SkeletonCoast_sm-202The Skeleton Coast has an evocative, enigmatic name that sounds like a place one “has” to visit.

In practical terms, the Skeleton Coast refers to the northern stretch of Namibia’s Coastline — where the Atlantic Ocean meets a “sea” of sand dunes from the Namib Desert under a cover of dense fog rising from the cool ocean currents. The name is, surprisingly, quite recent and refers to the many shipwrecks that litter the inhospitable coast. It remains one of the most remote and pristine areas of the world.

Departing from Namibia’s charming capital city, Windhoek, I took a light aircraft transfer about 2.5 hours to the area. The beautiful new Hoanib Camp, which opened last year, is located in a valley close to the ephemeral riverbed of the Hoanib River, just 3km from Skeleton Coast National Park.

We began at sunrise with a game drive along the floodplains where we saw lots of desert-adapted elephants and giraffes. We crossed a beautiful dune field and saw a small group of oryx at an oasis as well as a solitary oryx on the dunes. Arriving at the rocky, foggy coast made an incredible finale to the day — a vast untouched coastline, a mangled shipwreck, a lively seal colony and a funky little museum at Mowe Bay. We flew back along the route we’d driven, which offered an excellent perspective and stunning photo opportunities.

SkeletonCoast_sm-228On the next day, we saw Harmann’s mountain zebra and looked for brown hyenas at their den (unfortunately they had moved, but there is decent likelihood of seeing them). The desert lions were in an inaccessible region too, but that evening’s fireside talk with Dr. Flip Stander about his research was fascinating.

Before heading back to Windhoek, I had the chance to stay at Damaraland Camp. Affectionally known as D-Camp, this is a sparkling example of community-based tourism with the majority of the staff coming from the local Torra Conservancy. I had the pleasure of personally donating some OneWorld Futbols to the colorful ‘grandfather’ of the conservancy, Oom van Jankie, who was accompanied by an orphaned baboon holding on to his leg as we walked.

In my recent visits I have found that Namibia is much more than vast expanses of magnificent desert. It is surprising, colorful, mysterious and sophisticated. If your ears perk up at the mention of ephemeral rivers, a coastline of shipwrecks, ancient nomadic cultures and truly unique wildlife, Namibia is speaking to you.

Here’s a peak at a new documentary on the Desert Lions of Namibia:

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