Walvis Bay, Namibia
If you are in the area of Walvis Bay something you just HAVE to do is to go on a boattrip with Dolphin Tours Namibia. (Visit there lovely webpage). We spent a morning with them on board there very luxurious catamaran. And what a day it was!! We saw dolphins, a humpback whale, seals (even one that came onboard to say hallo), and numerous birds. After all the exitement we endulged in a delicious snack platter, with oysters and sparkling wine!!! Make sure not to miss this trip, it is worth every cent!!
We made the four hours boot trip in the morning. We saw countless cormorants. But only two or three dolphins. Friends who made the trip the day before saw many dolphins. We hadn't so much luck. But any way the trip was great fun. At the end of the trip before you go back to the harbour your get a snack. Oysters, Champagne and finger food. The oysters tasted delicious. Lucky me that my friend doesn't eat any sea food :-))
Walvis Bay is considered to be one of the best spots in the world to view flamingos. It has been estimated that 80 % of all south African flamingos feed here.
The best place to see the birds is probably a shallow lagoon south-west of the town. Apart from large flocks of flamingos it attracts also other coastal water birds. As I am far from being an expert bird watcher I found flamingos most interesting and attractive.
It was fun to look at those long-legged birds wading graciously close to the shore or standing on one leg in water. The most convincing purpose explaining this behaviour seems to be regulating the body temperature. The birds alternate the leg they stand on to avoid the loss of heat. No matter what the reason is they look like acrobats bending and twisting their body parts.
Driving north from Walvis Bay you have high red dunes on your right and the grey Atlantic Ocean on your left. But this isn’t the wilderness it sounds. The coast-line is dotted with small, slightly incongruous resorts, while on the dunes tourists are sand-boarding and riding buggies. If like us you’ve just arrived from the dramatic scenery of Soussesvlei it all looks a bit bizarre!
There are several good places where you can pull over and enjoy the views, and the road itself is a delight – one of the few tarred roads in the country. But watch out for fog – it may not look like you thought it would but for all its commercialisation, this IS the Skeleton Coast.
Walvisbaai is the fishing town. Its main industry is the large harbour, lots of fishing boats and the fish industry. Its also good spot to cruise the bay and search for seabirds, seals, penguins and dolphins.
Formerly a whaling station, Walvis Bay has become the principal port of entry into Namibia. In 1795, while occupied by the British, Walvis Bay was turned into a naval base in order to monitor and intimidate the empire's European rivals during the so-called "scramble for Africa." When Namibia gained independence in 1990, Walvis Bay and the surrounding enclave remained part of South Africa until February 28, 1994. On this date the enclave was transferred to Namibian control, ending a long disputed claim between the two countries.
The town is very much built for the harbour, with numbered streets forming an unexciting, but easily navigable grid around it. The city center can be covered on foot. Of special note are the municipal buildings, decorated with attractive wood carvings from Namibia's Kavango region. Exhibits at the local museum illustrate the history of the town and the indigenous Topnaar people. The lagoon on the outskirts of Walvis Bay is home to a bird sanctuary. Flocks of flamingos and pelicans feed here in the nutrient-rich water. The lagoon also supports an important salt industry.
The resort town of Swakopmund lies 50 km north of Walvis Bay. It was under German domination until 1915. With Walvis Bay under British control, the German authorities tried to develop their own interests by establishing Swakopmund as a port, but without much success. When German rule was surrendered to South Africa, all trading returned to Walvis Bay. Before independence, Africaans, English and German were the official languages. Following independence, English became the official language, with Bantu and Khoi-San the main ethnic language groups.
Walvis Bay is a good starting point for excursions into the desert and dune regions offering visions of unspoiled landscapes, compelling beauty and a feeling of unconfined space.
Walvis Bay is a fast-growing town neighbouring Swakopmund, gaining popularity due to its dolphin cruises and birdwatching opportunities, as well as being a gateway to the desert and its activities, kayaking and much more.
The road connecting Swakopmund and Walvis bay, the Trans-Kalahari highway, is an attraction in itself. Where else can you experience the desert meeting the sea? It also provides an insight of how Walvis Bay and Swakopmund are isolated, by the sea and a sea of sand - the mighty Namib desert ... yet they thrive, at least in comparison with many other African towns and cities.
For more information about Walvis Bay check out my separate Walvis Bay pages.
If you're staying in Swakopmund do make sure you find the time for the drive south to Walvis Bay. The road runs between the dunes and the sea, and for a brief while on your trip to Namibia you'll have the luxury of driving on tarmac!
When you reach Walvis Bay head for the lagoon where thousands of flamingos come to search for food in the shallow waters. There are several pull-offs where you can park and walk by the water, and while a pair of binoculars will help you get a close-up look at the birds you should find that they're near enough to see and photograph them quite easily.
When you finished watching the birds head for the marina area at the north end of the bay where you'll find some good places to eat and drink.
Although a busy port with some 40,000 inhabitants, the main reason for visiting Walvis Bay is to see its flamingoes. The sheltered lagoon supports half of southern Africa's flamingo population and is quite a sight, especially seeing them all take off together.
Jump on board a motor boat at Walvis Bay for a morning cruise around the Bay. The resident dolphins will escort you and play about the boat. Then you will have an opportunity to meat some of the seals which inhabit the harbour waters. One 'Opa' was gradually tamed so that netting and rope caught around his neck could be removed. He still bears the horrific scars but is now very friendly and will come up onto the boat for a feed of fish and a pat.
You will also cruise past the large wild seal colony, see the guano platforms and enjoy a decedant brunch of oysters and champagne and other goodies.
Bring a warm jacket as some mornings can be cold on the harbour.
You do need to book in advance. Brochures from different operators are available at most lodgings in Swakopmund.