A must do in Namibia is the Skeleton Coast Park one of the world’s last great wildernesses. Many parts are still yet unexplored and definitely untamed but at the same time many parts are accessible and extraordinarily beautiful. We were excited to be visiting a place that has changed so little since the first explorers got stranded here along the craggy and dangerous coastline. A Swedish explorer John Anderson declared – “Death would be a preferable punishment to such a country” although the area was inhabited by Sandlopers who foraged the coastline for fish, seals and dead whales. Still doesn’t say much for the place though.
For over 500years ships have come to an abrupt end along this coast line as the currents and tides smashed and battered their ships along the jagged rocks. To this day it is inhabited only be tourists and daytime fishermen as the weather is both very unpredictable and very variable. After Etsoha we booted it down to a small campsite that we thought was close to the park entrance. We enjoyed a lovely evening there around a campfire and a beautiful blanket of bright stars. Up early the next morning we had to drive around 150km to get to the entrance of the park but driving there was through some amazing rocky hills and gorges.
Upon entering the park (4200km on the clock), the landscape changed and we were greeted to some of the biggest dunes I had ever seen. The weather changed from hot and sunny to cool and damp also a mist was rolling in. It was almost scenery you’d expect to find on Mars, vast dunes stretching out for miles and miles. We followed the road down to the coast line and then followed it up as far as we could manage in one day. To our right banked massive dunes and weathered shingled hillsides and to our left was dramatic sweeping coastline, constantly pounded by large breaking waves. It was the first time we had seen the Atlantic Ocean in over 2 years and it was still as cold as ever! Driving for hours on mud roads we saw the landscape unfold before us the weather had truly sculpted a dreamscape of natural wonders. Over 100 million years ago great glaciers had formed massive gorges and deposited huge boulder rumbles which are still here today.
We left the road briefly to venture up one of these hills to get a good view of the land around us. After 45 mins of climbing we made it to the top to be greeted by the formidable coastline and impressive dune sculptures the wind had formed around the park. On the way down we managed to find the tracks of what looked like a Lion (they were certainly big enough) around some bones which made us walk a little quicker as we had only seen 3 people in the last 6 hours!! We had the park of 16,000km² pretty much to ourselves, no other vehicles on the road, but we still hadn’t seen any ship wrecks yet. We had driven up to a point beyond Terrace Bay (the last place of any inhabitants) and it was mid afternoon and we had to head back. We booted the last bit of the journey back down the coastline to the Ugab River Entrance to get out and on our way down we saw our first ship wreck. A weathered old boat lying in the sands showed us the force of the ocean or the stupidity of the captain! We had enjoyed a number of good and beautiful drives in Africa already but this was one of the best. You can’t really fully explain the beauty of such a barren landscape but it was immense. It’s hard to capture the vastness and withered surroundings on camera or through words but the park was amazing and so untouched that it felt like being on another planet. We felt like explorers as we hardly saw anyone all day. The distances we huge but well worth it and I don’t think I’ll ever see such landscape like that ever again. We exited the park through some of the most impressive gates i have ever seen and struggled to make it to Swakopmund before nightfall so we pitched up our 4×4 in a cold and windy campsite not more than 50m from the shore so we could get our last taste of the harsh Skeleton coast.