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Namibia

Skeleton Coast National Park

Skeleton Coast National Park

Once known by the Bushmen as the Land God Made In Anger, and by the visiting Portuguese as The Gates Of Hell, the beaches of the Skeleton Coast are strewn with bones, and with the wrecks of a thousand plus ships. It is, as its name suggests, a mysterious place, an absolute must see for the enquiring mind.

In the past the Skeleton Coast began just south of the Orange River and extended well into Angola. Enormous and – terrain-wise – varied from region to region it constituted 1.6 million hectares. The south was possibly more commonly visited, and here the fishing has always been world class. In those days the list of Skeleton Coast highlights was long, and included the giant dunes at Sossusvlei, the red lava and yellow sandstone of Huab river, and the wilds of Cape Fria.

However, as Namibia has found its feet in terms of building into its wilderness programmes a solid platform for sustainable tourism, so the coast and its inland terrains have been further divided into more manageable / specialist zones. Now known as Skeleton Coast National Park, the area begins in the south with the Uqab river and runs roughly 500 km north, to Kunene river. Covering approximately 20 000 square km, it is bordered to the west by Etosha, to the south west by Waterberg, to the immediate south by Cape Cross Seal Reserve and to the north by southern Angola. Sossusvlei is now much further south, and a park in its own right.

Despite the ridiculously harsh conditions, the park is home to a number of remarkable animals. Periodically consumed by a cold Atlantic fog that drifts inland, it is on this relatively tiny amount of moisture that the areas flora and insect life manage to survive. Amazingly, larger life forms proliferate along coastal riverbeds, with, among others, giraffe, springbok, lion and baboon exploiting wells left behind by the desert elephant. However, it should be understood that the conditions dictate low numbers. The birdlife, on the other hand, is prolific. The sea, fed by the Benguela arctic current, is packed with nutrients, and consequently marine life flourishes. Cape Fria, for example, is known for its seal populations.

Much loved by the seasoned traveller, it is said that Skeleton Coast National Park is the least visited of all Africa’s parks.

Climate Information

Situated on a subtropical latitudinal range of 17° to 28°, Namibia has a bimodal precipitation pattern. The wet – or rainy – season occurs in November to April. These are the summer months and are characterised by rising temperatures – which during the day average out at between 25°C and 35°C, depending on where you are, and during the night fall to between 10°C and 20°C. The rains peak in January and February, occur in great bursts and can bring travel to a standstill. The winter or peak dry season occurs June – September, when temperatures fall to a daytime average of 15°C to 25°C, and to a very cold night time average of 0°C to 10°C.

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