Located in southern Africa is Namibia, the driest country in Sub-Saharan Africa. The nation is surrounded by the Kalahari Desert to the east and the Namib Desert to the west. The country's western border is surrounded by the Atlantic Ocean and at the northern part you'll find the Skeleton Coast - an area that has been described as inhospitable, brutal and has a coast that is known to have downed hundreds of ships.
People who have bravely visited the Skeleton Coast have deemed it haunting. The area is extremely remote and isolated. However, there is a ton of history here. You can find hundreds of shipwrecks along the coast, from wooden galleons used in the past to steel-hulled vessels and even the remains of whalebones. You can basically describe the Skeleton Coast a living museum.
While the environment and eerie history is not what many people would call a vacation spot, it has become a very unlikely tourist destination. With it being one of the quietest places in the world, you'll see the clearest sky you'd ever laid your eyes on. And the nation's coastline is one of the most beautiful in the world. You'll even find a number of animals roaming the Skeleton Coast from lions, elephants to the largest colonies of Cape fur seals in the world.
Namibia's Skeleton Coast is alluring and these 20 images show its mysterious beauty. Check out these fascinating photos and you'll be amazed that a place like this really exists.
20 Namibia's Skeleton Coast
Namibia is next-door neighbors to Botswana and South Africa, the two most popular countries in Africa. It is situated in southern Africa where its western boarder is the Atlantic Ocean. Along the coastline of Namibia is The Skeleton Coast. It was named for the bones of sailors and animals like whales that lost their fight against the nation's harsh environment. Thanks to the treacherous coastline, there are hundreds of shipwrecks along the beach, some buried in the sand. These 500 or so ships, from wooden Portuguese galleons to modern steel-hulled vessels tell individual stories of sailors who found themselves stuck on a desert and were pretty much doomed.
19 Hauntingly Beautiful
The Skeleton Coast has been called "The Land God Made in Anger" by the San Bushmen, the indigenous people of Southern Africa, because of its harsh weather conditions and sailors losing their fight against the Benguela Current, dense fog and rough surf. The landscape ranges from wind swept dunes to rugged canyons and mountain ranges. There is rarely any rainfall, climate is inhospitable and during the dry season the area experiences heavy fog and strong westerly winds. However, Namibia's Skeleton Coast is hauntingly beautiful with pristine desert that goes on forever and stunning endless coastlines. It's a place you wouldn't think existed on our planet.
18 Miles Of Untouched Sand
What makes The Skeleton Coast unique is the absence of people, crowds and noise. Flying above, you'll see miles upon miles of untouched sand and a clear blue Atlantic ocean. According to Condé Nast editor-at-large Maria Shollenbarger, "It is one of the few places on the planet where near-total isolation manifests with such exquisite beauty," adding, "here, in the northwest, you can easily go an entire day without seeing signs of human civilization beyond a lonely ribbon of tire tracks left by some conservancy manager or geologist ... the only way to access the coast's most remote areas is by small plane."
17 Its Appearance Will Fool You
When you think of a place with desert you think of a hot and sticky climate with unbearable heat. However, with the Skeleton Coast meeting with the Atlantic Ocean, you get both dense fog and sea breezes that are cold meeting with the hot desert sand. And despite its arid appearance, the Skeleton Coast has a number of species living here that have adapted to the desert environment. To really see all of the beauty of the Skeleton Coast, locals have admitted that tourists should undertake a mobile tented safari and drive the shoreline from Swakopmund to Torra Bay and then onwards to the Kuene River.
16 Travelers Take Risks To Capture The Beauty Of The Skeleton Coast
While travelers can apply for permits for day trips to visit the Skeleton Coast, that is only for the south part of the area. To see the extreme northern part is a little more tricky and expensive. For photographers and adventurers who really want to venture all the way up the Kuene River they must spend a few thousands of dollars to join a fly-in safari. After making tour way up north, private outfitters have special permission from park authorities and tribes to go through some of the most remote areas of the Skeleton Coast by 4x4. "This is where the great fun starts," stated Marius van Zyl of Wildspace. He added, "Great colors and breathless views. A magnificent drive for photographers. We camp in the beach, only a few meters from the sea. And it's only us."
15 Hundreds Of Shipwrecks Along The Coast
Hundreds of ships have been wrecked along the Skeleton Coast thanks to dangerous waters and a desert that would end up swallowing sailor's ships for centuries. You can see many of these ships buried in the sand and scattered along the coastline. "Some of them are found behind dunes, far onshore from the sea," Jan Friede, a ranger at Skeleton Coast National Park stated, adding, "even if you survived the wreck you were probably doomed. You struggle ashore, overjoyed that you've been saved, and then realize that you landed in a desert and probably should have gone down with the ship."
14 At Cape Cross You'll See Hundreds Of Seals
Along the Skeleton Coast you'll find hundreds of fur seals. In fact, the breeding ground is home to one of the largest colonies of Cape fur seals in the world. Flying over the Skeleton Coast at Cape Cross you'll see about 80,000 to 100,000 seals. These seals are responsible for keeping the beaches clean, along with ghost crab. While the massive amounts of these species of Sea Lion are rather impressive, their large number brings in predators like hyenas and jackals. Today, these sea lions are kept protected by poachers by the government of Namibia under the name Cape Cross Seal Reserve.
13 There Are An Impressive Number Of Animals
Believe it or not, Namibia's coast is home to an array of wild animals including, lions, cheetahs, leopards, elephants, caracal cats, and of course, hundreds of thousands of Cape fur seals. If you travel a little further inland, you can see how these animals have intelligently adapted to this area's harsh environment. For example, the heavy morning fog provides water to giraffe, elephants and other animals and you'll see elephants and baboons dig holes in the dry riverbeds where water will seep to provide water for animals living in the desert. Many of the insects and plants on the Skeleton Coast rely on the thick sea fogs and the windblown detritus as food to survive.
12 The Skeleton Coast's Living Museum
Along the waters of the Skeleton Coast you'll notice a number of shipwrecks including this one, the wreck of fishing trawler Zeila near Henties Bay, which became stranded in 2008. The ship was sold as scrap metal to an Indian company and became stranded when it came loose from its towing line while on its way to Bombay, India. It is truly a sight to see, as are the other hundreds of ships that are slowly becoming disintegrated. These ships could not stand the heavy swells, dense fog, rocky reefs and sand dunes that come with the dangers of the Skeleton Coast.
11 A Desert Full Of Hidden Treasures
Most of the Skeleton Coast is now national park land and covers nearly 310 miles of coastline, from the Angola border south to the Swakop River near Swakopmund. The harsh climate has left bones of animals littered everywhere along the coast. From elephant rig cages to whale bones, death is common for these animals thanks to the lack of water here. Ships have met their match at the Skeleton Coast; one of the most haunting ships is the Dunedin Star. In 1942, the ship crashed on the shore, with many saying it crashed because of a reef, while others blame a German U-boat. It took a whopping 26 days to save the men aboard the ship because of the harsh surf. The ships corpse still remains and is a reminder of the dangerous of the Skeleton Coast.
10 A Land Of Silent Emptiness
Namibia's Skeleton Coast is by far one of the most enchanting places even with its most treacherous environment thanks to the forceful current and a desert that can swallow ships whole. An experience by plane is your best bet to see all of the amazing miles of untouched desert and a coast that goes on for days. "From the sky, you glide over geological abstractions of glowing mineral color and dense topographical pattern connected tenuously by a handful of the most basic airstrips: whisper-thin pencil lines on a canvas of swirling, silent emptiness," writes Maria Shollenbarger on her piece about the Skeleton Coast in Conde Nast's December 2014 issue.
9 The Fog Has Its Positives And Negatives
While the dunes roar and the current is famous for leaving ships abandoned, the Skeleton Coast's fog is down right spooky. This area is known for its atmospheric grey coastal fog. "The fog is a vital part of the ecosystem in this dry landscape, and provides enough moisture for the lichens and other desert flora to survive. However, the fog has been the cause of a number of shipwrecks and even a few planes have met their fate while flying over the Skeleton Coast. "Fog is partially responsible for the more than 1000 shipwrecks which litter the notorious Skeleton Coast. Many an incredible tale relates the extraordinary feats of survivors who have walked hundreds of km in search of help. No doubt the life-giving fog aided them in making these challenging journey’s."
8 An Ideal Place For Surfers
Namibia's Skeleton Coast is certainly not for swimmers. The cold Benguela Current flows besides the coast and makes for strong waves and the current can take you well over 100 miles. However, it is a perfect destination for surfers who want to test these waters and swim among marine life. "Surfing this high-energy coastline, one of the least crowded on the planet always includes sharing waves with marine mammals," stated long boarder Rod Braby, former head of the Namibian Surfing Association. "Respect the locals (Cape fur seals and dolphins) and you will be accepted in the line ups of the best waves on the Skeleton Coast," he added.
7 The People Who Call This Home Are Welcoming
In northwest Namibia you'll find the Himba people who have kept many of the cultural traditions of their ancestors pasts, which include distinct body adornments and social structure. The Himba people have preserved their traditional way of life which includes women looking after children and working around the village while the men tend to the live stock and can often be away from their homes for a long period of time. What is most fascinating is the ochre pigment women use on their skin. This paste works as a natural insect repellent a sunscreen and a cleanse for the skin. The Himba people are also fairly known for their cone-shaped houses made from palm leaves, mud and manure from cows.
6 You Can Spend The Night With The Himba People
While visiting Namibia and the Skeleton Coast, tourists are able to spend a few nights with the Himba people as part of a tour. However, it is extremely important that tourist respect the people and chooses an organized tour that is also sensitive to the Himba people. "Responsible tour companies will build up a relationship with a specific community over time and tailor the tours to be beneficial for the Himba, while ensuring a culturally-enriching experience for visitors." Most Himba people are also welcoming when wanting to take photos with them, but visitors are strongly urged to ask for consent before taking any photographs.
5 The Desert Landscape Is Constantly Changing
What makes the desert here different than others is that the dunes appear to move more quickly than in other deserts. They shift at a speed of 50 feet per year, covering many of the skeleton remains and revealing countless others. The sand dunes literally look like mountains and almost look "Mars-like" with their reddish color. Animals like the Cape fur seal, oryx, ostrich and the Desert beetle have adapted to the arid climate here. "Dense ocean fogs obscure the dunes and beaches for more than 180 days each year, making a visit to this desert an experience often shrouded in cool mist. The ocean winds that bring the fog also creates an immense line of shifting sand dunes- an environment often described as "dune sea." The dunes are so big and broad that they actually change the direction of current winds from south to southwest. The tallest dunes is 900 feet high.
4 The Skeleton Coast's Most Popular Routes For Explorers
For the ultimate Namibia experience, there are a number of ways to explore this beautiful country. One includes a safari trip with a route that will take you north to south, where you'll see some of the country's most dramatic scenery. A second route is by plane, you'll get a birds eye view of the country's wonders in a tiny teeny plane and see all of the Skeleton Coast with some desert action in Sossusvlei. A third route consists of travelers discovering different landscapes of Namibia with an off-the-beaten-track route through Damaraland, the Skeleton Coast and Kaokoland.
3 Sailors Could Not Survive The Skeleton Coast
Because of the conditions at the Skeleton Coast, a number of untold sailors have been marooned here. There have been a number of survival attempts but hundreds of sailors have failed and lost their lives and they were better off going down with their ships. In the 1940s, a dozen human skeletons were found, headless and lined up in a row. A slate next to the bones read, "I am proceeding to a river 60 miles north, and should anyone find this and follow me, God will help them." According to history reports, the sailor’s skeletons were from a ship that had wrecked back in 1860.
2 Stay A Few Nights With Friends At The Hoanib Skeleton Coast Camp
Skeleton Coast was only a fly-over attraction, however, its wonders has attracted many people, and so, a beautiful camp was created for those adventurers looking to stay the night and experience wildlife right in their backyard. The camp over looks a waterhole and dry riverbed and you can see the desert's rugged rock formation in the background. The camp-like hotel makes it possible for people to see elephants roaming along the river bed and take in the relaxing atmosphere. There is even a very comfy bar and lounge and if you stay for three nights, you'll have a full day of expedition through the Skeleton Coast and see the many landscapes and even get a chance to observe lions.
1 This Place Certainly Has A Reputation
The conditions near the Skeleton Coast, its history of shipwrecks, bones of sailors and animals, have made the area one of the scariest places on Earth. This is how Swedish explorer Charles John Andersson described the Skeleton Coast when he saw it in 1859, "Death would be preferable to banishment to such a country." The thousands of shipwrecks, thanks to the harsh current and fog, have made many shipping companies use other routes and reusing to take their boats near the coast. You're only way into the Skeleton Coast is by 4x4 or flying above.