THICK FOG, ROUGH seas, unpredictable currents and stormy winds.
Thousands of ships fell victim to nature along the Skeleton Coast, with little if any hope of survival for sailors who made it to land: near zero rainfall, vegetation, no rivers, cold nights, blazing days, and no human settlements. The name is actually said to derive from the whale bones often found, they too washed ashore. Spectacular- that word again. Inhospitable. Harsh. Desolate. Yet Beautiful. Along this natural wonder sits a wierdly out of place German town, Swakopmund, seals in their thousands, and plants life which defies description.
"The Skeleton Coast". With a name like that, how can you not go?
Stunning, desolate desert scenery from the Angolan border down through Swakopmund to Walvis Bay, the journey does not disappoint.
Several thousand ships have been wrecked on the coast, damned by the cold Benguela current gives rise to dense ocean fogs.
The Dunedin Star ran aground in 1942, carrying munitions as well as passengers fleeing war time London.
Machinery from an unknown industry litter the coast.
130km north of Swakopmund, cape fur seals come to Cape Cross in their thousands to give birth to cubs.
It is quite an incredible sight, and sound- you will hear them before you see them.....
....and you will smell them before you hear them! Jackals and hyenas also lurk about in hope of an easy meal.
Outside Cape Cross, you are unlikely to see people. There is very little human habitation along the coast north of Hentie's Bay- a local fishing mecca.
The journey down to Swakopmund passes through multi-coloured, changing dunes.
Parts of the coast drive require a permit, and there are time limits on when you may enter, as camping is not permitted.
Annual rainfall rarely exceeds 10mm.
Heavy surf batters the coast.
Greenery is rare, found at the very occaisonal marsh or outlet. Oryx and other desert animal congregate.
Midday sun leaves nowhere to hide.
Small hills divide the coast from the even drier interior, where the early morning fogs don't penetrate.
Clouds viewed on the approach from the interior.
The coast is mostly soft sand, with some gravel areas further south. Dunes are a feature of the north.
Coming from the harsh interior and south into Swakopmund, a German built town, is bizarre.
It is Namibia's 4th largest town, founded in 1892 to be the main harbour for the occupation forces of German South West Africa.
It is a pleasant town, with (too much) good eating, a popular resort for South Africans and Namibians. And guinea fowl.
Flamingos, darters, comorants and other birds can be seen in the waterways on the edge of town.
There are plenty of adventure options, like dune-buggying and sky-diving over the incredible landscapes.
We chose to see it from the ground, on a nerdy but awesome desert flora explorer tour.
Out here, plants get their moisture from the foggy morning air, absorbing it through their leaves.
A variety of these incredibel rock-like flowering plants can be found, as well as lizards and scorpions.
"Tweeblaarkanniedood" (Afrikans) or Welwitschia (English) is a tree, a living fossil, and often live 1000 years, sometime twice that. The rare and endangered plant is also found in Angola, where it enjoys the ironic protection of land mines.
Like so many parts of Namibia, the landscapes around Swakop are quite something.
The rugged hills are testing grounds for 4WD manufacturers, and apparently they don't care much for sunday drivers!
A short hop down the road is Walvis Bay, from where you can, and will, visit.....
....Dune 7, which at 383m is the highest in Namibia.
Sinking shin deep into the sand makes a hard slog, but the views are rewarding, and if you come equipt, you can sandboard down.
You've heard that thing about sand dunes being so much further than they appear? So true.
Dune 7 is named for being the 7th dune from the river Tsauchab.
Discrimination was not just a fact of life under German occupation. Whites and coloured were buried separately, the stone memorials of the Germans contrasting with the sad, wooden crosses of the locals.