A family-run business first founded by Louw Schoeman (who also took a leading role in the creation of the Skeleton Coast National Park back in the 1970s), the Schoemans’ safari company continues to offer adventurous travellers the unique combination of air and land adventure to explore the shipwrecks, rolling sand dunes and desolate landscapes of this hauntingly beautiful stretch of coastline. There is, quite simply, nothing like it.
Beginning at Eros airport, Windhoek, and using low-level flying light aircraft to transport visitors from one area to the next, the Skeleton Coast Safari makes its way up through some of Africa’s oldest surviving wildernesses. At selected landing spots (some in otherwise inaccessible areas), travellers then continue to explore the coast and further inland by Land Rover or on foot. It’s worth noting that seeing wildlife (such as the desert-adapted elephant) is considered a real bonus, but not the main focus of the tours and not something to be expected from the safari.
Sleeping takes place in 3 different locales – comfortable but basic tented camps, which are exclusive, privately owned and accessible only with the Schoeman family. Erected in spots of particular beauty, and serviced by local community groups, each fully-equipped campsite consists of dome tents with twin beds, en suite bucket showers (with hot water provided on request), a central eating area, bush bar (food and drinks, including wine and beer, are all available) and shared washroom area (with two flush toilets and hand basins.) Director’s chairs outside your tent allow you to relax, enjoy a sundowner, and take in the views while a fire pit at night sets the scene for a sociable evening under the stars.
The first of the camps, Kuidas, is in the lower reaches of the Huab River in Damaraland; the second, Leylands, is located on a confluence of seasonal valley rivers, in the Hoarusib Valley, in Kaokoland; the third, Kunene River, is on the very northwestern border of Namibia.
The safari itineraries
There are 4 different, guided, fly-in itineraries on offer.
4 day safari begins with a fly-over Kuiseb Canyon and the famous Eduard Bohlen shipwreck at Conception Bay, before heading north past the seal colony at Cape Cross (with picnic lunch near the beach), then crossing the desert by air to the lunar landscapes of the Ugab formations. Overnight at Kuidas ancient rock carvings are found within walking distance of the camp, while a powerful digital tracking telescope here allows impressive stargazing on moonless nights.
The second day is used to explore the red lava and yellow sandstone of the Huab River valley by vehicle, then, after lunch, flying to Terrace Bay for the Montrose and Henrietta shipwrecks. Then onto the roaring dunes and nearby beach – complete with old bleached whalebones – before continuing north to Leylands.
The third day includes a visit to the nomadic Himba then on by air to the Angolan border and the Kaiu Maru shipwreck. Overnight is spent at the Kunene River. The fourth day begins with a riverboat trip on the Kunene and then return flight to Windhoek after lunch.
A 4d/3n safari follows the same itinerary as option A but includes an earlier start on day 1 in order to fly to Sesriem, then travelling on by vehicle to visit Sossusvlei in the Namib Naukluft Park, reputedly home to the highest sand dunes in the world; reaching heights up to 300m.
A longer 5 day safari which mirrors safari option B up to day 4. From here travellers fly from Kunene to the eastern side of the Etosha National Park and stay overnight in a nearby lodge. The following day after breakfast guests journey into the park for wildlife viewing by vehicle with a full morning exploring the drinking holes which are home to lion, steenbok, springbok, eland, zebra and elephant. A return flight to Windhoek arrives before dark.
This is a 6 day safari, which begins with a trip to Sossusvlei before an onward flight to Wolwedans Dune Camp in the NamibRand Nature Reserve for the start of a two night stay.
Day 2 begins with a flight to Luderitz where a full day safari introduces visitors to the old ghost town relics at Kolmanskop, the mining plants of the early German pioneers and the forbidden coast. A late afternoon flight passes over the stunning Spencer Bay with the Otavi shipwreck, seals, penguins and other birdlife. After a second night at Wolwedans the itinerary continues with the programme listed under option A.