Nature & Sports in Walvis Bay, Namibia
As Namibia’s primary harbour town, Walvis Bay sees many cruise liners, cargo ships and fishing vessels each year. It is a five hour drive from Windhoek. But other than the business side of things, Walvis Bay is famous for its open spaces, lagoons, sea and bird life, golf course, sand-boarding and the water sports. It is ideal for outdoor enthusiasts.
Though it was discovered by Westerners toward the end of the 15th century, it was not until 1793 that it was formally founded as a seaside town by the Dutch. It was swiftly taken over by the British and ownership later transferred to South Africa. When Namibia gained independence in 1990, Walvis Bay would remain under colonial rule and only reverted to the newly independent government in 1994 when South Africa’s apartheid regime collapsed.
As a tourist destination, Walvis Bay has had to play second fiddle to Swakopmund which is just 18 miles away. However, there are signs of growth with the proliferation of several hotels and guest houses around the lagoon. During the December season, the town springs to life as thousands of tourists from southern Africa descend on it to savour the sun and sand.
In addition, some tourist activities marketed in Swakopmund start off in Walvis Bay e.g. catamaran trips, dolphin cruises, kayaking and fishing expeditions. In fact, a good number of tourists with their eyes set on Swakopmund opt to stay in Walvis Bay and make the 25-minute commute.
Of course, Walvis Bay has its own set of attractions. The bird life within the lagoon is one of the key highlights and includes pelicans, flamingos and plenty of waders. And if you are looking for the perfect location for lunch or dinner, they come no better than the Raft Restaurant. Perched over the water on stilts and connected to the mainland by a bridge, enjoy your meal at sea as you are entertained by birds, seals and jelly fish.
Walvis Bay Activities
- Dune 7 – One of the highest sand dune crests along the Namibian coast, Dune 7’s palm trees provide welcome shade for the many visitors that come to picnic on its slopes. There is an excellent view of the surrounding landscape with sand-boarding, para-gliding and quad biking being some of the more popular activities.
- Kuiseb Delta – The Kuiseb River empties into the Atlantic just south of the coast of Walvis Bay. The river mouth is an elaborate delta whose many channels provide a path for the river’s waters to discharge into the ocean. For thousands of years, the delta’s lands have been home to migrating parties of the indigenous Khoikhoi. The Topnaar, descendants of the Khoikhoi, still dwell in the delta where they harvest seeds of the nutritious Inara melon.
- The Walvis Bay Lagoon – One of southern Africa’s most important wetlands, the lagoon is an internationally-recognised bird sanctuary. There are more than 50 bird species such as pelicans, sea gulls, Damara terns, plovers and of course flamingos. The Benguela Current makes the waters ideal for kite-boarding and wind-surfing. Toward the lagoon’s south is Africa’s largest solar evaporation salt fields. A couple of miles north is the resilient Guano Platform that rests on wooden stilts and spans over 180,000 square feet.
- Namib Naukluft Park – South-east of town is the Namib Naukluft Park where visitors can get to see what is one of the weirdest plants in the world – the Welwitschia. Though it grows in the Namib Desert where it does not rain for decades at a time, the Welwitschia plant can live for over a thousand years. It satisfies its water needs from the humidity that reaches into the desert from the South Atlantic Ocean.
- Sandwich Harbour – 30 miles south, imposing desert dunes tumble into the beaches and lagoon to form what many consider one of the country’s most picturesque shoreline. Used as mooring for ships in the 19th century, the harbour is today a vital wetland that is home to several species. During the peak of incoming bird migration, there are close to 200,000 birds here.
- Rhenish Mission Church – Built in Germany, this church was shipped to Walvis Bay in 1880.