To the north of Swakopmund, Namibia’s bleak coastline follows its course to the Angolan border. Firstly it passes through the rather uninspiringly named National West Coast Tourist Recreation Area and then through the more evocatively named Skeleton Coast National Park. To the east of the coast are the inhospitable mountains and gravel plains of Damaraland and Kaokoland. The Skeleton Coast got its name from the ships and unlucky sailors who perished after being shipwrecked on the barren shores over the centuries. The first stretch of coast through the Recreational Area is open to all and, although flat, foggy and featureless, the beach is hugely popular with anglers in search of the Benguela Current’s big game fish. The only settlement of note is Henties Bay, primarily a regional centre that supports the fisherman, and the nearest town to the Cape Cross Seal Colony to the north. Here, one of the largest breeding grounds of seals in the southern hemisphere, thousands of Cape fur seals unfathomably decide to sit on the same overcrowded rock. Further north and in the Skeleton Coast Park proper, permits are needed for any stay longer than a transfer through to the interior. Staying overnight in the park offers the chance to experience complete isolation in this eerie and desolate environment.
Driving from Swakopmund north through the Recreational Area, takes you through flat monotonous stony plains to Henties Bay. From here there are three different routes to explore. The easiest route is the D1918 inland, which passes close to the Klein Spitzkoppe (1572 m) and Gross Spitzkoppe (1784 m) before joining the B2 near Usakos. The other two routes will take you into some of Namibia’s finest wilderness areas. Just north of the town, the C35 turns east into the heart of Damaraland; this is the road to Uis and the Brandberg (2573 m). Finally, you can follow the C34 along the coast. It is possible to drive as far north as Terrace Bay; once you have crossed the Ugab River you are in the Skeleton Coast National Park (southern section). To travel through the park on the C34 and then the C39, you need to pay entrance and vehicle fees at the gate. Both roads that lead inland from the coast go through a sparsely populated region; care should be taken when driving on these gravel and sand roads. If you have an accident or a breakdown you may have a long wait before the next vehicle comes along.