After taking a brief hiatus in Rome, Italy, Guest Blogger Cindy De Michele Hock of the Netherlands – in her latest travelogue – is back on the ecotourism trail in Namibia in Southwestern Africa, where she explores the Skeleton Coast, which is scattered with whale and seal bones as well as skeletal shipwrecks.
The Skeleton Coast is a tranquil oasis on the west coast of Namibia amidst infinite desert and ocean, a unique and remarkable coastal wilderness with untamed and colourful landscapes.
Scattered whale bones, seal bones, and skeletal shipwrecks bear witness to the ships that have found their final resting place along these desolate shores shrouded with dense fog and tormented by the relentless sun – ghostly and silent remains of past colonial endeavours.
The inhospitable climate, fierce windstorms, and blasting desert sands give the coastline an intriguing ambiance of mystery and mightiness. The landscape with its windswept dunes and occasional rocky outcrops offers endless, breathtaking views.
Cape Cross Seal Reserve
A cold sea breeze caused by the Benguela Current provides stability to this fragile desert environment and sustains a very rich oceanic marine life. Yet the true miracle of this remote area is that it is home to the largest breeding colony of Cape Fur Seals in the world, the Cape Cross Seal Reserve.
The coastline of Southern Africa is in fact the only place in the world where these seals can be found.
On his second voyage, the Portuguese seafarer and explorer Diogo Cão erected a padrão in what is now known as the Cape Cross Seal Reserve, a stone pillar with a cross bearing the coat of arms of Portugal, a symbol of Portuguese land claims.
However, under German colonial rule, the original cross was transferred to Berlin and was never returned. The cross at Cape Cross today is a replica of this first Portuguese cross.
Once this area had a booming salt and guano industry with many ships bringing in provisions, but today rusty bits scattered in the sand and abandoned salt pans are the only memories of that commercial past. The area that derives its name from the 15th-century Portuguese padrão is now a protected area.
When to Visit Cape Cross
The best time to visit the Cape Cross Seal Reserve is either in October, when the bulls come ashore and offer a heroic spectacle of chest-to-chest combat in defense of their breeding colonies, or in late November and early December, when the newborn pups turn the rocky outcrops into a perfect playground.
There is a 220-yard walkway, which is suitable for wheelchairs, with excellent views of the seal colony and the Atlantic.
The cacophony of bleats and barks of the playful seals almost makes you forget the unpleasant smell of dead seals and excrement that is blown straight into your nostrils by the strong winds.
At the end of the breeding season, there are well over 200,000 seals at the reserve, and this is also a good time to spot other kinds of wildlife.
Black-backed jackals will scavenge on the edges of the seal colony, and – under the cover of darkness – tenacious brown hyenas will hunt the beaches.
Just off the coast of Cape of Good Hope, the icy northward flowing Benguela Current meets the warm southward flowing Agulhas Current, a life-sustaining cycle that produces a highly diverse and rich marine life along the coastline of Southern Africa.
Kelp gulls swimming the surface of the cold sea, cormorants soaring above the rhythmically rolling waves, killer whales and copper sharks hunting the waters – a marine excursion has much to offer.
Where to Stay
The Cape Cross Lodge, built in a splendid mix of Cape Dutch and West Coast fishing village architecture, offers excellent accommodation with unrestricted ocean views (out of the “smell” zone).
The restaurant serves good seafood in a friendly atmosphere. You can walk or drive to the Cape Cross Seal Reserve.
Cape Cross Lodge – +264 64 46 1677 (reservations office) – Double Room NAD 975 pp (US 116 / GBP 75).
Cape Cross Seal Reserve – open daily from 10 am to 5 pm.
How to Get There
Cape Cross can be reached via the C34, the main coastal road, and is about 267 miles from the capital Windhoek.
Air Namibia links Windhoek, the nation's capital, with Johannesburg and Capetown, South Africa, Frankfurt, Germany, and several other African destinations. Click on the following link for more information: Air Namibia.
Cindy De Michele Hock
Born in Amsterdam in the Netherlands, Cindy De Michele Hock studied law and history in the Netherlands before moving to Rome, Italy, to permanently live with her then boyfriend. She is a freelance lawyer and legal translator.
A few years later, Cindy and her boyfriend moved to Scotland, where they got married. They did volunteer work for one year in Namibia. They are now concluding a six month stay in Sri Lanka. Then it's back to Scotland.
“We'll continue traveling, especially in Namibia and Africa!!!” says Cindy, who describes herself as “an enthusiastic wildlife photographer and writer”.
“I love wildlife, the great outdoors, new cultures, and languages.”