Nambia’s Skeleton Coast by Land Cruiser
The Namib Desert — which includes the 975 miles of Namibia’s Atlantic coastline — is at least 55 million years old and within its northernmost and remotest section lies the 6,500-square-mile Skeleton Coast National Park. Its Wilderness Area limits visitors to about 60 four-night permits per year. Each costs $5,000 USD for up to 14 people for a specific date, and no two permits are closer than two days to each other, so you are truly the only ones in the park.
We were six couples in six Land Cruisers with popup tents mounted on top plus spare tires and abundant jerry cans of fuel and water in back. Remote Recreation, an independent safari planner, had lined up vehicle and gear rentals, hotel reservations before and after, and most importantly, our two guides: Marius van Zyl and Gabriel Ndipulalye, who navigated the route, narrated the desert world, handled emergencies, and cooked camp meals. They also brought a portable toilet — we packed out everything we packed in. Driving 25-90 miles per day, we parked in a circle at campsites only marked by GPS coordinates.
From seaside town of Swakopmund, we drove a rough tarmac road 120 miles north to a park office to sign in. We passed through a skull-and-crossbones gate and continued another 150 miles, past the last stop for fuel at Terrace Bay, to Möwe Bay where the official road ended. We let some air out of the tires and plunged into the desert.
The first night we camped along a turbulent sea. A frigid, relentless wind from the north held our tents at full sail, and we ate dinner around a fire behind a canvas windbreak between two vehicles. We rocked to unsettling sleep, wondering what awaited.
I had imagined an inward journey, hypnotized by a vast empty world of sand. Reality was anything but. We’d drive along the seashore: waves thundering into foam; whale skeletons, turtle shells, or even shipwrecks scattered on the beach; the huge colonies of seals lounging or playing in the surf.