Luxury Safaris in Damaraland & Skeleton Coast

Damaraland is such a rugged and lunar landscape that we joked about finding astronaut boot prints there. It’s true, there’s something otherworldly about its uncompromising ups and downs, and yet life clings on – albeit in strange forms like the ancient welwitschia plants. While the Apollo crewmembers are nowhere to be seen, skilful local trackers can somehow find desert-adapted black rhino when you walk with them.

Ancient traces of our own species can be found in the San cave paintings at Twyfelfontein (including, intriguingly, a penguin) and on the Brandberg (Namibia’s highest peak). It’s not hard to imagine having a spiritual experience in such dramatic surroundings as the pointed Spitzkoppe (a place of mysterious significance to the ancient San people) or while wandering between the stone trunks of the aeons-old Petrified Forest. My favourite rock formation was the spectacularly isolated Vingerklip – like a limestone spire missing its cathedral.

I’d definitely recommend a day on the Skeleton Coast for a more immediate history lesson. The sun-bleached bones that litter the beaches are testament to the struggle for survival here, while the incredible rusted hulks of doomed trawlers and cargo ships have stories swirling around them like sea mist.

The guides delight in telling tall tales of woeful wrecks and thrilling rescues, and when I heard about the mysterious crouching skeleton found buried close to the most famous of them, the Dunedin Star, it wasn’t just the breeze that made me shiver deliciously. The drive back inland is a highlight in itself, revealing both inselbergs and fossil riverbeds.

When to Go

While Namibia’s Skeleton Coast has a unique climate, driven by cold marine currents that cause cooler and more humid conditions year round, the inland parts of Damaraland have a more typical desert climate. This makes the southern hemisphere winter the ideal season to visit, as you’ll benefit from cooler and drier conditions. The limpid light at each end of the day is a delight, while precious water becomes ever scarcer as the country waits for rain. Waterholes increase in importance now, making game-viewing potentially a very concentrated experience.

The unique sub-climate of Namibia’s Atlantic seaboard make it more of a year-round destination than Damaraland, which becomes significantly hotter during the southern hemisphere summer. It’s certainly a time of year with fewer visitors, but that has its own advantages – enjoy discounted stays and even more seclusion at some of Namibia’s best lodges. Careful planning of daily activities and regular dips in the pool will help you beat the heat, and a combined itinerary will add the coolness of the Skeleton Coast to the Damaraland heat.

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