No place on the planet—we’re going out on a very short limb here—displays such a beautifully, bracingly dramatic meeting of sea and land as Namibia’s fabled Skeleton Coast. The Atlantic is in full-bore majesty here, crashing unrelentingly on the undulating sands of the Namib Desert. The local Bushmen called it the Land God Made in Anger, and the Portuguese, who lost the first of the thousands of ships that have perished on the coast, the Gates of Hell. (One such ship, the legendary Eduard Bohlen, ran aground in 1909. That ground, and the Eduard Bohlen’s skeleton, is now a quarter of a mile from the sea, a reminder of the ever-shiftiness of the Coast’s seemingly timeless landscapes.)
Micato’s journeys to the Skeleton Coast, and inland into starkly gorgeous Kaokoveld, are, needless to say, delightfully far from hellish. In fact, they provide us with some of the most memorable of our African moments. As we fly over the coast and explore it in four-wheel drive vehicles, we see beyond the starkly elemental contrast of sea and sand and begin to appreciate the complexity and vitality of this unforgiving environment: a quarter of a million Cape fur seals gather at Cape Fria; baboons, springboks, lions, and black rhinos make their living in the sands, nourished by water that seeps up from holes dug by desert elephants (who are said to enjoy sliding down coastal dunes).