Taking on the Skeleton Coast and Kaokoveld

Photo: Frank Steffen

Taking on the Skeleton Coast and Kaokoveld

06 May 2019 | Tourism

Frank Steffen

Having experienced the delight of joining Dekker and Willemien Smit on a guided tour - the Namib Desert/Naukluft Park Tour -, thus traversing the Namib Dunes starting at the “Sägeberg“ (Saagberg) near Solitaire and then venturing towards the Kuiseb Valley leaving the Tsondab Valley to your left, before working your way through the Namib dune belt towards Meob Bay and then turning north to Walvis Bay, the author of this article is not surprised to find the following testimonial among many similar on the internet page of Omalweendo Safaris:

“Ek wil net weer dankie se vir al die geduld en wysheid wat jy aan die dag gelê het met ons groep. Dit was ‘n baie groot groep en jy het ons almal uitstekend hanteer. Dit was heerlik om net agter jou aan te ry en nie bekommerd te wees oor waar en wat nie. Die etes was puik en ek dink die ouens met daktente lag nou nog vir ons! Ek sal jou aanbeveel by enige ou wat die Skedelkus wil doen.”

Because you see, this is what Dekker and his team do: they take care of you, always putting safety first, while taking you on the trip of your life. Omalweendo Safaris promises: “We are dedicated to give our guests the best possible adventure in the oldest desert in the world. Due to the descent of cold air blown in off the Benguela current, the Namib Desert has maintained its arid status for 80 million years and is believed to be the oldest desert in the world, its name meaning ‘vast open spaces’. It is completely devoid of surface water but bisected by several dry riverbeds and characterized by extensive dunes.” Dekker Smit is an experienced adventure guide, who will remain in radio contact with you at all times and impart a wealth of biological, cultural, historic and four-wheel drive knowledge.

It comes as no surprise that Omalweendo offers a tour along the coast of the Skeleton Coast Park, thus formally starting at the mouth of the Ugab River and going right up to the mouth of the perennial Kunene River, where it flows into the Atlantic Ocean, and from there into untouched Kaokoland working your way back to Khowarib.

Cape Fria not ideal as Harbour

It is a seven day trip with all partakers meeting on the morning of day one in Terrace Bay, where you have a last chance to refill your vehicle and make sure that you have purchased what you need. Omalweendo takes care of the food and guiding, you need to bring your share of wood, water (and beer), and just as important: your adventurous spirit and a good mood -even though you are bound to quickly develop these if you forgot to bring them along.

On day one the trip takes you roughly 75 kilometres up to Möwe Bay, “the last outpost” as Dekker describes it. Dekker and his partners RW van Zyl and Mathias spends a lot of time telling you about the history of this coast, stopping at the many wrecks and filling in the missing parts. It is here that you will spend your first night before you proceed along the “Coast of Hell”, as Peter Bridgeford - a well-known conservationist in these parts of the world - likes to call it (also known in Afrikaans as the “Seekus van die Dood“).

This second day takes you past the old Sarusas Mine through mighty valleys and onwards to Cape Fria, where you will visit one of the mighty seal colonies found along the Namib Coast. Years ago the Founding President of Namibia, Sam Nujoma, still considered Cape Fria as the point where a harbour should be constructed. Ernst Kalowa, also well-known in these parts, found this to be a no-brainer.

At the latest by the end of this day the group is very likely to start feeling like a family having spent the day in wonder. And after a good night’s rest you will cover around 125 kilometres finally reaching the mouth of the Kunene River. This is hard and windy environment and the only noticeable is the “Northern Development Company” of Trustco mining for diamonds. That evening will be spent at Bosluis Bay, where you are protected a little from the prevailing winds of the river mouth.

Now you proceed inland towards Serra Cafema turning south at the so-called Hartmann-Junction and remaining west of the Hartmann Mountains (parallel to the Marienfluss). This is a tough ride and by the end of the day you welcome sitting around a fire being spoilt by the Omalweendo team - as they do throughout the day and each evening.

Desert-adapted elephant and lion

The next day is spent passing through the Nangolo Plains driving to the Khumib River and Orupembe, where you will spend another night having witnessed some of the most unspoilt environment found in the world. These trips are an amazing experience in terms of visiting one of the few remaining spots, where a very limited number of people venture and are thus able to watch game such as the desert-adapted elephant and lion, as well as rhinoceros in the harsh and rocky Kaokoveld and Giraffe and such like in the lush riverbeds. The keen photographer ends up having made uncountable numbers of pictures, with one trumping the other.

Depending on the time of year and the amount of rain having fallen in the Kaokoveld, the trip from the Khumib through (or around in the months from April to end of June) the Hoarusib River down to Purros and onwards to Sesfontein is the longest stretch of the tour. That last night in the Khowarib Community Camp will remain with you for a long time as you reminisce of the experience of the joint ride through magnificent Kaokoland on the wild side - the Skeleton Coast.

It is normally with a heavy heart that people split up the next morning after breakfast, some still departing to the Etosha National Park or Ovamboland and beyond, while some simply go home, in awe of the wonders they have witnessed.

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