Namibia is one of the comprehensively tourist-friendly countries in Africa. The country offers visitors the chance to climb the highest sand dune in the world and descend to the floor of the deepest canyon in Africa.
This landscape has seen an increase in the amount of lodges and safari camps and with almost one fifth of the country protected by national parks, safari and tour companies flourish in this dry landscape.
The large, arid Namib Desert has resulted in Namibia being overall one of the least densely populated countries in the world.
Most people opt to combine wildlife and landscape, and the best way to do it is by driving yourself. The road network is extensive and well maintained (and you drive on the left). Most roads are tarred and suitable for standard cars, while in the remoter areas, the roads are gravel, for which 4x4s are recommended.
Walvis Bay, meaning “Whale Bay” is the principal port city on the west coast of Namibia. As a port of entry into the country, the harbour and waterfront is bustling with fishing boats and tourists as the MSC cruises dock on their routes from Cape City and Durban.
Dolphins, whales and Cape fur seals inhabit the Atlantic waters around the Pelican Point Lighthouse. A huge natural lagoon with an overwhelming abundance of seabirds including pelicans and flamingos is one of the most visited spots in the city.
Also called Ezorongondo by the Herero people of the area, Walvis Bay is now a tourist destination of choice. The Walvis Bay Waterfront is home to a colony of flamingos welcoming you in search of food in the shallows.
The picturesque views of the glimmering sea in the afternoon light and rustic scenes of fishing boats allows for Instagram-ready photos. The sounds of windpipes and foreign voices at the restaurants and curio shops along the waterfront strip bring about a sense of relaxation and the most challenging problem of the day might be choosing the seat with the best view for lunch.
Dune 7 is the highest dune in Namibia and a prominent tourist attraction in the Erongo district, about 7km east of Walvis Bay and mark the start of the Namib Desert. The dune has been measured at over 383 meters and named Dune 7 due to it being the seventh dune one encounters after crossing the river Tsauchab. Allot of activities are exercised on this dune, including climbing and sand boarding. Note that the sand gets extremely hot during the midday sun.
Driving towards Swakopmund, the scenic highway boasts views of beaches on the left and sand dunes of the right. Never would I have thought of driving along a road that connects the desert with the sea.
Swakopmund is situated 43km from Walvis Bay on the coast of Namibia. Not only does it have exceptional wildlife; the landscapes of its coastline and deserts are some of the most photographed and gasped over in the world, meriting a visit in their own right. Namibia’s unique coastal desert has now been named a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Swakop, as locals call it, is a Germanic resort on the coast and a destination in its own right. Streets lined with palm trees, gift shops, good restaurants and a laid-back feel – not to mention some of the best extreme-sports options in southern Africa, including: sandboarding, quad biking, dune carting, parachuting, hot air ballooning, shark fishing, deep sea fishing and beach angling to name but a few.
Traditional culture remains strong here and a small part of its population is still German-speaking today.
Like Lüderitz on the south coast, with its half-timbered German architecture including hanging flower baskets and seaside promenades; the city is also thoroughly African and seems to be stuck in time. The Swakopmund Railway station now houses the luxurious Swakopmund Hotel with its beautiful symmetric design.
Swakopmund is also the launch pad for exploring the Skeleton Coast and Namib Desert. My two favourite attractions of this city were the Swakopmund Lighthouse as well as the Jetty 1905 Restaurant.
The city’s most iconic symbol is the Swakopmund jetty, initially used as mooring for ships it later became a popular are for anglers and walkers. This landmark restaurant is found at the end of the jetty and is the perfect spot for a stunning sunset photo.
There is an abundance of accommodation in Swakopmund which caters for all budgets. Note that booking in advance might be necessary especially if you are traveling in the busy December holidays. Some of the hotels in the city include the Swakopmund Hotel, BON Hotel and Beach Hotel.
This is a city with as much personality as it has sea frontage and visitors will end up staying much longer than planned.