The Skeleton Coast stretches from Swakopmund to the Angolan border 500 km (300 m) north. This is an inhospitable place, where immense stretches of beach are beaten by breakers, engulfed by fog and cut off by trackless, shifting dunes. Early Portuguese sailors knew it as 'The Sands of Hell', for the crew of a foundering ship was doomed. The skeletons on this coastline are not just human: the bleached bones of innumerable whales, dating from the whaling industry's heyday, as well as the remains of countless ships swept ashore during the mercantile era, dot the sands.
Pounded by the sea and blasted by sand the latter have been reduced to scraps of rusty metal, scattered planks and shattered masts, while the wrecks of later vessels, though more intact, are inaccessible.
The narrow strip of dunes was proclaimed a Nature Reserve in 1971. This ancient, untouched wilderness has a fascinating ecosystem - although ahnost rainless, the desert is moistened by the dense fogs that are brought by the icy Benuela Current and blown inshore.
Plants and lichens adapt to the extreme conditions by taking on strange forms. Visits are limited to minimize human impact on this ecologically sensitive area. The coast road runs along the margin of the dunes, but there is no access. The northern section is a private concession, and offers fly-in safaris. However, a sightseeing flight from Swakopmund is a good option - these low-level flights allow a view of the vast graveyard of the shore and the mesmerising changing shapes and colours of the dunes.
WHEN TO GO
May to October
TIME IT TAKES
About three hours
The remote wrecks, including the Dunedin Star, which ran aground in 1942.
The Ugab Formations, a moon-landscape whose black ridges contrast with the white desert.
The Clay Castles, fragile mud deposits laid down along the Hoarusib River when the area was a lake.
Sarusa Springs Oasis - a perennial water source.
YOU SHOULD KNOW
The dense coastal fogs occur most mornings and evenings.