What a special area! The Namibian Skeleton Coast National Park is renowned for its cold and unpredictable Benguela Current of the Atlantic Ocean that contends with the dune and desert landscape. It is described as the world’s largest ship cemetery because of various shipwrecks found along the coast. The Bushman called the coast “the land God made with anger” and early Portuguese explorers refer to it as “Gates of Hell”. However, the name Skeleton Coast refers to visible bones of whales that died when they get stranded on this coastline.
The Park is divided into 2 sections: the accessible stretch for Ugab River to Torra Bay and the most attractive parts that are north of Torra Bay which can be accessed through a tour operator with a concession.
In one of my recent trips I was fortunate to visit the newly opened Shipwreck Lodge, located 68 km north of Mowe Bay. We were coming from Palmwag concession and entered the Skeleton Coast National Park through Springbok Wasser Gate. This was a scenic drive as we encountered little herds of springboks and various birds including Ruppell’s Korhaan, Grey-backed Sparrow-Lark and Stark’s Lark among others. After enjoying our lunch packs at Terrace Bay we continued north towards Mowe Bay. There are no signs that tell one how far you are from your destination. The road does have some sandy parts that requires 4 x 4 driving. We parked our car at Mowe Bay then we were taken to the lodge by local guides. We went past remnants of Suiderkus and Karimona shipwrecks, the abandoned Westies Diamond mine and the remains of the Ventura Bomber. The Shipwreck Lodge is designed with wooden cabins shaped like a ship and stuck perfectly in sand.
In the morning our knowledgeable guide, Bravo, took us for a morning game drive in the Hoarusib River. Encountering Desert adapted Elephants next to dunes was a mind-blowing experience and according to Bravo, they do go onto the beach as well. Other wildlife encountered includes Springbok and some Oryx. Quite fascinating geology as well. Rocky islands rise out of the levelled plains are remnants of the Damara Mountains. Coupled with the dune belt and the gravel plains, the rocky hills are the distinctive trademarks for this area. Birds spotted on the drive include Bokmakierie, Rock Kestrel, Augur Buzzard amongst others.
We stopped at the Clay Castles in the Hoarusib River and Bravo told us the Dunedin Star shipwreck story. Despite challenges of getting food to this lodge as it comes all the way from Walvis Bay, their meals are very good! A wonderful safari experience.
Written by: Previous Tsvigu (Nature Travel Guide)