The beauty of the Namibian Skeleton Coast is astounding. Nothing can prepare you for the experience of this desert wilderness.
For years the virgin beach and dunes of this area were exclusively accessible to miners, scientists and hardened desert animals such as gemsbok, jackal and brown hyenas. Now, vast parts of this area have been incorporated in the Namib Naukluft Park.
Like Siberia and Antarctica, it is considered one of the world's oldest and last wilderness areas. Signs of human activity are visible where German prospectors drilled for diamonds decades ago, leaving only a dilapidated wooden hut, a bore hole that did not deliver on its promises and an old Willys engine, polished to a shiny luster by the wind and sand, with crows nesting in it from time to time.
Guided tours from Luderitz takes one to Saddle Hill, an old miners camp, offering spartan accommodation, where the cooking and camp tending is done by resident Ovambos. Even though getting an average of only 1mm rain a year, a lot of water condenses in the form of mist and dew and one can hear the water dripping from the roofs at night.
Cute, but devious little black-backed jackal hang around, looking for morsels left behind. They are also keen on any clothing or shoes left abandoned by guests, never to be found again.
On to Spencer Bay where the wreck of the Otavi lies in a rock surrounded enclave. A ghostly reminder of the craft which beached there in 1945 with a cargo of ghwano. A colony of seals laze around in the area of the wreck. Left completely intact, probably because it was impossible to try and salvage anything in the harsh, distant environment, one can explore the ship inside and out.
Past Mercury Island, where a secluded couple cares for a penguin colony, on the way to the wreck of the United Trade, is the silent testimony of the drama that might have played off in this inhabitable land.
The wreck of the United Trade is scattered about in thousands of pieces over a radius of 5km. It stranded in the seventies with a cargo of explosives. The whole ship, cargo and all, was detonated.
Then on to the wreck of the Arcona. Towards Saddle Hill South, another previous mining town, a shadow of it's hey day with buildings and machinery almost completely buried by sand – from dust to dust …
Back to Luderitz on a different route, past gemsbok, jackal, geckos and lizards brown hyena and weird and wonderful desert plants. Strict rules have to be abided – one is not allowed to leave the designated path and have to follow directly in previous vehicles tracks, no pets, no touching or removing fauna and flora.