During my roadtrip through Namibia, I also visited the impressive area of the Skeleton Coast. It is a long empty coast of 500 km where you can find nothing more than rusty shipwrecks, stinking fur seals and many fishermen. I stayed one night at Terrace Bay, one of the few places along the Skeleton Coast Park where you can and may stay overnight.
The northern part of the Skeleton Coast is a national park and therefore has a protected status. It is also known as the Geraamtekust. The Skeleton Coast starts just after Swakopmund when you travel up. It stretches all the way to the Kunene River, which is the border between Namibia and Angola. On the inland side you will find Namib Desert.
The combination of mist, heavy surf and unpredictable sea currents make this coast dangerous for shipping and whales.
Thousands of rusty shipwrecks lie along the coast Skeleton Coast. Some are easy to see and are therefore tourist attractions. I came driving from the Namib Desert and it had been very warm that morning when I visited the petrified forest. When I got out on the plain after some time, it had become quite cold. Not able to see the sun anymore in the bright blue sky. Only seeing a grey sky that seemed to change into a white desert in the distance.
I could not distinguish the sea in front of me from the desert or the sky, yet my map indicated that I was close to it.
I stepped out of my car briefly. I stayed close to the car but still wanted to feel the atmosphere. When I entered the park, it was made clear to me that I was not allowed to leave my vehicle. I also saw warning signs here and there. There might be a lion out there, so don’t become a prey… I couldn’t imagine that there would be a lion here. It’s a plain, there are no trees, there is no greenery…there doesn’t seem to be anything to live on. Only every now and then some rusty shipwrecks Skeleton Coast to be seen.
After more than an hour’s drive on the C34 along a seemingly empty coast, I arrived at Terrace Bay and checked in. Camping is not possible here, they have a number of beautiful rooms along the coast. A bit higher up behind the row of rooms is a super nice restaurant. I ate here in the evening and it is really a fishing place. Many fishermen have left a message here on the wall and even on the ceiling, I thought it gave a great atmosphere to the place.
After I had put my things in the room, I saw some fishermen standing near a table and a water spot. They were cleaning their catch. I went to have a chat with them. They told me that they came here every year, they were a couple of fathers with sons. They drove down from South Africa every year for a long weekend of fishing. There was another grandfather with them and he said that this was probably the last time he came here. They had a great sense of humour and later turned out to be sitting next to me in the room. I also had contact with them during dinner. I do like those contacts during travel!
Skeleton Coast / Cape Cross – Namibia
They also told me that I could find a lion’s paw print. There had been one yesterday. No, they hadn’t seen it themselves, but the story went round. This gave me the inspiration to start driving in the desolate landscape where nothing seemed to be found. On the map I got when I paid the entrance fees, I saw that if I drove a little further up the mountain, I could find a road inland. This road took me inland and just before Terrace Bay back on the C34.
Lions on the Skeleton Coast
Just before I turned onto that road, I had a chance to look at the coast. I saw some fishermen and watched them from a distance. When I wanted to drive on again I saw some lion paw prints on the road in front of me. I had been standing there for a while and had not seen any movement. But I looked around me again, there was really no place that such a huge animal could hide from me.
I decided to get out of the car and, of course, study these paw prints. As I got closer, it was obvious that these were lion paw prints. They were big and quite clear. How cool! It was also a bit exciting and of course I had to watch out that something didn’t walk by.
After this I drove that way and almost got stuck in a sand drift that had made the road almost invisible. Just had enough speed when I saw it and made it. Driving the rest of the way at walking pace, I was hoping of course to catch a glimpse of the mighty beast whose paw print I had seen just before. I couldn’t deny it, they were really here!
The only wildlife I saw in the whole skeleton coast was jackals. I also heard that the lions eat fur seals, they come to the coast of course. I had seen a few of them, little ones but also adults.
The Skeleton Coast & Wildelife
It was cold at the coast, it was the first time I had the heater on in the car. I also wore my training jacket and put on my buffy to protect me from the strong wind. I found the area really very impressive. Sometimes the sun came through a little and the temperature was nice for a while but as quickly as it came it was gone again and it was grey, misty and chilly.
The next morning, I drove off quietly and on time. I had taken a small breakfast in my own room from what I had left in my car. I drove down to the thousands of stinking fur seals of Cape Cross
Would you like to camp among the rusty shipwrecks of the Skeleton Coast?
Then you need to be at Torra Bay. There is a NWR camp site there, with cottages but no shop or restaurant. Please note that this site is only open in Dec and Jan. The site is a bit more basic. I found it cool that there were several fishermen and that I had some contact. Also with the cold and strong wind I didn’t mind having a room for the night.
Rusty Schipwrecks Skeleton Coast
If you drive along the Skeleton Coast, you can see many rusty shipwrecks and of course I did. I had the whole day to spare and secretly I was hoping to spot a lion or some other game. At one point, on the landward side of the road, I saw a sign that said Toscanini Old Diamond Mine and, in the distance, something sticking out of the sand. I went there to look and these turned out to be the remains of an old diamond mine. It was partly blown under by the desert sand and that looks strange.
A little further on, I saw the sign Ship Wreck South West Seal and so I turned off in the direction of the coast. The first road seemed impassable and when I looked closer I saw that the road curved to the right. There I drove on until I thought I got stuck in the beach. Then I turned to go back inland a little, and parked the car where it seemed safe to do so. I started to walk, the weather was quite good at the time and the atmosphere is special on the Skeleton Coast. I saw some dead fur seals lying around and parts of ships sticking out of the beach. Also in the surf you could see something sticking out of the waves, more stranded ships.
Skeleton Coast Namibia
The area is impassable and salvaging these wrecks is too costly and difficult. I can imagine all that. The valuables will be out pretty quickly and the iron and the remains of the interior will just be given back to the sea…
And then you walk along the coast, knowing full well that there are lions roaming around….
It is always exciting to walk around there!
They remain impressive images that appeal to the imagination.
Who was on the ship…were there any survivors?
After walking around there for a while, I got back into the 4WD to go to my overnight stay at Cape Cross Logde.
On the way I left the Skeleton Coast NP. Here, my date was checked, I hadn’t stayed too long inside and was the gate through which I left the park also the one that was on the ticket? I was also allowed to get out of my car freely after this…. although there is still a warning that wildlife can walk around here too of course. When I was there, I thought I could drive on to see the many Cape fur seals. It was still in time and I was going to camp at the Logde and wanted to pitch the tent as soon as I got there.
Cape Cross & Stinky Cape Fur Seal Colony
A little past Cape Cross Logde was the turnoff to the thousands of fur seals. I was very curious what I would find. After paying the entrance fee and having a look at the shop I drove on. You can buy nice souvenirs from the fur of the fur seal. When I came closer, I could already smell it. It was very busy there. I saw hundreds, if not thousands. The sound of the fur seals was also very present. It sounded rather pathetic in a way.
There was a nice path that was made and when it is busier with tourists it will be maintained and you could walk in it, I guess. Now the gate was open and there were fur seals on the path and it was impassable for me.
They were also lying really everywhere! I took some more distance to be able to get out of the car and have a good look at them. But I went back in fairly quickly and closed the windows again. Man, that place stinks!
Relaxing Cape Fur Seal at Cape Cross
At the very beginning of the car park, there is a monument. I walked there for a while and was amazed at how many bones I saw lying on the ground. Of course you know that not everyone survives, but the ground was littered with the bones of dead fur seals, but I also saw fur, etc. I thought it was a grim place. It stank and after a quarter of an hour I had seen enough of it.
It is one of those places that you can’t ignore but where you don’t sit for hours and enjoy the view. If you want to take pictures of fur seals and that is your hobby, this is the place to be. Also in the sea I saw many of them swimming, diving under water and sometimes coming out of the water a bit higher. It looked very energetic, as if they were having fun. There are thousands of fur seals so you can imagine all the things you can see and hear.
By now, I was feeling chilly. I checked in at Cape Cross Lodge and put up my rooftop tent. I had a look at their museum inside and had my evening meal there. Warming myself up again by the fireplace I looked back on a great day spend on the Skeleton Coast.
So here I concluded my visit to the Skeleton Coast.
What a strange area. There is actually nothing to see, it is one big sandpit but meanwhile…. there is so much to see and to discover
I found it super to experience the emptiness of the Skeleton Coast and can certainly recommend it to anyone if you have time to cross it. You could also drive through without spending the night of course.
Rustic schipswrecks Skeleton Coast
Do you want to experience the Skeleton Coast in one day?
If you come from Swakopmund, take the Ugabmund Gate entrance, which is the gate through which I left. You could then leave the park via the C39 Springbokwasser Gate where I also entered the park. Then I came from Damaraland. Then you experience the emptiness of the Skeleton Coast. You would not pass Torra Bay and Terrace Bay.
When I drove back to Swakopmund that last day after my night at Cape Cross Logde, I had a fog halo at one of those fishing spots.
But also outside the paid Skeleton Coast Park area you can find some rusty shipwrecks. Between Swakopmund and Hentiesbaai you will find the Indian Zelia ship, which gives you some nice pictures. This one is just as beautiful as the rusty shipwrecks Skeleton Coast. There too, you will find many fishermen and many roads that will take you to the rugged coast. It is really worthwhile to spend some time along the coast of Namibia.
Did you also find this area special and do you want to include the Rustic Shipwrecks Skeleton Coast on your tour of Namibia?
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