Skeleton Coast Park

Shipwreck on the Skeleton Coast

Travel to Skeleton Coast Park – Windswept Sand Dunes and Rugged Canyons

The Skeleton Coast has one of the wildest, windswept and most unusual coastlines in the world. Stretching between Swakopmund in the south to the far north west of the country where the Kunene River reaches the sea. The stark beauty of this stretch of coast is something only to be seen as few visitors find the words to deliver an adequate description of their experience.

The area designated as a National Park starts at Ugabmund in the south, about 200 km north of Swakopmund, and continues north to Mowe Bay (where the last of park officials are situated). North of this point the park is only accessible through scheduled tours undertaken by the organisation that holds the concession rights. The park is highly sensitive environmentally and strict measures are taken against trespassers.

The area to the south of Mowe Bay includes Terrace and Torra Bay. Terrace Bay, previously a diamond mining settlement, offers limited accommodation, while Torra Bay is a seasonal camping area that is mostly frequented during the holiday season in December, when it attracts many local angling enthusiasts. These areas are only accessible to overnight visitors.

Day visitors must ensure that they leave the park by 17:00 when gates close, the minimum crossing time from Ugabmund to the eastern Springbokwasser gate is two hours.

The name dates back to the early 1930’s when the publisher of a South West Annual, Mr. Sam Davis, stated in an article concerned with a missing plane of a local celebrity, that “his bones will forever lay on the coast of skeletons”, referring to the many wrecks found on the coast, hence the name stuck. The Skeleton Coast boasts a fascinating history and one will deeply appreciate the solitude and unpredictable weather when accompanied by a local of the region that can take you into past events and the means of survival that living things in the area have adapted.

The Skeleton Coast Park was formed in 1973 and extends from the Ugab River in the south to the Kunene River in the north. A permit is needed to drive in the park and can be obtained from the MET office in Swakopmund or at the Ugab and Springbokwasser Gates.

Significant to the coast is the colour, changing moods and untouched profile of its landscape. The dense coastal fogs and cold sea breeze caused by the cold Benguela Currrent. Clay castles, the salt pans near the Agate Mountain and the seal colony at Cape Frio. Animals found in the area include gemsbok, springbok, jackal, ostrich and hyena, while desert-adapted elephant, black rhino, lion and giraffe roam up and down the dry river courses.

Along the southern part of the region, many private operators and lodgings operate and provide excellent packages for the traveler to experience the essence of the Skeleton Coast, with activities available ranging from angling to birding amongst others. Seal colonies are a great attraction and a worthwhile expedition to undertake.

Relax by simply absorbing the atmosphere and taking in the unique surroundings.

Basic services are available along the main coastal road including fuel. However, distances between locations are vast and caution must be taken not to travel without water and basic necessities such as warm clothing. The main road is acceptable for all types of vehicles until Terrace Bay, but this is a salt/gravel road and caution should be exercised. It is important that visitors to the area remain on main roads and refrain from off-road driving as this causes extreme environmental damage. If you are visiting the area as a day visitor ensure that you have enough time to cross the park before the gates close for the night.

  • Photograph the infamous shipwrecks scattered along the coast.
  • Try and spot the infamous desert-adapted elephants and black rhino.
  • Marvel at the sweeping sand dunes and rugged canyons.


Africa Travel Information