Namibia’s Spooky Skeleton Coast
For centuries, a stretch of Africa's shore has lived up to its sinister name. From whales to ships to unlucky explorers, the Skeleton Coast has become the graveyard of many.
A barren stretch of shore in Namibia maintains a reputation as one of the harshest places on earth…and it has an ominous name to match. The Skeleton Coast owes its appellation to the whalebones that peppered the shoreline when the whaling industry was booming, as well as, more ominously, to the hulking carcasses of sea-wrecked ships buried in the sand and disintegrating in the water—more than 1,000 have met their end on the deadly coast.
But Skeleton Coast isn’t even the region’s most foreboding title. First encountered by daring Portuguese explorers in the 15th century, the region was dubbed “The Gates of Hell” because of its harsh conditions. Locally, Namibia’s Bushmen tribes know it as “the land God made in anger.”
And it’s not hard to see where these nicknames come from. The 310 miles of the Namib Desert’s shore comprise a national park that is divided into a northern and southern section by rivers. Between the northern border of Angola and one of the park’s intersecting rivers, the most extreme and delicate portion of the coastline is known as the Skeleton Coast Wilderness. Puddle-jumping Cessnas are the only way in, and Land Rovers are the only way to get around. A mere 800 travelers are allowed to visit the northern area of the park each year through safari tours, and prices are steep.