Day 14 -17/08/2017 Exploring the Skeleton Coast, Namibia
Had a lovely hearty breakfast provided by the owners son Jaceq, who is the chef, before heading north up the Skeleton Coast.
The view from our car
The road was very good and ran parallel to the ocean which at times we could see. Occasionally there were short sandy access roads leading from the main road to the ocean which I imagine were mainly utilized by the local fisherman.
We decided to go down one of these roads so that we could dip our feet into the atlantic ocean. I must admit that I was a bit anxious about getting bogged again on this very sandy road! After parking the car on a small elevated parking area overlooking the ocean, we rolled up our pants and raced down the edge of the dune. Without hesitating we bravely ran into the foamy surf rolling onto the beach.
Cold foamy beach
Needless to say I beat a hasty retreat as the water was freezing, deciding to go exploring instead. It was a crisp cloudy morning and it was great to feel the coarse sand between my toes and to stretch my legs. There wasn’t another soul in sight. Spotted the carcass of a leather backed turtle on the beach. It wasn’t clear what the cause of death was but it appeared to be of natural causes. How I wished that it was alive.
Remains of a Leatherback turtle
Soon after we headed back to the main road and continued north passing many pink salt lake farms. On the side of the road we spotted some upended boxes with large salt crystals perched on top for sale. There wasn’t anyone manning these stalls, just honesty boxes supplied. The crystals were absolutely beautiful and varied in colour from white to baby pink and darker shades. Just behind the boxes was a salt lake.
Pink salt rock crystals
Salt lake farm
Other than the occasional rocky outcrop the landscape was very arid and stark. Such a harsh place to live in.
Stark, confronting landscape
We made our way to the Cape Cross Seal Reserve which is protected and owned by the Namibian government. Cape Cross is a small headland in the South Atlantic on the western coast 60 kms north of Henties Bay and is home to one of the largest colonies of Cape Fur Seals in the world.
Cape Cross Seal Reserve office
After turning off the main we drove towards the ocean, spotting a lone black backed jackal scurrying across the sandy plain. It looked so out of place. After paying an entry fee at the office we had to drive a small distance to the colony.
There were a lot of parked cars and tourists busses. It was quite smelly but not as bad as I expect it could get during the summer heat. There were seals everywhere, even sprawled right at the edge of the parking area. They didn’t seem to be at all fussed by all the onlookers. At this time of year, the colony existed of females only, all feeding their pups. The males were out to sea hunting. There was a long elevated walkway, perfect for viewing and taking photographs. There were seals as far as the eye could see, left and right up the beach, as well as vast numbers in the ocean.
Juvenile seal pup
There were a few ocean birds as well such as the Kelp Gull.
Somebody pointed out to me that in among all the seals were some black backed jackals feeding on the carcasses of mostly infant seals. Now I know why the jackal we saw earlier was hightailing it towards the ocean, he was late for lunch!
Black Backed Jackal
The seals were not at all perturbed by the jackals presence. I think the jackals feed mainly off the remains of naturally deceased animals.
Near the parking area are a couple of crosses, monuments with the inscription, “In the year 6685 after the creation of the world and 1485 after the birth of Christ, the brilliant, far-sighted King John II of Portugal ordered Diogo Cão, knight of his court, to discover this land and to erect this padrão here”.
After leaving the colony we headed back to the main road where we saw a sign that said ‘Caution Lichen Field, vehicles prohibited’.
We stopped for quick look. Parked the car and walked into the field. The lichen came in a variety of colours, textures and shapes. The Namib hosts around 120 species of lichen some of which are thought to be more than thousands of years old. Very interesting and really beautiful.
Back on the road we continued driving north about 150 kms all up, through the most desolate country with not much to see. I wanted to go to the Rhino conservancy but it was just too far and it wasn’t guaranteed that we would even find it.
So we decided to rather head back and make our way South to Swakopmund to see if we could find the Welwitschia plants. Just after Henties Bay we came to some road works which really slowed us down. Between Henties Bay and Swakopmund we passed a small German settlement with elevated water tanks. Some of which were perched on the roof tops. These colourful houses looked well maintained and there was even a boat parked in front of one. However there didn’t seem to be a soul around. The place looked deserted. We later found out these were German owned holiday homes.
German holiday homes
We stopped at the museum in Swakopmund to see if they had a map or alternately to tell us where we could get one. The lady at the museum informed us that we had to first purchase a permit at the Environmental Society before heading into the Naukluft Park. David parked the car and I walked to find the Environmental Society building which was relatively close to the museum. Once located, inside the ladies on duty were exceptionally helpful and chatty. During our conservation they informed me there was a man I could see in the building who could give me some information about the rhino situation. What an opportunity, so after purchasing the permit and getting the necessary paperwork I went to find the (rhino man). To cut a long story short it was a total waste of time as he wasn’t about to share anything with me. He was extremely evasive and guarded. I can’t say I blame him the rhino situation all over Africa is not at all positive.
With instructions and a map of sorts in hand, I strode off back to a patiently waiting David. On reading the instruction sheet we found out about the Moonscapes.
We didn’t waste anymore time and headed off to see the Moonscapes and hopefully locate the Welwitschia plants. In the valley of the Swakop River a spectacular moonscape is formed. As the river cut through softer deposits these soft materials were laid some 460 million years ago when the climate was much wetter. This is a popular location for feature films and it was easy to see why, driving through this surreal landscape it felt like we had landed on another planet.
Spectacular! Unfortunately we couldn’t find the Welwitschia plants and it was starting to get late so we decided to make our way back to Henties Bay after a long day exploring part of the Skeleton Coast and Naukluft National Park.
Sunset on the way back toHenties Bay
After dinner, had a shower and was in bed by 9:21pm. Really comfy bed so it didn’t take me long to fall asleep with the sound of the waves crashing in the distance.