Home Africa Skeleton Coast National Park | Namibia Where rocks, wind, rough seas and...

Skeleton Coast National Park | Namibia Where rocks, wind, rough seas and fog make for a place that lives up to its name.

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Skeleton Coast National Park is a lonely destination in the Kunene Region of northwestern Namibia. Famous for its treacherous waters and difficult conditions, it is truly a place where tales of danger and disaster need no embellishment to entertain. These are the most inaccessible coastal areas of Namibia, and some of the most remote coastline in the world.

Skeleton Coast is one of the milder names for this place. Portuguese sailors called it The Gates of Hell. Namibian Bushmen call it the land God made in anger. It is often referred to as the Bermuda Triangle of Africa.

The park is over 500 km long, stretching from the Ugab River in the south to the Namibian border with Angola in the north. It is one of Namibia’s largest national parks. It’s

What is Unique about the Skeleton Coast?


Discussion of the Skeleton Coast National Park quickly conjures up images of rusting hulks, empty and foreboding. Thousands of shipwrecks dot the shore, each with a unique story to tell.

How many are there, exactly? Nobody knows for sure, but centuries of experience and the accumulated remains make for an endless variety to explore.

Here are three worth considering during your visit to Skeleton Coast National Park:

(1) The Eduard Bohlen (1907). This is one of the most famous shipwrecks in the world, because it appears to be stranded in the middle of the desert! A German cargo ship, it ran aground near Conception Bay and was abandoned. Over the years the desert encroached on the sea, leaving the wreck about 500 meters inland, trapped in the sand. This is a must see for shipwreck buffs!

You can get to the Eduard Bolen on an excursion through Coastways Tours. For a unique perspective, try a fly over with Suricate Safaris.

(2) The Dunedin Star (1942). The ship ran aground carrying Allied ammunition and supplies, leaving passengers and crew stranded on the remote northern Skeleton Coast. A tug sent to assist the Dunedin Star also ran aground, and a rescue plane crashed after dropping emergency supplies to the survivors.

This one is so remote you can’t get there on your own. Flying to the northern part of the park with Skeleton Coast Safaris is one of the few choices available for the determined traveler.

(3) The Suiderkus (1976). The Suiderkus ran aground near Möwe Bay on her maiden voyage, despite having a highly sophisticated navigational system onboard.

Perched on the shore about 370 km north of Henties Bay (Hentiesbaai), the Suiderkus can be reached by car in under 5 hours via route C34. This is a popular spot for shipwreck photographers. Fancy a tour? Stay at Skeleton Coast Camp and they’ll take you there.

Why is the Skeleton Coast so dangerous?

Unusual climate conditions combined with physical obstacles along the Skeleton Coast create treacherous waters for ships to navigate.

First of all there is the fog. Warm, dry air from the Namib Desert colliding with the cold water of the Benguela Current creates a dense fog over the sea, making it difficult for ships to see where they are going.

Then there are the jagged rocks beneath the waves, lurking just out of sight yet always at the ready to snare an unsuspecting hull as ships bob to and fro.

Finally, the wind and currents sweep ships haphazardly into obstacles, running them aground before they even have time to adjust their paths.

To make matters worse, shipwreck survivors who make it ashore face harsh desert conditions long stretches of uninhabited land before hope of finding help.

Where is Skeleton Bay surf spot?

Skeleton Bay, or Donkey Bay, as it shows on maps, is a famous Namibian surf spot where the barreling waves are the stuff of dreams. Experienced surfers can look forward to mile long rides in picture perfect barrels, but be warned, the wave here is fickle and you should plan carefully or be ready to wait a long time for the conditions to turn just right.

Located just outside Walvis Bay, Skeleton Bay can be reached by car from Capetown, South Africa, in just under 24 hours, or from Windhoek, Namibia, in less than 5.

How to get to Skeleton Coast National Park

Skeleton Coast National Park can be reached by land, sea or air. There are only two entrances to the park. The main entrance, called the Ugab Gate, is at the south end of the park. The Springbok Gate provides access from the east.

Skeleton Bay By Car

From Walvis Bay, the Ugab Gate is a 2.5 hour drive north along the C34 coastal road.

From Windhoek, take the B1 north to Okahandja, where you to turn west onto the B2 towards Erongo Region. At about 240 km out from Windhoek, turn right onto the D1918 towards Hentiesbaai (Henties Bay). At Hentiesbaai, turn north onto the C34 to the park entrance. Total driving time about 5-6 hours.

namibia skeleton coast national park collapsed drilling rig

Where to stay near Skeleton Coast National Park

There are three geographic possibilities for lodging near Skeleton Coast National Park: Near the Ugabmund Gate, which is the south entrance to the park, near the Springbok Gate, on the east side of the park, or one of the locations inside the park.

Wild camping is forbidden inside the park.

Lodging Near the Ugab Gate


Lodging Near the Springbok Gate

Lodging Inside Skeleton Coast Park

Shipwreck Lodge is located near the mouth of the Haub River in the middle of the park. With  at least an eight hour drive from Swakopmund, tis place is definitely off the beaten track! Small, hospitable, and definitely worth staying for the intrepid traveler!

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Photo Credit: Uploaded on April 24, 2006 by SqueakyMarmot [1], CC BY 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons

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