The shipwrecks that litter the beaches north of Swakopmund and all the way to the Angolan border have given this stretch of Namibia's coast its striking name. Long a graveyard for shipwrecked sailors whose vessels fell victim to the Atlantic's treacherous currents, shifting sandbanks and thick fog, the Skeleton Coast is still a remote and desolate area but also one of hidden surprises.

Much of the coast falls under the protection of the Skeleton Coast National Park and the scenery - great sweeping vistas of desert, ocean and sky - is breathtaking. Moreover, the flora and fauna better than you might think. Bird watchers on a Skeleton Coast safari will be pleasantly surprised by the fact that there are nearly 250 species in the area while black-backed jackals are among the most commonly seen animals. Hardy antelope species such as gemsbok, kudu and springbok can be seen at freshwater seeps and are sometimes joined by the mega-sighting of the region - desert-adapted elephants.

There are only a couple of exclusive lodges in the huge 16 400km² Skeleton Coast National Park, but they afford the intrepid safari traveller a safe and comfortable base from which to experience this extraordinary destination. A Skeleton Coast safari usually means flying into the area and your accommodation but once you've arrived, you'll be exploring the coastline and its hinterland - dunes, ephemeral river valleys and patches of woodland - by 4X4 and on foot.

The most dramatic wildlife spectacle is however south of the Skeleton Coast National Park and in the National West Coast Recreational Area. The icy Atlantic is hugely fertile and supports an enormous colony of between 80 000 and 100 000 Cape fur seals at Cape Cross, about 130kms north of Swakopmund. The noise and smell are often overpowering, not least during the November - December breeding season when as many as 200 000 seals gather on the shore. Predators such as brown hyena and black-backed jackal lurk on the periphery to take advantage of any opportunities.