Skeleton Coast National Park Safari Guide

safarigo   Namibia  

The Skeleton Coast is a windswept strip of desert covering almost 500km/310mi of Atlantic coast. This spooky park is often shrouded in fog. Its name comes from the numerous shipwrecks lying on the shore. A big draw for visitors is the fascinating Cape fur seal colonies. The most visited colony being at Cape Cross, located south of the park.



Pros & Cons


Interesting desert coastline environment
Big seal colonies
Off-the-beaten track wilderness destination
Excellent birding opportunities
Very remote and inaccessible
Low animal densities and little variety


Wildlife & Animals

This coastal park is home to a variety of marine wildlife. Cape-fur seals are abundant. The most accessible colony is at Cape Cross, outside the park to the south. Up to 100,000 animals can be seen here at any time. Wooden boardwalks make for easy viewing and vantage points. Be prepared for an overpowering stench and high noise levels.

Wildlife Highlights


It is not unusual to see the otherwise very shy, but handsome, brown hyena trotting along the beach searching for beached seal carcasses. It is also worth looking out into the sea for a glimpse of the rare Heaviside's dolphins. The mouth of the Uniab River attracts some wildlife coming in from Kaokoland, further inland. This includes oryx, springbok and greater kudu.

Birds

The Skeleton Coast is a rewarding birding destination. Marine birds, as well as wetland birds that inhabit the river deltas, are the specialty here. However, accessibility in the park is limited and most species can be found more easily south of the park. Jaegers and skuas are a common sight around the seal colonies and the gracious Cape gannets can be seen diving into the sea to catch their meal. Migratory birds are present from November to April.

Best Time to Visit

Skeleton Coast can be visited throughout the year, but the ideal time is during the warmer months from October to March. These months see a little bit of rain, which keeps the skies clear. Mornings are less foggy and it’s warmer at night than in the winter months. However, wildlife viewing in Etosha NP is a less productive at that time, but this is only relevant if visiting both parks.

May to October – Dry Season


It usually stays cool in the middle of the day (October can be warmer)
There is virtually no rain
It gets a bit chilly in the early morning
It is often windy and misty
Animals tend to seek cover when there is a cold wind


November to April – Wet Season


It doesn’t rain much and mornings are less foggy
This is the best time for birding as migrants are present
It can get hot in the middle of the day
If you also plan on visiting Etosha NP, wildlife viewing is more productive there from June to October


Weather & Climate

The Skeleton Coast is characterized by heavy fog and a desert climate tempered by cold sea breezes. Early mornings tend to be very misty, but this often clears by mid-morning. Aside from the fog, it is mostly sunny and precipitation is low.

Dry Season – May to October – Winter


This is the coolest time of the year. Rainfall is practically absent. These winter months experience heavy fog and strong westerly winds, coming off the ocean and cooling things down.

May, June, July & August – Mornings tend to be foggy, but it is mostly sunny in the afternoon. There is almost no rain. These are the coolest months and the average afternoon temperature is 21°C/70°F. It is cold in the early morning with temperatures averaging 12°C/54°F.
September & October – It is dry and sunny with early morning fog. This is the end of winter and daytime temperatures average 22°C/72°F, but it can get increasingly hot during the day. Early mornings see temperatures of around 14°C/57°F.


Wet Season – November to April – Summer


The Wet season falls in the warmer summer months. The fog and cold sea winds usually prevent searing conditions. Although this is the Wet season, rainfall is very low. Early morning temperatures reach about 17°C/63°F.

November & December – The morning fog and cold sea winds keep average daytime temperatures to a low 24°C/75°F, but they will soar once there is less wind and the sun breaks out. It only rains occasionally.

January, February & March – There is more rainfall during these months, but it’s still quite low. It is mostly dry and sunny. Daytime temperatures average 25°C/77°F, but will be higher when the cold sea winds are less and the fog clears.
April – There is a rapid decrease in precipitation in April. Average afternoon temperatures of around 24°C/75°F are typical.

Getting There

When entering from the south, the Skeleton Coast NP is located 200km/124mi from the town of Swakopmund and 485km/300mi from Windhoek.

Most people who want a taste of the Skeleton Coast drive up as close as Cape Cross seal colony, which is about 100km/62mi south of the park entrance.

Self-drive visitors, and most organized tours, start their journey via 4x4 in Windhoek. Hosea Kutako International Airport (WDH), your point of entry, is located just 40km/25mi east of Windhoek. An alternative is to arrange a trip which reaches different destinations via chartered flight.


It is also possible to drive to the Skeleton Coast from Etosha in the north of the country. The distance is about 620km/385mi and the driving time about eight hours.