We left the rugged beauty and dramatic rocky cliffs and mountains and headed west, towards the Atlantic Ocean. The landscape slowly changed and flattened our out entirely as we entered the Namib Desert. As I mentioned before, the common theme in Namibia is vast openness. The number of hours you can drive without seeing much of any civilization is staggering. We arrived at the Skeleton Coast about 80km north of Swakopmund. As we turned to head south it was ocean to the right and flat white desert to the left. We saw one shipwreck on the beach and like true tourists we stopped to take pictures of course. It wasn't one of the huge tanker ships that was old and rusted through like I hoped to see – those are further north on the skeleton coast – but it was cool nonetheless. With the introduction of GPS, fewer ships sail into the coastline. The coast is known for being very foggy so mariners thought they were plenty far from land when in truth there were running aground. The ship we saw broke loose from its anchor in a nearby bay and ran aground that way.
Swakopmund was a neat old German town on the coast and we stayed in a quaint little B&B near the south of town. We tried to hit the he ground running in Swakop and booked our Living Desert tour for the next morning. What a cool thing that was! It was just us and the guide in a sweet old Land Rover in the golden sand dunes between Swakopmund and Walvis Bay. He showed us so many plants and animals that live in the desert that I'd have never guessed were there. We saw chameleon, shovel nosed lizards, geckos, several kinds of beetles, birds, mice, skinks and a sidewinder snake. They were all amazing in their own ways and perfectly designed to live in such a harsh environment. And driving over and through the immense dunes was just awesome. We got stuck once but easily out in about 10 min 🙂 Also learned that the dunes are there because of the Benguela Current that runs up the coast of Namibia. It not only brings sand but also different minerals which is what gives the dunes differs colors sometimes …we saw black and a purplish magenta color. And the sparkles were from mica… Makes it looks like millions of tiny diamonds shining on the dunes in the sunlight. Truly beautiful – especially when standing on the top of the dunes and looking over the Atlantic Ocean and feeling the cold sea breeze from the Benguela current in the hot desert.
Keeping the day rolling we decided later that afternoon to go quad biking on the dunes. So much fun! I posted a quick clip to Facebook a few days ago and several people said it looked like a video game…. And it felt like one too!
The next day we headed to the nearby town of Walvis Bay, just about 25 min to the south of Swakopmund. It's got the major port for the area and though it's more industrialized because of that, I actually preferred it a little to Swakop. We were able to meet and make lots of new friends and the Kingdom Hall and have lots of stories and experiences to share. Such lovely, giving, hospitable and welcoming people!
In Walvis we decided to take a catamaran tour to see the local cape fur seals and the sights from the water. You'd never guess it but it was COLD the entire morning we were out there and it was pretty windy so I bundled up and shivered and sniffled most of the trip. BUT, it was so much fun! The boat captain was funny and introduced us to two cape fur seals that help themselves onto the catamaran. In fact, they have a mop handle that they clank against the railing to keep the seals off the boats at times because they can get a little excited. But Archie wake surfed behind us until he was allowed to come aboard. He let us let him, pose with him and I even got a lapful of cape fur seal. In turn, he got fish. Not a bad deal really. Seeing a seal up close and personal was awesome and unexpected… I had heard that sometimes they board the boats but didn't know I'd get a seal on my lap. Their fur is amazingly dense and when combed against the grain you can see that just the top layer is wet and he's nice and warm and dry underneath! And they have very thick coarse whiskers that flatten out – which incidentally is how circus seals balance that ball on their 'nose'! After that we were treated to a seafood tray that included local oysters that the area is known for. Yum.
We slowed our pace a little in Walvis bay… Watched the flamingos and pelicans, ate good food and drank good wine and rested up for the second half of the trip. Much needed and very nice.
Next stop, Sossusvlei and red sand dunes!