Skeleton Coast Park
T he Skeleton Coast Park, proclaimed in its present form in 1971, extends from the Ugab River in the south for 500 km up to the Kunene River in the north, covering an area of 16 845 km2. It protects about one third of Namibia’s coastline.
The landscape in the park ranges from sweeping vistas of windswept dunes, to rugged canyons with walls of richly coloured volcanic rock and extensive mountain ranges. Over a hundred species of lichen grow on the plains and west-facing mountain slopes, changing colour and becoming soft and leathery to the touch when the coastal fog generated by the cold Benguela Current pushes inland.
Animals occurring on the plains are gemsbok, springbok, jackal, ostrich and brown hyaena, while desert-adapted elephant and even black rhino, lion and giraffe roam up and down the dry river courses. Of special interest are the clay castles of the Hoarusib, the saltpans near the Agate Mountain and the seal colony at Cape Frio.
The northern section of the Skeleton Coast Park is a tourism concession area that is restricted to fly-in safaris only. The southern section – between the Ugab and Hoanib rivers – is accessible to the general public staying at Terrace Bay and Torra Bay. Because of the ecological sensitivity of the coastal desert, the entire park is managed by the MET as a wilderness area.
A day permit to drive directly through the southern section of the park is obtainable from the MET Tourist Office in Swakopmund, as well as at the Ugab and Springbokwasser gates. Visitors driving through need to enter before 15:00 and leave by 17:00 and may not visit Terrace Bay or Torra Bay along the way. Overnight visitors must be in possession of a valid reservation advice for Terrace Bay or Torra Bay and arrive at the checkpoints at the Ugab Mouth and Springbokwasser gates not later than 15:00 and leave from these points not later than 17:00.
Where to stay
Accommodation in the Skeleton Coast park is provided in a rest camp at Terrace Bay, previously a diamond-mining settlement, and at the Torra Bay camping site, open only from 1 December to 31 January.
Adventure at the coast
The coastal strip offers a wide variety of activities for adventure lovers, from quad-biking, ocean cruises, paragliding, sea kayaking, skydiving and sand-boarding, to exploring the Namib on the back of a camel or horse. The possibilities are endless