Wild and desolate

The Skeleton Coast is wild, desolate and has definitely earned its name. It has everything from roaring sand dunes and windswept plains, to towering canyons and salt-pans. Peppered across the coast of this wild west of Africa are historical shipwrecks, engulfed long ago by the harsh and unforgiving environment; not to mention the special endemic desert-adapted species which bravely roam this rugged and unruly land.

What makes the Skeleton Coast so extraordinary?

Endemic desert-adapted species

For wildlife, first up are the desert-adapted elephant, digging deep beneath the sand for the last vestiges of water. Then, making use of the wells left behind by the elephant are giraffe, lion and baboon, and perhaps even a brown hyena or two, although sightings of these are rare. The hyena and jackals roam the beaches feeding on washed up marine life which is quite a spectacle in itself.

Inland, the dunes are home to several endemic species of reptile and delicate dune flora. It is not the place for ticking the big five lazily off a list, but is about appreciating the singularity of your unique wildlife sightings. Namibia’s magic is in its atmosphere and it is the image of a desert-adapted elephant alone in an undulating sandy skyline, an appreciation of true, limitless wilderness and an admiration of how life survives here which keeps travellers returning year after year.

Fascinating ecosystem

As the cold Atlantic Ocean crashes into dry African desert, much ecological intrigue is born from the Skeleton Coast. There are hundreds of plants and insects that flourish in the sand, surviving from the moisture of the cold fog that drifts inland from the ocean.

The Benguela current brings cold waters all the way from Antarctica and helps to moderate temperatures. The cool air off the ocean meets the hotter desert air and nearly every morning a cool mist envelopes the coastline bringing life sustaining moisture to the desert; not to mention a palpable early morning atmosphere. The cold current is also highly oxygenated,and nutrient rich resulting in a plankton and krill bonanza. This forms the basis of the food chain for the teeming marine life along the coast. The most iconic species are the Cape fur seals that line the rocky shoreline in massive colonies.

Lots of fascinating vegetation, like the ancient welwitschia, have also adapted to the harsh conditions here. The Skeleton Coast is truly fascinating for biologists, ecologists and nature enthusiasts alike.

Bustling coastal birdlife

Rich plankton attracts numerous seabirds which ride on the coastal winds. Among these seabirds is the endemic Damara Tern, Namibia’s smallest seabird, which nests in sand and gravel clearings along the Skeleton Coast.

Toward the coast, you should also be able to spot tractrac chats, as well as jaegers and skuas around the seal colonies. Also look out for Rüppell’s korhaans and Benguela long-billed larks. Although you would not expect a huge variety of avian species from a desert, the beauty of the Skeleton Coast is that the marine life really bursts the skies into action and attracts an array of wonderful birds.

Walvis Bay near Swakopmund is a must for birders; it is one of the most important breeding areas for birds in southern Africa.

Explore Namibia

Namibia certainly does not do anything in halves. The skies are starrier, animals’ stranger and the landscapes more dramatic than anywhere else in Africa. An arid and never-ending land of sand dune horizons, pink sunsets and desert adapted animals sets Namibia apart as a one of a kind African adventure destination and certainly not the safari “norm”.