Skeleton Coast Park
Stretching along the Atlantic shore, the Skeleton Coast mountains and canyons are an eerie, windswept desert coastline. It is surreal to see the wild sea waves crashing into the desert. The shipwrecks along the coast evoke a ghostlike feeling and serve as a constant reminder of the nature’s unyielding power. Most visitors come to see the Cape fur seal colonies, with Cape Cross colony (south of the park) being the most notable and accessible.
Best Time to Go
October – May
Average Safari Cost
$150 – $800 pp/day
Huge colonies of Cape fur seals, the rare Heaviside’s dolphin and the migrating southern right whale. The shipwrecks along the coast. Unique and captivating coastline.
Pros And Cons
Every safari is an adventure. And as any adventure, it brings some challenges. Have a look at our list of pros and cons before choosing your safari.
- The desert coastline is different and fascinating
- Marine life is fascinating
- Birdwatching is good
- Very different type of safari
- You can visit as part of a tour group, or independently
- Remote and mostly inaccessible
- Land animal population is low with little variety
- The smells and sounds can be overwhelming at the seal colonies
Namibia Self Drive Adventure
Your self drive holiday begins in Windhoek. From here you drive to the Kalahari Desert and then you head south to the dramatic Fish River Canyon. Next you visit the ghost town of Kolmanskop, before driving to Sossusvlei to see the iconic sand dunes. You then explore Swakopmund on the Skeleton Coast and search for desert-dwelling elephant in Damaraland. Next stop is Etosha Game Reserve. You spend the last two days in Okonjima getting up close and personal with big cats at the AfriCat Foundation.
Namibia Flying Safari
On this exclusive itinerary, you’ll fly between destinations rather than driving, and you’ll stay at some of Namibia’s most remote and luxurious properties. You’ll begin with a light aircraft flight from Windhoek into a private reserve within the Namib Dessert. You’ll then stay at Pelican Point at Walvis Bay before moving on to the remote and spectacular Hoanib Skeleton Coast Camp. Your Namibian adventure ends in style at the incredible Serra Cafema, in the land of the Himba tribe.
Highlights of this Namibian self-drive adventure include exploring the world-famous sand dunes in the Namib Desert, visiting seal colonies on the Skeleton Coast, searching for desert-dwelling elephants in Damarland, and getting up close and personal with big cats at the AfriCat Foundation at Okonjima.
Why Visit Skeleton Coast?
Skeleton Coast is definitely not your average safari experience. The near-constant fog and the sound of crashing waves make the coast dreamlike. This harsh strip of unique natural landscape provides an unusual draw, with its wild, lonely beauty and the unlikely sight of the desert meeting the sea.
As the name implies, wildlife is scarce in Skeleton Coast, with only desert-adapted animals such as springbok, Oryx and elephant living here. However, you will likely only see brown hyenas and black-back jackals scavenging the shore for beached seals.
But the marine life is abundant, with huge colonies of Cape fur seals and the occasional glimpse of the rare Heaviside’s dolphin. For its accessibility, the Cape Cross seal is colony most popular. Cape Cross is located south of Skeleton Coast, and contains wooden boardwalks to make viewing the seals easier. Once you get past the noise and smells, you are sure to become captivated by the seals.
The coast has also become a popular surfing spot, regardless of the fact that the seals are likely to draw sharks.
Skeleton Coast is also a great birdwatching destination, with many marine and wetland species present. Keep in mind however, that while there are a great number of species present, accessibility is limited in the park itself, and as with the seal colonies, birdwatching will be easier in the south of the park.
With its scarce wildlife, Skeleton Coast’s true draw is in its riveting, lonely harshness. The fogged coast, colourful lichen and the dunes meeting the sea can seem almost fantastical, as if the boarder into a different world.
Best Time To Visit
Skeleton Coast is a heavily fogged coast that can be visited throughout the year, although it’s best to visit during the warmer months from October to March. The fog isn’t as heavy at this time of the year, and the normally icy winds are mostly blown over. You are more likely to spot animals during these warmer months, including birds. Birdwatching is believed to be best from November till April, when the migratory birds arrive.
April and May are the months to avoid Skeleton Coast, as the fog is thicker and icy winds blow from the ocean. For more information see when to visit Namibia.
Start your Namibia Adventure
Wildlife And Birds
Skeleton Coast is not an average safari, as it doesn’t offer game drives. The main draw to this coastline is the abundance of Cape fur seals, which are found in large colonies along the coast.
The most accessible colony is at Cape Cross, which is outside of the park, and many visitors make it no further than this. The seal colonies are notorious for their overpowering smells and incredible noise levels, but many visitors find that these factors are worth the enjoyment they receive from watching the seals and their antics.
The rare brown hyena and the black-backed jackal are incredibly attracted to this area, and can be seen scavenging along the coast for beached seal remains. It is also possible to spot the rare Heaviside’s dolphin out at sea, and perhaps even the migrating southern right whale.
Some desert-adapted wildlife such springboks, Oryx and greater kudu may be spotted within the park.
- Heaviside’s dolphin
- Southern right whale
- Brown hyena
- Black-backed jackal
- Cape fur seals
With many marine and wetland species present, the south of the Skeleton Coast is a great location for birdwatching. Near the seal colonies, jaegers and skuas are common and easily seen, accompanied by Cape garnets diving elegantly to catch their meals in the sea.
Birdwatching is best from November to April, as the Skeleton Coast will be warmer and with less fog and icy winds. There are also many more species inhabiting the coast at this time of year as migratory birds arrive from northern Africa and Europe.
Notable birds include: Egyptian goose, great white pelican, black bustard, black crake, arctic skua, subantarctic skua, pomarine skua and black crake.
- Ludwig’s bustard
Endemic and Near Endemic birds:
- Damara tern
- Gray’s lark
- Rueppell’s bustard
Getting There And Safety
Your journey will start at Hosea Kutako International Airport (WDH), located 40 km (25 miles) east of Windhoek – the main entry point into Namibia. The Skeleton Coast National Park is located 485 km (300 miles) from Windhoek accessible by 4x4 vehicle, and 200 km (124 miles) from Swakopmund. All visitors will need to obtain a special permit to enter sections of the park.
It is common that most people only want a taste of the Skeleton Coast, and only make it as far as the seal colony at Cape Cross, located 100 km (62 miles) south of the park.
But your safari operator might also suggest driving from Etosha to the Skeleton Coast. The driving time is roughly 8 hours. Unfortunately, there are no domestic flights to the Skeleton Coast or its surrounding areas.
Going on a safari in Africa comes with obvious risks. We recommend you get travel insurance for all safaris in Namibia. Make sure your insurance has full medical coverage, emergency air evacuation, repatriation and the standard travel insurance for cancellations, delays and luggage cover.
Check World Nomads’ travel insurance calculator to see the cost of your safari trip cover.
The Skeleton Coast is a malaria-free zone. However, other areas in the country may not be, and precautions might be necessary.
For more details about vaccinations see our Namibia Safari - Complete Travel Guide.