If surf fishing is your thing, you simply cannot miss visiting Torra Bay, one of only three locations you can stay within the Skeleton Coast National Park. Here’s our guide to camping at the Torra Bay resort.
Torra Bay offers only one kind of accommodation – camping (or caravaning). If camping is not for you, consider staying at Terrace Bay instead, which offers self-catering chalet accommodation and is further north in the park. Torra Bay camping is a great option, if you’re prepared. Camp sites are clearly demarcated, which is definitely necessary at close quarters. Camp sites are a nice roomy 15 x 15 metres but your neighbours are right next to you. Despite what you read online, there are sites that offer electricity, and this can be arranged at an extra cost once you’ve decided on your site. You may find yourself in the unenviable position of having no electric sites available, so it is advised to still be prepared to be offline. People seem to opt to book in for a number of days or even weeks, so there isn’t as much coming and going as you might find at other spots you’ve camped. Therefore, your first site will likely be your final site.
2. Weather Conditions
The coast can be a lovely place to spend time. However, the West Coast is an unpredictable animal. If the wind comes up, which happens more often than not, you better have your hatches battened down. When you arrive at Torra Bay, you’ll immediately notice that most campsites have set up serious windbreaks on all sides. Be sure to bring whatever materials you can for this purpose. The wind is a mean thing and can wreck your camping experience. Secure the tent with extra stays, and put up windbreaks for your space, and your visit will be about 200% better. Also be prepared for storms, serious fog, and extremely cold weather conditions even in the hot summer months. And bring buckets of sunscreen because when the sun is out, it will come at you from every angle: direct, reflecting off the sand, reflecting off the water.
Secret tip here: forget about the seemingly desirable waterfront location. You’ll get the worst of the weather and wind, and still not be able to enjoy ocean vistas (due to all your windbreaks). In fact, the most ideal site to choose is between people who have done the best job of putting up windbreaks. Half the job is done when your immediate neighbours are already shielding themselves from the wind effectively.
The main activity that almost everyone is at Torra Bay for is the surf fishing. Swimming in the ocean is a bit of a tough gig when it comes to the Atlantic, and it is certainly not advised for this area in particular – it’s not called the Skeleton Coast for nothing. The coastline is littered with shipwrecks, which gives you an idea of how inhospitable the coast is. However, surfers seem to enjoy it despite, or perhaps because of, this.
You can also visit the Cape Fur Seal colony at Cape Cross Reserve, but it’s a fair distance’s drive from Torra Bay, so best done en route to camp. There are also a variety of wrecks, whether ships or oil rigs, that can be found in the Skeleton Coast Park.
But truth be told, if you’re there, you’re there for fishing. The camp sites are not the cheapest you’ll come across and booking in here is when you mean serious business. Fishing permits are available for purchase at the bar on-site and are applicable only to the Torra Bay fishing area. You do not have to pre-arrange permits in Henties Bay, as we thought. Fishing permits are also not available for purchase at the Skeleton Coast National Park gates, as some indicate.
Though a small space in its entirety, Torra Bay is like a tiny town that pops up in December and January. You might be surprised at how well prepared this far flung location is. The small shop offers ice (almost always available, truly rare in Namibia!), drinks, and other basic necessities. There is a bar right next to the shop, where one can socialise and tell tall fishing tales. The site also has a fuel station! And you can get your tyres inflated/deflated here as needed. In between the camp sites are basic ablution blocks (toilets) and the main showers are at the shop area. As a camper, you’re told hot water is only available at the showers from 4pm until 10pm. Not entirely accurate but do note that the showers are definitely off-limits to campers until 4pm, as the staff themselves make use of the shower facilities before then, which is fair enough.
As previously indicated, some sites do offer electricity and if you can nab one of those, you just need to pay the daily rate at the shop and get a receipt indicating you have done so, which you can show when inspected/questioned.
5. Need to Know
Camp sites are not pre-allocated so it’s first come, first served. The best sites are in the middle of the rows, in my opinion. The sites on the edges are the most exposed to weather and scavengers (occasionally, animals will skirt the edges looking for scraps). The sites furthest from the bar & shop will be quite a walk each time for showers, shopping, and such. Deep sand walking can be a good work-out though. The sites closest to the shops are the noisiest: everyone eventually heads to the shops and the showers, or congregates at the bar, and there are also some generators located in that particular section, as well as the staff quarters.
It’s a good idea to approach camping at Torra Bay as you would anywhere that requires you to be off-grid. Be prepared for no electricity and consider bringing your own water supplies. As the closest shops are in Henties Bay (240km to the south) or Kamanjab (255km to the east), you’re better off having brought everything you need with you. The shop on-site offers some basics and certainly seems to be well stocked on alcohol, but you’ll pay a premium and for good reason.
Something vital to remember is that you need to enter the Skeleton Coast’s Ugabmund gate before 3pm, at which time the gate is closed, else face the very real likelihood of being turned away. The Ugabmund gate is about 130km from Henties Bay. Times may differ entering via the Springbokwasser gate but it doesn’t seem likely. Err on the side of caution, and enter before 3pm at either gate.
6. Getting There
You have two possible routes to approach Torra Bay. One is via Henties Bay, after which you head north on the salt road (drive carefully!) until you reach the Ugabmund gate (closes at 3pm). After the Ugabmund gate, the road is gravel all the way. The roads tend to be pretty good. The other option is via Kamanjab/Palmwag through the Springbokwasser gate. This is not a great gravel road and is seemingly less frequently maintained. The Grootberg mountain pass (en route) can be a bit rough going too. The more common route sees people coming from Henties Bay. Henties Bay is another very popular surf fishing destination but can get quite crowded and busy.
For major purchases, such as tyres, try to get it sorted in Windhoek or Swakopmund. There are only one or two tyre dealers in Henties Bay and they will rip you off something fierce and still take an hour or two to figure out how to get your tyre on the rim, not having the proper equipment to do it easily. Avoid at all costs!
Once you’re at Torra Bay, do be aware that your vehicle needs to be capable of deep beach sand driving to get to many of the fishing spots.
7. When To Go
They’ve taken the choice out of your hands. Torra Bay is only open two months a year, and that’s December and January. This is also one of the reasons you should book well in advance, as most serious fishermen will be planning extended stays and your chances of successfully booking late in the year are slim.
8. How to Book
Torra Bay is available via NWR (Namibia Wildlife Resorts) and you can contact them to book via this portal. As it’s NWR, do be aware that camping fees will be higher than the average private camping sites. This is much the same as with SANParks sites in South Africa. Torra Bay costs in particular are high due to the camp site being open only two months a year and as it’s quite far flung.
If you consider yourself quite the avid fisherman or -woman, and would love to try some surf fishing on the Skeleton Coast, then camping at Torra Bay is definitely recommended, provided you can be self-sufficient and have the correct vehicle for the job. You’ll also find other campers there to be extremely friendly, welcoming, and helpful, even sharing fishing tips quite freely and happily, and maybe even sharing some of their catch. If fishing is not your game, there are other coastal options – like Swakopmund – to consider instead.
Like your information in video format? Check out Travel Gigolo‘s episode on our trip to the Skeleton Coast National Park: