Explorer Kate Leeming Cycles Namibia’s Skeleton Coast in World First

Biking a thousand miles is a tough challenge at the best of times. But throw in mammoth sand dunes, ferocious head winds, extreme isolation and lions and it becomes one of the toughest challenges on the planet.

This is what explorer Dr. Kate Leeming faced, as she set out to become the first person in history to cycle the entire length of Namibia’s coastline, the Skeleton Coast. The Skeleton Coast has some of the most inhospitable terrain and harshest climate on Earth, but Leeming is no stranger to extreme expeditions. She was the first person to cycle over 22,000km across Africa in 2010 and the first woman to cycle across the “New Russia” unsupported in 1993.

Undaunted by the challenge, Leeming completed the 1,621km journey across the Skeleton Coast in just one month. Her journey is captured in a four-part documentary series, Diamonds in the Sand, airing throughout April and May on Outside TV.

Kate Leeming Skeleton Coast

To help make the documentary more immersive, Insta360 sponsored Kate with the Insta360 ONE X camera for the expedition. Leeming mounted the 360-degree camera to her bike’s handlebars and captured the expedition from her own perspective. Check out a trailer for the documentary below and read on to hear more about Kate Leeming’s journey across the Skeleton Coast.

Kate Leeming’s journey across the Skeleton Coast

Kate Leeming’s journey across the Skeleton Coast took her just one month to complete, in which she battled extreme headwinds and energy-sapping sand dunes. With soaring temperatures and continuous soft sand, the desert pushed Leeming to the edge of her mental and physical limits. But the journey also included incredible highs in the form of stunning landscapes, fascinating history and unique wildlife.

Leeming came face to face with the endangered, but deadly, Kunene lions, which she humbly said was “perhaps most fascinating, if not worrying on a bike.” The desert-adapted lions are the only cats known to enter the water to kill seals and Leeming saw tracks from them dragging seal carcasses across the beach.

“Behind the harshness of the landscape there was real beauty; the wild ocean on one side, towering dunes on the other. Eerily, the coastline is littered with the sun-bleached skeletons of dead animals and the rusting remains of countless shipwrecks,” said Leeming of the scenery.

Kate Leeming’s journeys always have a humanitarian element as well. She discovered some of the harsh realities of life for an underprivileged community living on the fringe of Swakopmund, a coastal city. She listened to heart-breaking stories where lack of opportunity has deprived them of access to food, clean water, shelter, health, education and decent work. However, she felt hopeful when she spoke at schools in the area and was inspired by the students’ thoughtful questions and joie de vivre.

Kate Leeming with Kids

One of the biggest surprises of the expedition came at the very end of her journey as she entered the town of Oranjemund. Dubbed as ‘Namibia’s most mysterious town’, it was closed to outsiders for 85 years, as it existed to service a huge diamond mining operation. Now the town has opened its doors to the world for the first time. A juxtaposition in the desert, Oranjemund offers modern amenities, while wild oryx wander the streets and a 500-year-old shipwreck, the Bom Jesus, also lies freshly excavated.

Behind the scenes: The bike and camera

To pull off the journey, Kate Leeming rode a custom-made Christini all-wheel drive fatbike. A driven front wheel and traditional rear-wheel ‘pushdrive’ mechanisms gave Leeming better grip through the Skeleton Coast’s sand. Kate also chose VEE Tire Co 4.8” Snow Avalanche tires for better flotation and traction over soft surfaces.

Kate Leeming

As for the POV camera, Leeming chose a lightweight 360 camera to mount on the bike. “The Insta360 ONE X enabled me to capture the expedition from my perspective, from over the handlebars. It has the effect of making viewers feel like they are really there.”

Skeleton Coast 360 Camera

Leeming also relied on the Insta360 ONE X’s sound quality while narrating her experiences throughout the journey. “The sound quality was really impressive. We often had to shout to be heard above the roar of the wind and the waves crashing on the shoreline. I was amazed at the quality of the voice recording while I was struggling through some of the most inhospitable conditions on Earth,” said Leeming.

Tune into Outside TV throughout April and May to see Leeming's journey.

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WRITTEN BY @Insta360
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