Skeleton Coast and Kaokoland
The Skeleton Coast refers to the bleak coastline stretching 500km north of Swakopmund that is synonymous with the ships wrecked along it and the sailors who have perished over the centuries. Kaokoland lies inland from the Skeleton Coast and is the most remote region of Namibia that is perfect for those looking to get off the road more travelled – this is the Namibian wilderness at its finest.
The desolate Skeleton Coast of Namibia has been described by locals as ‘the land God made in anger’ and it’s not hard to see why with the rusting hulls of wrecked ships littered along its 500km length from the Ugab River in the south to the Kunene in the north. This is one of the most rugged and dangerous stretches of coastline in the world thanks to the strong and extremely cold Benguela current which creates dense fog which makes maritime navigation tricky as well as underwater shifting sand banks – early Portuguese explorers called it ‘Sands of Hell’.
It is the very conditions which scared sailors away from the Skeleton Coast which are most attractive to visitors today with atmospheric fog, crashing waves and inhospitable desert providing some excellent photographic opportunities. Whilst it is possible to drive yourself along the Skeleton Coast with the seal colony at Cape Cross being a popular stopover, it is really from the air on a scenic flight that you can experience the true scale and drama of it all, either as a day trip from Swakopmund or as part of a more extensive flying safari.
The area inland from the northern reaches of the Skeleton Coast is known as Kaokoland and marks the final frontier in terms of wilderness exploration in Namibia. This is the remotest area of the country and few venture this far into the hinterland, but for those who do, it offers a rewarding experience – both scenically and culturally.
Despite covering approximately 40,000 square kilometres, few people live in Kaokoland apart from the Himba Tribe who still live according to traditions that have rarely changed through the centuries. The Himba are easily recognisable by the red-hued ochre paste that they use on their skin as sun protection and the intricate hair styles created using it. Unique cultural interaction is possible whilst staying at several lodges in the region and are a highlight of any visit to Kaokoland. The beauty and ruggedness of Kaokoland is another key attraction to venturing off the beaten track. Only the hardiest desert-adapted species of wildlife survive here, but there is a break from the harshness of the desert with the life-giving rushing waters of Epupa Falls found on the border with Angola.