Skeleton Coast, Kunene River and Kaokoland

A coast of loneliness, contrast and history. A journey to the most North-Western part of Namibia.

12 – 23 August 2021
R15 500 p/p sharing

To be on this route is a privilege, as not many people pass through this part of Namibia and it’s one of the most remote areas of this beautiful country. A route from Swakopmund to Puros or Sesfontein, covering about 1.500 km, with the most unusual sceneries, from mountains to plains and beaches with quite a few shipwrecks and dunes.

wreck

Day 1

We meet early morning (6.30) on the first day at the Shell petrol station and last circle on the Henties bay road (time may differ)

The tour leader supplies each car with a radio transmitter to keep in touch with the convoy, warning us and telling us on route what to do and what not to do. He is very strict about the tracks we follow as not to make new ones.

Stop at Zeila wreck that stranded 25 August 2008. We also visit the old rusted Toscanini oil rig which closed in 1976. Diamonds were never found in that area or the ones that were found, had not much value. It is now a breeding place for cormorants and we might even see the elusive Brown Hyena! The patterns of the rust of the rig make splendid photographic opportunities.

On we go to Terrace-bay, also a very popular place for fishing, where we have lunch and it is the last opportunity for all to refuel (as for the next 1000 km there won’t be any shops or any other luxuries except ourselves!) And animals…

  • Diesel: 220 liter per motor
  • Petrol: 290 liter per motor

Mowe Bay is the un-official border between Damaraland and Kaokoveld and this is our last contact with people as we enter a park only accessible with someone that has a permit. Away from pollution, people and civilization, only to hear your own heartbeat and the sound of the waves on the beach, and absolute quietness – pure bliss.

Just north of Mowe Bay, we will look for a nice overnight spot between the dunes. Our cook will start a fire while we all set up our tents. We’ll enjoy a “boesman’s TV” fire and have a wonderful potjie.

Lorry

Day 2

We are never in a hurry in the morning, after having our first hot cup of coffee/tea and breakfast, made by our cook, we make our own lunch pack. Cold meats, tomatoes, cucumber, cheese etc will be provided and you can built your own sandwich. Somewhere along the way we have a stop and eat our lunch or just eat whenever you like while still driving.

The scenery varies as we travel along from barren landscapes to mountains and riverbeds and here you realize the intense loneliness of this part of the country. The colors vary from the yellow of the sand to black on the mountains and red from the Garnet, a silicate mineral.

We’ll pass a rusted and forlorn bulldozer and tractor, left behind by the van der Westhuizen brothers who tried to mine diamonds here, the area is now called the Westhies.  Perhaps they were part of the famous rescue of the Duneden Star?? If only they could talk!

Very interesting are the parts of the Ventura Bomber plane who were part of the rescue team. Some parts are still visible. The plane crashed diving into the sea near the shore and all in the plane could get out alive and had minor injuries. The wreck of the plane washed ashore which we could see spread around. (try to look up the book “The Skeleton coast” by John Marsh)

We’ll drive long stretches on the beach but also on the dunes and again, the scenery varies ever so often .

The many “Ghost crabs” popping out of  holes on the beach at the vibration of the cars are something special to see, they are beautiful. They race like little cars on the beach towards the sea, quite amusing.

We’ll cross the dry river bed of the Hoariseb, the dried mud making the most beautiful curls. Up and along some dunes again to the place where the dunes talk back to you. They are also called roaring dunes. We get the opportunity to climb the dunes, one step up and 2 steps down! Then we pass the most amazing rock formations which are nestled between die dunes.

We enter the Hoariseb dry river with high mountains around us, go through some water pools with lots of green and of course the men want to show off by going fast through the water and almost like a competition, who can make the highest splash!

We put up camp again against a dune. Fire is made for hot water for the showers and you can either sit down and relax or wander around.

Dunes and sea

Day 3

This day is going to be an interesting day as the scenery change from the riverbed and high mountains right next to us to plains with the most stunning colors. Barren, with dark brown colors and the yellow of the sand. The orange of the lichen that brighten the whole area. Lichens are a symbolic relationship between fungus and algae and are well adapted to survive in harsh conditions. The desert hosts 120 species. Some are black on rocks and putting some water on them and then watching them turning green, is something amazing to see.

Onward we go along the beach to Cape Fria and see hundreds of seals.

Interesting to read is the book Skeleton coast, written by John H Marsh, where he writes the true story around the history of the Duneden Eden Star shipwreck and the rescue that took place in 1942. Almost unbelievable how that many people were stranded on the beach for almost 14 days and how they survived. We will make camp where they had their shelter without hardly anything to eat or drink and how they endured the sun, wind and the absolute nothingness around them. Except for two, everyone was brought to safety from their horrible ordeal.

Day 4

Today we will reach the Kunene mouth, first over some dunes and a stop to have a beautiful view over “borsluisbaai”. Before arriving at the Kunene you will be warned not to go near the water as there could be crocodiles. Be on the outlook for the turtles, we’ll have a good view into Angola on the other side!

From there we’ll go over the dunes and witness the beautiful contrasts with the colors of the sand against the dark mountains. Look back every now and then.

Day 5

A cave visit is on the list and we stop and have a look around before going down over the dunes to the Kunene river. We will take a walk and find a perfect spot for a braai.

Day 6

Before departing you can walk to the river and see the rapids, climbing over huge boulders. Dune driving is next on the list before we enter the Hartmans valley, beautiful open spaces and a lot of Oryx.

Stopping at green drum where someone left an old laptop so you can send a “mock” email! Suddenly you remember that you were almost a week without any connection to the outside world.

Day 7

We might see some Welwitschia’s today on route. The “Castles of clay” in the Hoarusib river will leave you speechless.

Someone wrote: “If there are any doubts as the incredible power of the ancient forces that played havoc in Western Namibia many millions years ago than the white grayish sedimentary clay walls high up in the Hoarusib will dispel them”. And here we are, walking along them and we look so tiny next to them. We’ll set up camp not far from the castles and we can wonder around. Google and read more about it, it is amazingly stunning.

Day 8 and 9

This day is a dry river day, descending to the Hoarusib river and driving through water streams and the most beautiful mountains on both sides, till we come to the famous village Puros. This will be our home for the next two days.

Day 10 , 11 and 12 

We’ll make our way to Sesfontein via the Puros River through the Puros Poort and the Hoarusib River to Sesfontein.

Dunes

Price of the tour includes the following:

  • Concession fees payable to the Ministry
  • Park entrance and usage fees per person per day payable to the Ministry
  • Radio communication between vehicles (important and compulsory)
  • All camping and conservation fees
  • Two guided vehicles
  • Three meals per day

Each car must bring:

  • Enough fuel as mentioned before.
  • Tent, mattress, sleeping bag/blankets and chairs. (it can get very cold at night)
  • Minimum of 60 liter water (20 liter is for the use in the kitchen (plus 2 liter per day per person drinking water?) Will get water from the river for showers.
  • 2 large bags of wood and 1 bag charcoal.
  • Strong green garbage bags.
  • Enough drinks (when we sit at the fire)
  • Snacks (biltong) etc.
  • Your own cutlery & crockery (we will supply dish-washing facilities after each meal)

Other necessary items:

  • Warm jackets, clothes for cold and warm weather.
  • Sun protection, medicine, lip ice, hats……….
  • Make sure your vehicle is in good working condition.
  • 4x4 must have “high flotation tyres “(no tube type tyres)
  • Pump and pressure gauge. 2 spare wheels
  • Emergency gear, tools and parts. (Land Rovers – your own recovery vehicle!)
  • Recovery point/hook front and rear
  • Roof racks only be loaded with maximum weight of 50kg (i.e. bedding and tents)

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