Namibia's Skeleton Coast continues to be a synonym for the horrors a sailor could face when his ship sank. Sharp rocks just underneath the water surface and thick fog during dusk and dawn along the entire coast posed a danger to ships, and when a shipwrecked crew did make it to land, they faced a belt of almost 100 km of desert, without any water or food sources and bare of any human settlement. All along the coast are the bodies of ships and there are many stories of sailors dying or only escaping the desert by accident.
Skeleton Coast National Park has its southern boundary at the Ugab river and stretches northward to the Namibian border with Angola. The further north you get the more desolate the area becomes.
Rocky desert with occasional sand dunes
The southern third of the park can be explored independently, but the area north of Terrace Bay is restricted and may only be visited with a certified tour guide that holds the relevant concession. Expect to pay the guide around N$1,000 per day for the privilege, even if they are just a passenger in your car.
There are two entry gates to the park, one at the southern border of the park at the Ugab River mouth and the other on the eastern border at Springbokwasser.
The main coastal road C34 starts at Swakopmund and follows the coast north up to the Ugab River mouth.
An alternative route is to drive west from Khorixas on the C39, and then enter the park on the D3245.
Since there are few roads in the park, most of the park is inaccessible even to 4x4s, which are the only type of land vehicle allowed in the park. In order to access the inner parts and northern coast, you must book a plane tour, some of which do land in the park.
Fees and permits
You need a permit to enter the park. You can buy it only at a Ministry of Environment and Tourism office which are often co-located at outlets of Namibia Wildlife Resorts. There are offices in Windhoek (corner of Bismarck Street and Sam Nujoma Avenue) and Swakopmund (Uhland Street).
- Entrance fee
It costs N$80 per person (Namibians N$30, neighbouring countries' residents N$60), children under 16 free, and N$10 per car to enter the park.
- Camping fee
If you stay over at one of the government camp sites you must have a permit. Prices are higher than on private camp sites.
- Angling fee
To catch fish in the Atlantic you need a fishing permit (N$50 pppd), even if you catch-and-release.
The major road in the area is a salt road. These are very slick if wet. Otherwise, they seem like bad pavement. To access the interior regions and the northern-most coast, you must rent a plane and fly out to those areas.
- Examine the lichen fields supported by the nightly fog. At times it is amazing that anything lives in such a desolate area. Enjoy many kilometers of undeveloped coastline that extends without limit.
- Over two hundred bird species are regular habitants of the coast line.
- Hundreds of shipwrecks dotted along the coast.
The coast is considered to be prime surf angling area.
The most common risks posed to anyone travelling to this national park are exposure, the heat, and isolation. Always make sure that you are dressed appropriately, and have put on enough sunscreen on to last you for as long as you are in the park. Even though most of the park is not accessible by 4x4, the entirety of the park is virtually cut off from civilization, save some areas near the park borders. This means that you are on your own if your 4x4 breaks down, so be prepared in case of emergency. Other than threats imposed by nature and geography, there are no crimes against tourists committed in the park.