3 days in Swakopmund & Walvis Bay, Namibia
Living in Angola for almost 2 years and not going to Namibia… well that was not going to happen! Unfortunately we only had a few days and needed to confine this trip to Swakopmund and Walvis Bay, leaving Etosha aside (we had been to Okavango Delta and Chobe in this trip so we could afford to miss it) and the south of Namibia. We will return to Namibia some day, it’s incredibly beautiful, safe, peaceful and probably one of the cheapest destinations in Africa. This was a new perspective on Africa, very different from the lively and expensive Luanda that we live in. Well this couldn’t be a surprise, Namibia is the second most sparsely populated country in the world.
Walvis Bay and Swakopmund are the two most important cities in Erongo Region. Swakopmund is the capital and a very laid back colonial town with a vibe that mixes Germany and Africa, “the most German town in Africa”. It’s full of hotels and lodges, a very popular holiday destination for the Namibians and some Europeans, especially French and German. Walvis Bay is Erongo’s biggest city and its deep water natural harbor made it a historically important port, which is one of the most important in Southern Africa and you can see the endless trucks transporting containers to Namibia, Zambia, Zimbabwe and Botswana. Both cities are completely surrounded by the Namib desert and the cold waters of Benguela current on the Atlantic Ocean. The weather is usually very dry and hot, but with very foggy mornings. For what we heard it can go without raining for several months or even years, but it actually rained for 2 hours in Walvis Bay when we went there..
We had 2 full days, and 3 nights to explore Swakopmund & Walvis Bay and there were two things that we had to do: a day or half-day tour into the desert and the quad-bike + sandboarding combo on the dunes. This left us with little more time to spend but we managed to do another tour, Tommy’s desert tour, in search of the “little 5”.
Tommy’s living desert tour
We had read a few good reviews about it, but weren’t really sure if we should do this tour. One morning looking for geckos, snakes, lizards, scorpions…? We had mixed feelings about it, however lets put it clearly: we loved it! and “We would do it again and recommend it to our friends!” Tommy is such a character, incredibly funny, always with a witty comeback and joke or story to tell. He created the original desert tour, a real enthusiastic about the desert and a true conservationist. The guides are very conscious about the tours intervention in the environment and try to minimize it while showing us the hidden animals of the desert. As the guides said, if you are on a vehicle going 40 km/h you won’t see anything, and think that there’s nothing happening in the desert. But if you stop the car, walk, go on your knees and start looking, really looking… You will start to see the tracks, the footprints and realize there are much more than you initially thought. Tommy and its crew showed us how little it rains in Namib desert and how plants and animals adapt to this extreme environment:
A lizard that runs like hell (nicknamed the Ferrari), apparently when he bites it’s very difficult to release. Well he bit Claudia’s ear and the legend says she is still wearing it as an earing…
A spider that builds tunnels with its web and sand. We were able to see and touch these tunnels Incredible how we could pass it between us and it resisted without being destroyed.
A snake who hides in the sand, camouflaging perfectly. Just try to find it in the picture below. yeah I know…. we would definitely step on it… and we were walking bare footed…
Saw, touched and fed a Chameleon with larvae and beetles… That lucky bastard chameleon got a full meal for free.
Played with scorpion caught in a small bush near us… Apparently they are deadly and can through their venom…
Another lizard, the Palmato gecko, has the skin so thin that is transparent and you can see the internal organs. But it’s so cute and has such beautiful colors, as you can see…
Claudia became a Disney princess.
Do you know what are those black marks/stripes in the dunes? Although it may look like dirt that black sand is magnetite and it gives a different color to the dunes and much character, don’t you think? And look what you can do with a big magnet?
In the end of the tour we were taken into the desert and drove in the dunes. A little bit of adrenaline after a fantastic morning in search of the little 5 and learning so much about the desert. This was a very entertaining, fun and educational tour. For 700NAD per person (less than 45 USD) it has great value for money and is a couplertw recommendation.
Quad-biking & sandboarding in Namibia
After the Living desert tour we had the afternoon free and had time for more adrenaline. One of the most famous activities in Swakopmund is the quad bikes and sandboarding in the dunes. We went for a 2h of quads + 1h sandboarding. This costed 700NAD per person (less than 45USD). We had never quad-biked or sand-boarded before, so we were slightly apprehensive. When we arrived it was obvious that we would be the only ones doing it, apparently January is low season in Namibia. We had the usual security briefing and instructions before riding into the dunes. It’s incredible how the guides always seem to try to scare us before these kind of activities. I can only imagine the crazy costumers they get sometimes…
To be fair it wasn’t very much of an adrenaline, but riding the quad bike is very cool. You kinda have to let it go and not try to control it too much. Just relax and have fun. The most important thing is not losing momentum uphill, or you will be stuck. It happened once. OPS 🙂 Going downhill can be slightly scary the first time, but then it’s nice. As time passed we were getting faster and having more thrill. I think we couldn’t have chosen a better place for our first quad ride.
We stopped a few times for photo opportunities and once I was able to do this with a small magnet…
Finally, after two hours of quads we stopped and the guide went to get the boards. We were quite anxious about this one. It looked dangerous… I mean we can get to almost 70km/h on those things… And you know what? be aware because it is dangerous. If you lose control or don’t pull up the board you will have an accident. And that wouldn’t be fun. Claudia had a minor one, and scared the s**** out of me. Anyway, the sandboarding is much more about adrenaline than the quads, but the biggest problem is: It’s 15 seconds down, 15 minutes up… After experiencing once or twice it just isn’t worth any more.
We only did it stand down and but i will try again if it’s stand up 🙂
Sandwich Harbour 4×4 tour
Sandwich Harbour is 55km south of Walvis Bay, in the Namib-Naukluft National Park. There are no official roads leading to Sandwich Harbour and the tracks change and/or disappear due to tides and strong winds. This means that either go through the dunes or through the beach. This was our opportunity to go really into the dune desert and we took it. Our guide was Herman van Zyl and he was awesome, a little crazy but mostly awesome!
The tour started in Walvis Bay with rain! – Yes it rained for a while in the Namib desert – and the first stop was to see the
strawberry chickens (ops, that’s Herman’s name for them) flamingos. After the flamingos we headed south to the cocaine production or salt pans, we weren’t sure but were advised not to sniff too hard anyway 🙂 Herman asked us if we felt adventurous, if we wanted the adrenaline route through the dunes or the lazy route through the beach… I think you can guess what we choose 🙂
Well we weren’t expecting this… the tour became more like a rally in the dunes and it was so much fun! Herman is a great sand/dunes driver and despite the rallying up, down, around and across the dunes we always felt safe. Before coming to Swakopmund we thought the Quad-bikes or sandboarding would be the most adrenaline we would get, but we were wrong! This tour was exhilarating and we enjoyed it very much:) The view from highest dune was fantastic, both into the desert and into Sandwich Harbour. From up there you can see the endless dunes in the horizon and the sea crashing into the huge dunes. It’s a unique and impressive landscape.
After enjoying the scenery and taking all the photos we wanted, it was time to enjoy the way down and have lunch, oysters and champagne (or any other drink) in the desert, by the sea. On the return to Walvis Bay and while enjoying the rally through the dunes and Herman’s endless repertoire of funny stories, we even got to see and chase for a few seconds an ostrich.
The tour costs 1200 NAD (75 USD) and is well worth it. We loved it and really couldn’t ask for anything other than we got! It felt like we were doing a little of Dakar rally and that was thrilling. Definitely another couplertw recommendation!
If you are going to Swakopmund/Walvis Bay we recommend that you try these tours. Maybe we got lucky, maybe we choose the best tours in Namibia, but the truth is: if you go with Tommy’s or Herman’s you will have a great time. The tours couldn’t be more different but are both fantastic!