The Skeleton Coast National Park expands from the Kunene River to the Ugab River, although the name “Skeleton Coast” would more correctly apply to the entire Namibian coastline. The Skeleton Coast, situated in the northern Namib Desert, was referred to by the Bushmen as “The land God made in anger”, and any person stranded there or even visiting can bear living witness to this fact. The Hottentots referred to the omnipresent pityless south westerly wind as the “Soo-oo-oop-wa”, and as it blows, it may temporarily uncover the bleached bones of forgotten skeletons while lashing this arid coastal belt, cutting fretful patterns into the vast, restless dunes. The coast – cruel, arid, waterless – is shunned by the seafarers who know that death awaits those unfortunate enough to be wrecked on its treacherous shores. The Portuguese referred to the area as “the gates of Hell”. Only the flamingos stalk its lonely shores and an occasional jackal pads over the cold beach, craftily waiting for a sick or weary bird to alight and rest or a young seal who has not yet learned the danger of being part of the food chain of the skeleton coast. Few names in the World conjure up more imagery of a lost, forlorn coastline. Few places in the world can offer a more lonely and desolate scene than the barren, white, sandy wastes of the coast along Namibia. Imagery would have the place named after the skeletons of shipwrecks and sailors bones caused by the mist or fog within shallow water and rocks offshore, however it is more correctly named after the beached whale and seal bones which covered the shore when the whaling industry was still active. But the area is as beautiful as it is harsh. As barren as the coast is, so in contrast is the ocean that pounds its shores rich in marine life, making the Skeleton Coast one of the best shore-fishing spots on earth. This is due to the cold Benguela current, flowing northwards from the south pole, carrying with it life sustaining nutrients and stirring up nutrient salts from the depths of the Atlantic – thus beginning the great food chain in an area seemingly lifeless.
The Skeleton Coast National Park stretches from the Kunene River south to the Ugab River, an area exceeding16,000 km². The park is divided into 3 parts, of which only the southern part is accessible to the tourist. The southern section has 2 entrance gates and stretches from the dry Ugab River to north of Möwe Bay. Access to the southern section is provided by the Ugab Gate (world renowned for its painting of a massive human skull) and is accessible to tourists traveling along the C34 to or from Swakopmund. The Springbok gate enables access into the Skeleton Coast National Park from the south-westerly side, combining Damaraland, and enabling day-visitors a circular route from or to Swakopmund. (Visits to Torra Bay and Terrace Bay are only permitted to travellers who overnight in these camps.) The Concession Area that stretches from Möwe Bay to Angra Fria (strictly forbidden area as it is still believed that Diamonds are found here). Also the area stretching between Angra Fria to the Kunene River (the natural border to Angola) is strictly conservation area and may only be traversed with a government official or specially licensed tour operator.