls a darker time when the skeletons of whales littered its shores during the whaling era. The local Ovahimba tribe often built their huts using these whale bones that were left to wither in the sun. However, most people will today be aware of the other reference – that of the myriad of ships’ skeletons along this coastline. In fact, more than 1000 ships ran aground here, due to a combination of rough seas, treacherous currents, and dense fog. Many of the sailors that survived died because they could not survive the harsh climate and lack of drinkable water.
John Henry Marsh coined the name “Skeleton Coast” in his 1944 book with the same title, which chronicled one of these many shipwrecks, the Dunedin Star, which ran aground on the Skeleton Coast. No wonder the Skeleton Coast is often called the world’s largest ship cemetery. Because of the strong winds that blow from the desert towards the Atlantic, the sands are forever advancing the shoreline and many of these shipwrecks are no longer at sea, but find themselves on the Skeleton Coast’s beaches.
The Dunedin Star is but one example but there are many more, like the Otavi (1945) and the cargo ship Eduard Bohlen (1909), the latter which is now a full 400 m (437 yards) from the crashing waves as only a part of its remains still protrudes above the white sand. The Eduard Bohlen was en route from Swakopmund to Cape Town when it ran aground in dense fog at Conception Bay, quite close to the site of the Dunedin Star and Otavi, which would succumb to the same fate in 1942 and 1945 respectively.
Place of Natural Wonders
But the Skeleton Coast National Park is also a place of incredible natural beauty. Realising the need for its conservation, it was established as a national park in 1971, when Namibia used to be called South-West Africa and was still under South African administration. Many animals have become sufficiently adapted to survive in this hostile environment, and among these are Namibia’s famous desert elephants and desert lions, as well as jackals, kudus, hyenas, giraffes, oryxes, and zebras. This coast is also a breeding ground for the Cape fur seal, with large colonies at Cape Fria and Cape Cross.
This is also where you will find some of the hardiest plants on earth, notably the pencil bush, !Nara melons, “living stones” (any of several types of lithops succulents), lichen (more than 100 species), and the world-famous Welwitschia. The amazing Welwitschia is often called a living fossil, because some plants approach 2000 years in age and many are at least half as old, even though it is difficult to determine the true age of a Welwitschia.
These remarkable plants’ roots reach deep into the soil to extract all the moisture they can find. Above ground, they are best known for their two ribbon-like leaves that never stop growing. They can become as much as 4 m (13 ft) long, their length limited by wear and tear, as they fray into separate strap-like sections that wither at their ends as the desert winds blow them about on the sand for hundreds of years. The plant is endemic to the Kaokoveld area of the Namib Desert and survives in virtually zero rainfall. They derive all their moisture through their roots and from the condensation of sea fog.
When to Visit
The high season is typically from July to October, when many establishments charge extra and there are more tourists around. October to March can be very hot, but it is the best time to go in terms of the warmer nights this time of year, as well as less fog and better visibility. You are also more likely to see wildlife at this time of year. The cool, dry, winter months are perhaps not ideal, with the dense sea fogs curtailing visibility, but the eery atmosphere it creates has all its own charm.
Whenever you visit, be sure to stay with Ohorongo Safaris in Kunene, not far from the Skeleton Coast National Park and right on the doorstep of Etosha. We can offer you a choice between a comfortable lodge in thatch-roof bungalows or a luxury glamping experience in semi-permanent wood-and-canvas permanents for the best combination of comfort and being close to nature. There is lots to do at the Ohorongo Game Reserve, including game drives and nature walks – the latter surely the best way to experience our wildlife up close and personal. And if you want to fly out to the Caprivi or the Skeleton Coast for a 2- or 3-day adventure, we can arrange that too.