Travel to Skeleton Coast National Park

Skeleton Coast…

The park stretches from the Kunene River in the north for approximately 310 miles to the Ugab River in the south, and protects about one-third of Namibia’s coastline.

The Kunene River rises in the remote Angolan highlands and is one of Namibia’s few perennial rivers and forms one of the country’s two permanent estuaries. The crocodile population is still as large and aggressive as ever, even though the wildlife population has declined over the centuries. The strong flow of the Kunene resists tidal excursion and the fresh water pushes several miles out to sea, and beware, the crocodiles follow!

The landscape includes sand dunes, canyons and mountain ranges all of which are synonymous with Namibia. The climatic conditions are not necessarily what you would expect in a desert country like Namibia - dense fog and cold sea breezes – and this is caused by the cold Benguela Current which flows offshore, meeting with the extreme heat of the Namib Desert.

The Skeleton Coast is normally associated with famous shipwrecks, and stories abound of sailors walking for hundreds of miles through this barren Namibian landscape in search of food and water. The name came from the bones that lined the beaches from whaling operations and seal hunts, but more than a few of the skeletons were human. The Bushmen called it The Land God Made in Anger and the Portuguese knew it as The Gates of Hell. Ever since European navigators first discovered it, ships have wrecked on it’s off-shore rocks, or run aground in the blinding fog. While small boats could land, the strong surf made it impossible to launch, hence the stories of sailors walking through the murderous terrain.

Despite its arid and deadly appearance, the Skeleton Coast has a greater variety of species than many other parks in Southern Africa. Large mammals include Namibia’s famous desert-adapted elephant, black rhino, lion, cheetah, giraffe, gemsbok, zebra, springbok and spotted and brown hyena, are found in the dry river beds which flow from the interior of Namibia, through the Namib Desert to the Skeleton Coast.

Overview

Namibia is a country of startling contrasts that straddles two great deserts: the Namib (after which it is named) is the oldest desert on the planet, and its sea of red sand lies along the Atlantic coastline, while in the eastern interior lies the Kalahari, a vast and sparsely vegetated savannah that sprawls across the border into neighboring countries.

People

Namibians are of diverse ethnic origins. The principal groups are the Ovambo, Kavango, Herero/Himba, Damara, Colored (including Rehoboth Baster), White (Afrikaner, German, English, and Portuguese), Nama, Caprivian, San, and Tswana.

The Ovambo make up about half of Namibia’s people. The Ovambo, Kavango, and East Caprivian peoples, who occupy the relatively well-watered and wooded northern part of the country, are settled farmers and herders. Historically, these groups had little contact with the Nama, Damara, and Herero, who roamed the central part of the country vying for control of sparse pastureland. German colonial rule destroyed the war-making ability of the tribes but did not erase their identities or traditional organization. People from the more populous north have settled throughout the country in recent decades as a result of urbanization, industrialization, and the demand for labor.

Language

The official language is English. German and Afrikaans are also widely used and there are numerous African languages and dialects which fall into two main groups, namely Bantu and Khoisan

History

Namibia was, due to its barren coastline, colonized by the Europeans as one of the last African countries. It was the German merchant and adventurer Adolf Luederitz from Bremen, who bought in 1883 the bay of Angra Pequeña from Nama Chief Joseph Fredericks from Bethanien. He also bought the area in a 20 mile radius around the bay. The purchase price was then 10 000 Reichsmark and 260 guns. The bay is today known as Luederitz Bay.

In 1884, the German Empire took over the “protection” of Luederitz’ possessions. A tiny corps of the “Kaiserliche Marine” landed in the bay and raised the German flag. From 1884 to 1914, Namibia was a “German Protectorate” called “Deutsch Südwestafrika”. The German Empire sent the “Deutsche Schutztruppe” (Protection Corps). It had the task to transform the area between Oranje and Kunene into a German colony. German settlers were supposed to buy land and freely and safely establish farms. For this purpose the indigenous population, mainly Nama and Herero, was to be subjugated.
 
Initially the colonization proceeded more or less peacefully. Treaties were negotiated with Nama and Herero representatives. In these “Protection Agreements” both groups were assured of military support. In return, the Nama and Herero agreed to let German settlers take possession of their land and use it agriculturally.

Eventually the Herero and the Nama realized that the German colonization threatened their subsistence and their traditional way of life as free cattle and goat herders so both population groups rose in armed rebellion. These military conflicts lasted until 1908 and resulted in the total defeat of the black population.

At the beginning of the First World War, South Africa occupied the area and in 1920, she was given the country by the League of Nations as a mandate. When this was abolished in 1966 by the UN, South Africa rebelled and the result was many years of military struggle between South Africa and the Namibian liberation movement SWAPO, which was supported by the United Nations. On March 21, 1990 the political independence of Namibia was finally granted and a democratic constitution drawn up. SWAPO won the first free elections and became the strongest party. Its leader Dr. Sam Nujoma became the first Namibian President.

Travel Guide

Currency

The currency in Namibia is the Namibian Dollar (NAM$), which is fixed to and therefore equivalent to the South African Rand (ZAR). The Namibian Dollar and South African Rand are the only legal tender in Namibia and can be used freely to purchase goods and services. The Namibian Dollar, however, is not legal tender in South Africa.

Travelers’ checks and foreign currency can be exchanged at any of the commercial banks, which are well represented throughout the country. Visitors may bring any amount of foreign currency into the country. Further information and assistance can be obtained from any commercial bank in Namibia.

Weather

The climate is typically semi-desert with hot days and cool nights. Midsummer temperatures may rise to over 40 degrees Celsius. Winter days are warm, but dawn temperatures may drop to freezing. Along the coast it is cool with low rainfall and fog prevails from late afternoon until mid-morning.

The rainy season lasts from October to April. The rest of the year is dry and cloudless. Namibia averages 300 days of sunshine a year.

Health Requirements

Malaria is prevalent only in the north of the country.  Malaria prophylaxis is not required in Windhoek, but is suggested for travel to the north.  Information on vaccinations and other health precautions, such as insect bite protection, may be obtained from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) hotline for international travelers at wwwnc.cdc.gov/travel/

Visa Requirements

A passport and visa are normally required.  Bearers of U.S. passports who plan to visit Namibia for tourism for less than 90 days can obtain visas at the port of entry and do not need visas prior to entering the country.  Travelers coming for work or study, whether paid or voluntary, must obtain a work or study permit prior to entering Namibia.  Passports must have at least six months of validity remaining beyond the traveler’s planned date of arrival in Namibia.
All travelers traveling to or from Namibia via South Africa are strongly encouraged to have five or more unstamped visa pages in their passport.  Travelers merely transiting South Africa (those not stopping over or exiting the international terminal in South Africa) should not require visa stamps and may require fewer blank pages for travel.  South Africa and Namibia both require at least two unstamped visa pages – one for the entry stamp and one for exit.  Visitors who do not have enough blank visa pages in their passport risk being denied entry and returned to the U.S. at their own expense.

Credit Cards

Most hotels/lodges, restaurants, travel agencies and the bigger shops will take major credit cards – Visa, MasterCard, and American Express.

Electrical Appliances

220 volts AC, 50hz. Outlets are of the round three-pin type

Water

All water from taps is purified and visitors need have no hesitation in drinking it.  Bottled water is readily available.

Destinations

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