Quick Facts: Namib Coastal Desert
- Skeleton Coast in Namibia
- National West Coast Recreation Area
- Walvis Bay
Introducing Namib Coastal Desert
Skeleton Coast in Namibia
The world famous Skeleton Coast in Namibia, Southern Africa, is an area of remarkable contrasts. It received its name due to the skeletons of numerous ships that were wrecked in this region of Africa's coast. This magnificent area in Namibia is characterised by a desert alongside an ocean. It is here in Namibia's northern seaboard where the edge of the Namib Desert pushes a sea of hot sand into the frigid waters of the south Atlantic Ocean.
Portuguese seafarers called this wilderness of white sand "the coast of hell" due to its dangers. It later became known as the Skeleton Coast, because of the dismal fate of castaways from ships that were wrecked here. This region of Namibia incorporates the National West Coast Recreation Area north of Swakopmund and the Skeleton Coast Park from the Ugab River north to the Kunene.
The National West Coast Recreation Area is a frequent haunt of regional fishermen providing excellent angling. Cape Cross Seal Reserve north of Henties Bay is Namibia's best known breeding colony of Cape fur seals. The Ugab River Hiking Trail is a 3-day hike across the coastal plain into the jagged mountains and canyons of the interior.
The Skeleton Coast Park stretches almost 500 km to the Ugab River in the south and to the Kunene in the north. The Skeleton Coast Park in Namibia covers an area of around 16,000 sqkm. It is a remote area often covered in a blanket of coastal fog or suffering from cold sea breezes, this harsh climate has produced a unique ecosystem. The landscape of the Skeleton Coast ranges from large sand dunes to deep canyons and mountain ranges, whose slopes are covered by a variety of plants which have adapted to the environment, such as the peculiar elephant foot plant.
Animals found in the Skeleton Coast Park include gemsbok, springbok, ostrich, jackal, hyena, giraffe, lion and desert elephants. One can also find large seal colonies along the coast of Namibia such as the one at Cape Frio. The birdlife is fantastic with flocks of sandpipers and other long beaked fishers, as well as short beaked waders, cormorants and Cape Gannets.
The coastal town of Walvis Bay
Walvis Bay is a coastal resort on Namibia's west coast boasting a unique and captivating setting as it is located amidst desert expanses and sweeping shorelines. Walvis Bay is home to Namibia’s largest port. The oldest desert in the world can be found here. Activities in Walvis Bay include kayaking on the lagoon among the beautiful flamingos, boat trips through the harbour and to the open sea, desert tours, deep-sea and surf angling trips to some of the richest fishing grounds in the world.
The town of Swakopmund in Namibia was of major importance as a harbour during the German colonial era. Luederitz was too far away and the seaport of Walvis Bay was in British possession during this time period. Swakopmund became the gate to South-West Africa and the entire supply for the colony went through this little town. The narrow-rail train to Windhoek started operations in 1902 while at the same time, the station in the Wilhelminian style which is equivalent to the Victorian style, was built. It was completely restored some years ago and has become an entertainment centre, a casino and a luxury hotel.
The appearance of the town, with its 30 000 inhabitants, is characterised by numerous colonial buildings with the Woermann House from 1905 as its landmark. The former trading house in Bismarck Street with its 25 metre high Damara Tower and its courtyard bordered by arcades today houses the city library, an art gallery and the office of the Namibia Wildlife Resorts.
The Namibian town of Swakopmund is a popular seaside resort with a slightly nostalgic atmosphere, many tourist attractions and a pleasant climate in summer. The drive along the magnificent dune-lined coastline is particularly attractive, whether one drives south to Walvis Bay (30 km) or to the National West Coast Recreation Area in the north. This road leads right along the beach and leads to the Ugab rivermouth and further to the fishermen's resort of Henties Bay and Cape Cross on the way. North of the Ugab, the Skeleton Coast National Park begins. Of great interest is also the Welwitchia Drive which leads to the Moon Landscape at the Swakop Rivier and into the northern part of the Namib Naukluft Park.