Namibia News

Where ocean meets dune: a journey to northern Namibia’s Skeleton Coast

For three days, I revel in its raw glory, the hours punctuated by sightings of lone black rhinos, shy giraffes and hundreds of gnarly trees and spiky bushes that have adapted to life in this sun-scorched environment.

It’s hard to imagine the ocean is just beyond the mountains, 40 miles away. It’s a seven-hour direct drive, taken on by only the most intrepid of travellers — and stories of people getting lost for days convince me to take a slower, clearer road. Eventually, the wheels crunch down a gravel strip that runs parallel to one of the most treacherous shores in the world: the Skeleton Coast.

On most days, the sun-bleached bones of whales and the rusty shells of shipwrecks and planes would sit beneath a low blanket of fog. But today, a bright blue sky makes the tumbling waves an inviting turquoise. I park up at Mowe Bay and wait for a more capable driver to shuttle me along the final stretch. 

At Shipwreck Lodge, our guide, Shiimi, greets us with a smile before taking us out on the lodge’s high-speed quad bikes. We set off, accelerating up dunes so high and steep I feel like I’m hurtling into the sky. We reach the ridge and swoop down the other side. Miles and miles of golden sand spread out in front of us; the Kaokoveld, or ‘coast of loneliness’ in local Herero language, stretches beyond.

But there are more docile ways to take in this lodge’s remote setting, which sits at the mouth of the Hoarusib River. At the lodge, 10 cabins, designed in the style of shipwrecks, run parallel to the ocean and are cosily kitted out with wood-burning stoves. 

Shiimi and I pitch up on the edge of the beach where a barbecued feast is laid out beside an audience of playful seals. Later, I strap myself into a seat on the roof of a jeep while Shiimi navigates the coastline, stopping to point out the remnants of the ships that ran aground on these formidable shores, and the jackals and hyenas that scavenge here for food. “To see this landscape — the ocean and the dunes — roll into one is what makes this place so special for me,” he tells us. “This place soothes my soul.”

I agree. The following morning, I wrap myself in a blanket to shield myself from the worst of the bracing Benguela Current breeze, sit back on a seat on my outside deck, and sip coffee to a soundtrack of pounding waves and wind whipping through the dunes. In the local Nama language, the word ‘Namib’ translates to ‘vast place of nothingness’.

And I wouldn’t wish for anything more. 

How to do it: Abercrombie & Kent offers a 12-night ‘Discover Namibia’ trip from £3,995 per person (based on two sharing), including stays at Hoanib Valley Camp and Shipwreck Lodge, flights, car hire, private transfers, safari costs on a full-board basis and international flights. 

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