Day 8 – 12: Swakopmund to Kunene Mouth – Skeleton Coast

3 541 km from Malelane

Swakopmund to Kunene Mouth – 795 km

Route to the Kunene mouth – overnight stops indicated with markers

We departed early from Swakopmund to Henties Bay where we met the rest of the group. And then the convoy started to drive north…

We visited Terrace Bay many years ago, but we did not realise how many skeletons we would see along this Skeleton Coast – shipwrecks, whale carcasses and bones, seal carcasses, abandoned oil rigs, abandoned mines, wrecks used for recoveries of people from stranded ships, etc.

The coastline is part of the desert and extremely dry. We expected to see dunes running into the sea, but mostly the coastline is open with dunes further from the sea, with endless pebbles and without any green.

Zeila wreck between Swakopmund and Henties Bay

Several salt mines were seen along the road towards the Ugab gate. Unmanned stalls selling salt crystals are next to the road with rusted tins where money is put into if one takes a crystal lump – no indication of price, so we made a donation.

Lichen fields:

The Skeleton Coast Park restricted area starts at the Ugab gate towards the Kunene mouth. Beyond Terrace Bay entry is restricted to concession holders and one cannot drive without being on a guided tour with permits from the concession holder.

Ugab gate

The Ugab river had water after the recent rains.

Ugab river
Brown hyena in the Ugab river
Salt water pushed over the low dune ridge by the recent high tide
Abandoned oil rig
Rocky dunes
Terrace bay – last fuel supply on this route
Möwe Bay

Our camp for the first night near Möwe bay behind some dunes to shelter us from the wind – 459 km for the day.

Our camp near Möwe Bay
Fishing vessel remains
Diamond slurry pump remains
Brown hyena spoor on the beach – rear smaller than front. The sand texture on the beach – less sand than pebbles and shells
Whale rib – how big was this whale?
Mining equipment wreck
Mining tractor wreck
Remnants of the Ventura aircraft used in the rescue operation for the Dunedin Star

The route was planned to head inland in the Huarusib riverbed and then towards the Khumib across the plains, but due to the abundant rains this year the Huarusib had too much water. We crossed it and went inland straight towards the Khumib river.

The first slipface practice…
Second night – camping in the Khumib river.
A foraging black backed jackal
Springbuck on the Khumib river banks
Near Agate mountain
Abandoned Sarusas gemstone mine owned by the Kristall Gallery from Swakopmund. Lots of raw amethyst and agate stones
Sarusas springs – fresh water in the middle of nowhere
Large seal colony between Khumib mouth and Angra Fria
Pebble beach
Jackal at seal carcass

Dunedin Star:

The dunedin Star was a UK refrigerated cargo liner and was wrecked on 29 November 1942. A complex sea, air and land operation overcame many setbacks and rescued all the passengers, crew and gunners. An aircraft, a tugboat and two of the tug’s crew were lost in rescue attempts. It took a month for the last of the Dunedin Star’s crew to reach Cape Town and more than two months for the last of the rescuers.

On 3 December 1942 a coastal patrol Ventura aircraft was sent from Cape Town to drop supplies on the beach for the survivors. The supplies were destroyed on impact after being dropped. The pilot landed on a nearby flat piece of land with the intention of rescuing some of the remaining survivors on the beach. Unfortunately the land was a salt pan disguised by desert sand. The Venture was stuck in the sand and damaged.

Three other SAAF Venturas flew supplies in. Other boats arrived, but some also were grounded in the strong currents. The crew swam ashore. Eventually all the survivors were rescued and transported by boat.

On 17 Jan 1943 an overland convoy was sent to recover the first Ventura. After on-site repairs and four days of digging, the plane was airborne on 29 January. After 43 minutes of flying time the plane developed engine trouble and crashed offshore. The crew swam ashore. Their returning land convoy rescued them on 1 February.

Dunedin Star survivor shelter – they built a shelter from remains of stranded ships while waiting to be rescued
More jackals
Third night – camp near Angra Fria behind the dunes – terrible wind and freezing cold
Salt pan

The last stretch up to the Kunene mouth was short and we stopped for some fishing 30 km before the camp.

Day 4 – Eric caught a 7 kg Cob
DaBenzi the cook cleaning Eric’s cob
Whale carcass
Night 4 & 5: Bosluisbaai – 15 km from the Kunene mouth between the dunes – camp structures built by the concession holder
Operational diamond mine near Kunene Mouth
Eric caught four cobs of this size at the Kunene mouth
Kunene Mouth

It was a privilege to visit this remote, barren, ever-changing, beautiful landscape.

From here we have a full day across the Namib into Kaokoland.


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