Inspired by the shipwrecks that dot Namibia’s Skeleton Coast, the Shipwreck Lodge sits in one of the country’s most stunning but least visited national parks.
Namibia’s Skeleton Coast might not sound like a good place for a holiday. Portuguese sailors referred to the coast as “The Gates of Hell”. The indigenous people of the Namibian interior called it “The Land God Made in Anger.” And then there are the skeletons that give the region its name, initially derived from the whale and seal bones left on the shore by the whaling industry, and later associated with the skeletons of more than 1,000 shipwrecks that dot the region, victims of the coast’s rocks, fog and heavy surf.
Namibia itself has the second-lowest population density of any sovereign country (after Mongolia), and the Skeleton Coast is one of the least populated areas in the country. The climate, too, is not what you’d call hospitable. So, holiday anyone?
Well, the Shipwreck Lodge might well tempt you to visit this remote land of sand dunes and shipwrecks. Located between the Hoarusib and Hoanib rivers in Skeleton Coast National Park, the lodge features 10 chalets designed to resemble the shipwrecks that give the region its name.
Designed by Nina Maritz Architects and opened in 2018, the 10 cabins of the 20-bed luxury lodge were in part created to capture the “sense of harshness and desolation that shipwrecked passengers and sailors experienced in earlier times,” according to the architects. And building these lodges was no easy task. Being in the middle of nowhere was a logistical challenge, and then there was the incessant coastal wind, which continually blew sand away from the footings. Even now, frequent maintenance is required to make sure the cabins stay firmly affixed to their supporting poles embedded deep within the sand.
But don’t let all this desolation fool you: the Skeleton Coast certainly has its charms. As well as being a destination for adventurous shipwreck hunters, the Skeleton Coast National Park has plenty of wildlife spotting opportunities. The harsh but beautiful desert landscape is home to flora and fauna that have adapted to live in the extreme aridity, including plants and insects that depend on the thick sea fogs that roll across the coast. And the riverbeds further inland sustain giraffes, lions, brown hyenas, springbok and critically endangered black rhinoceros, all of whom get much of their water from wells dug by the local baboons and elephants.
A stay at the Shipwreck Lodge, therefore, isn’t just a chance to get a sense of shipwrecked isolation, albeit in a luxury hull-like cabin with an onsite restaurant handily eliminating the threat of starvation. When you’re not marveling at the sunset from atop one of the seemingly endless dunes, you can go wildlife spotting, fishing and, of course, shipwreck hunting.