Namibia has one of the driest climates in Africa, with an amazing 300 days of sunshine a year, and is one of the most welcoming places to spend your time, but before you pack your bikini and head for the beach in this sunny, hospitable country – think again. While the Atlantic Coast of Namibia is indeed an arid, and beautiful sandy shore, it is hardly a beachgoers paradise.
The Atlantic Ocean provides a chilly reception, with the water temperature rarely rising above 19°C and rough waves constantly lapping against the rocky beaches.
Sandwiched between the heat of the Namib Desert and the icy Atlantic waters, the coast of Namibia experiences an enormous amount of mist, with around 200 foggy days a year. The cooling effect of the Benguela current on the prevailing south west wind prevents the formation of clouds along this strip, resulting instead in this cloak of moisture which can extend several kilometres inland.
This lends a romantic, mysterious aura to the area, and tends to cool things down considerably along the Namibian shoreline, but isn’t a great place to work on your tan.
The days here are usually temperate with the mercury keeping a steady course between 5° C and 20°C throughout the year, with little to distinguish one season from the next. It is not unusual for the hottest days of the year to occur during the winter months, courtesy of the east wind, which usually arrives with a dust storm in tow.
While the constant winds may at times seem unpleasant, they sculpt the landscape into haphazard shapes, with pale dunes rising up chaotically on the verge of the red-tinged desert.
One item you should not neglect to pack for a trip to the Atlantic Coast is your camera, along with a good pair of boots for exploring. Bring along light cotton clothing and a warm wind-resistant jacket for the evenings and those cool days.
The windswept beaches are at once desolate and amazingly beautiful, rocks littered with vast colonies of seals and seabirds winging their way overhead. They are here for the abundance of fish in the area, as are the die-hard fishermen who reap the rewards of braving the elements to enjoy their sport.
Known as the Skeleton Coast by many, as ‘The land God made in anger’ by the bushmen of the interior, and simply as ‘The gates of hell’ by Portuguese mariners of old, the Atlantic Coast of Namibia is home to over a thousand shipwrecks. Some of these remain on the ocean bed or out at sea, while others lie partially buried further inland, covered by the shifting sands over time.
Just as further down the coast at the Cape of Storms, here the Atlantic has never been kind to seafaring folk – dashing many craft against the shores of this desolate place, with little hope of survival for those that made it through the wreck.
Surprisingly a number of creatures have adapted to the lack of water by making use of water vapour from the constant fog to survive. One of these is the Palmato Ghekko, which allows the moisture to collect on its eyeballs, and then licks it off with a long tongue. You can try to catch a glimpse of this cute reptile by taking a guided tour of the area.
Nowadays, these harsh conditions are a major attraction for those seeking excitement, and adventure tourism in the region is become more and more of a drawcard for tourists. Add to that the range of top-class accommodation options now available in Namibia and the high levels of service and hospitality experienced here.
Whatever the weather, the West Coast is proving to be the stuff that that campfire stories are made of, with haunting scenes and activities for all to enjoy.
Skeleton Bay is a hotspot for surfers, while Swakopmund provides opportunities for sandboarding, quad biking, skydiving, windsurfing and paragliding, the West Coast Recreation Area is fantastic for fishing and the wilderness of the Skeleton Coast proper is loved by photographers.