The coastal strip houses the towns of Henties Bay, Swakopmund and Walvis Bay, and the fishing settlement of Wlotzkasbaken. Dorob National Park“ proclaimed to protect sensitive environmental areas“ extends between the Swakop and Ugab rivers, while the Skeleton Coast Park covers the area north of the Ugab River up to the Kunene River, protecting the northern third of Namibia’s coastline. In 2013, the Namib Sand Sea“ stretching from the Kuiseb River southwards to the northern boundary of Tsau//Khaeb National Park“ achieved World Heritage Site status, making it Namibia’s second UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Swakopmund is much-loved by Namibians as a welcome respite from the heat in the interior. It is also popular among visitors because of its old-world charm and relaxed atmosphere. Founded in 1892 during German colonial rule, it served as the territory’s main harbour for several years.
Today this quaint town between the desert and the sea is enhanced by lush green lawns, elegant palm trees and carefully tended public gardens. It has a wide choice of hotels, guesthouses and restaurants, and several coffee shops selling traditional German cakes and pastries. The coast with its desert hinterland offers many options, both for adventure and for relaxation.
Just before reaching Swakopmund from the interior, enclosed in a small glass-fronted structure, visitors can view the Martin Luther steam-ox imported from Germany in 1896 to transport goods between the town and other settlements. When the steam tractor became irretrievably bogged down in the sand, it was dubbed Martin Luther, because of Luther’s historic statement in 1521, Here I stand, may God help me, I can go no further. The venue has a museum, toilet facilities and curios for sale.
Quaint architecture from a bygone era adds to the place-out-of-time atmosphere of Swakopmund. When approached from the interior, domes, turrets and towers on the skyline appear like a hazy desert mirage. Much of the distinct German colonial character has been preserved and today many of the town’s old buildings house shops, offices and other services.
The well-known information service, Namib i, belongs to Almuth Styles, who manages the centre as a general information outlet and marketing service for the Erongo Region. It also provides a comprehensive reservations facility and an Automobile Association (AA) stop in town.
Another booking office is Swakop Info, which also has a craft shop and cafe on site.
Tel/Fax (+264 64) 40 4827/3129
Tel (+264 64) 40 5488
What to see and do
Woermann House, built in 1905 to accommodate the Damara and Namaqua Trading Company and sold in 1909 to Woermann Brock, houses the Swakopmund Arts Association and Public Library. The Woermann Tower, which can be accessed at specified times, affords a panoramic view of desert and sea. It has a platform from which, in earlier times, a flag was flown whenever a ship of the Woermann Line was sighted at sea.
The Living Desert Snake Park in Libertina Amadhila Street hosts a variety of interesting creatures for the whole family to enjoy. The historical Otavi-Bahn building served as the terminal for the mining railway line. The goods shed next to this building, built in 1911 and called OMEG-Haus, is a national monument.
The old barracks, known as Die Alte Kaserne, were built by the German colonial government in 1905 to house the German Engineer Regiment responsible for the construction of the jetty and the railway line into the interior. It is now a youth hostel based on the concept of the International Youth Hostel Federation. The privately-owned Hohenzollern-Haus, embellished by a frieze of angels and lions and originally built in 1905 to accommodate visiting aristocracy from Germany, at one time functioned as a house of ill repute. Today this striking building serves as an apartment house, while the Prinzessin Rupprecht-Heim, built in 1902 to operate as a hospital, is now a guesthouse.
The Kaiserliches Bezirksgericht (magistrate’s court) was built in 1901. Since independence the building has been serving as a summer residence for the President of Namibia. Next to it are the gardens of the Marine Memorial, commemorating marines who died in the 1904/5 Herero uprising. The elaborate Railway Station Building, erected in 1901, was transformed into a luxury 75- room hotel and entertainment centre, complete with casino, cinema, bar and restaurant. Resembling a Bavarian villa with its ornamental exterior, the Swakopmund Jail is often mistaken by visitors for a hotel. One of the town’s most prominent landmarks, the Swakopmund Lighthouse, was completed in 1903, as was the harbour breakwater known as The Mole, today the southern boundary of Swakopmund’s main tourist beach.
The Evangelical Lutheran Church, consecrated in 1912, is the second-oldest of its kind in the country. Closely associated with the history of the town, is the Kramersdorf building (1912), with its architectural value lying in the wide, flat wooden bow. It traditionally served as a private residence, school hostel, and summer house. Today it is privately owned.
Another historical landmark is the Old Iron Jetty, originally built in 1911 during the German colonial era. The jetty was frequented especially by anglers and tourists, but gradually fell into disrepair. Major repairs were done in 1983 when 17 pairs of the iron pillars were encased in concrete. In 1997 the Save-the- Jetty Fund was established and in 1998 the jetty was closed because it was deemed unsafe. Following a major N$3.7 million refurbishment in 2006, the front section was reopened to the public. In 2010 the back section was reopened and now includes an oyster bar and restaurant, with an observation deck on top.
Laid out in stone in 1915, a selection of the regimental badges from the South West Africa Campaign can be viewed 27 km east of Swakopmund. The campaign was launched by the Union of South Africa on the Germans stationed in South West Africa at the outbreak of WWI. More regimental badges can be seen about 46 km east of the town. Similar badges and patterns, also laid out in stone, can be found between Swakopmund and Trekkopje, along the railway line. Other interesting sites in the area are small fortifications, the trenches, and the cemetery at the Trekkopje station.
While Walvis Bay is Namibia’s major harbour town, it is fast developing into a sought-after seaside holiday haven. Attractions are the lagoon with its prolific bird life and variety of recreational possibilities; a desert golf course; modern and comfortable hotels and a choice of restaurants; and activities such as sightseeing in a donkey cart and kayaking on the lagoon at sunrise. The town has a well-developed and efficient port, while its fishing harbour is the hub of Namibia’s lucrative fishing industry. Entry permits to visit the harbour can be obtained from the Police Office at the Harbour Entrance on 13th Road. The Civic Centre complex of the harbour town contains the Walvis Bay information office and consists of the Town Hall, Mayor’s Office, a Museum and a Library, the latter with temporary membership facilities. The oldest building in Walvis Bay, and a national monument, is the Rhenish Mission Church, a timber structure built in Hamburg in 1880, then dismantled and shipped to Walvis Bay. Places of interest in Walvis Bay include the historic cemetery along Ben Amathila Avenue, historic monuments such as the railway locomotive in front of the station and old rail tracks on the airport road, and the horse-riding stables along Rikumbi Kandanga Avenue. A relic from the first attempts to introduce railroad transport to Namibia the Old Railway Engine No 652 which arrived from London in 1899, can be seen in front of the Walvis Bay station in a glass booth to shield it from the coastal weather. Interestingly, due to complications with the railway line caused by the prevailing southwesterly winds, the locomotive was put to little use during its brief lifetime. Outside the town, in the Kuiseb Valley, stands a wooden Boundary Post, erected in 1885 to demarcate the border between the newly founded colony of German South West Africa and the British enclave of Walvis Bay. The Walvis Bay Airport terminal building was recently upgraded. Air Namibia offers flights to Walvis Bay seven days a week.
Walvis Bay Tourism Centre
At the end of Union Street in Walvis Bay, bordering the desert and tourist area, the Walvis Bay Tourism Centre is a welcoming one-stop shop. The Centre is a novel concept, with much to offer, such as accommodation in four bungalows, a restaurant, Internet facilities, pro-golf shop and driving range, Information Desk, Levo Tours offices, and Photo Ventures which offers photographic and other tours.
Tel (+264 64) 20 0606
Cultural Township Tours
Accompanied by a local guide, visitors can go on self-drive township tours. Various options for sightseeing can be included in the package. Lasting from three to four hours, the tour includes stops at the Kuisebmond Market Hall; the kindergarten in Daniel Maxuilili Street where children present a special show; the Multi-purpose Community Centre; and Tutaleni Village. The tour ends at the Mola Mola shebeen, where traditional foods such as mopane worms, makaka, oshifima porridge and beans can be sampled. The Tutaleni Village and Relocation Project in the township is an example of how the problem of overcrowding is solved by means of an innovative housing concept. More than 800 families have been relocated successfully and now enjoy amenities that previously seemed unattainable. The Tutaleni Village remains municipal property and will be treated as an ongoing project sustained through the joint efforts of the resettled communities, the local authority and the private sector.
The lagoon at Sandwich Harbour, situated 48 km south of Walvis Bay at the foot of towering ivory-coloured dunes, is a spectacular and sought-after destination. The lagoon, referred to in old texts as Sandfisch Haven, is a former bay that silted up over the years. Today especially ornithologists, photographers and nature lovers visit Sandwich.
The Sandwich area has a strange mystique, enhanced by the legend that buried somewhere in the dunes above the high-water mark is a ship with a rich cargo of ivory, gold and precious stones. This treasure has been searched for by many fortune hunters, but to date has eluded all. The lagoon is fed by fresh water seeping from an inland aquifer, and it is a sanctuary for large numbers of coastal and freshwater birds. It is also an important breeding ground for a variety of fish species. Sandwich Harbour was proclaimed a RAMSAR site in 1995. It is one of five such protected wetlands in Namibia.
Permits to visit Sandwich are obtainable from the MET offices in Swakopmund, Walvis Bay, Sossusvlei and Windhoek. Please note that Sandwich is accessible only by 4×4 vehicles; that in certain areas angling and vehicles are prohibited; that angling is not allowed from 25 January to 15 April; and that overnight camping is not allowed here.
In 1929, Major Hentie van der Merwe, a motorcar dealer who operated from Kalkveld, discovered a fresh-water spring in an old delta of the Omaruru River while on a rhino-hunting expedition in the desert. He fell in love with the surroundings and for years it was his private haven to which he escaped every December.
Henties Bay has since become a popular proposition for holiday and retirement property investments, due to the relatively affordable property prices and the town’s popularity as a holiday resort. Its peaceful atmosphere and remote setting on the Skeleton Coast is one of its greatest assets.
Henties Bay Tourism
What to do in Henties Bay
A peculiar and probably one of the most photographed landmarks in Henties Bay is the Gallows, an old tree stump with a rope and a noose, put up in 1978 as a friendly but firm warning to keep the town and beach clean or else! Another surprising phenomenon is a fresh-water fountain situated almost on the beach in the so-called Valley, an old tributary of the Omaruru River. Apparently this fountain served as a lifesaver to many early explorers, one being Henties Bay’s own Major Hentie van der Merwe.
One of the biggest events in Henties Bay is the annual Henties Festival in August each year which attracts visitors from all over Namibia, South Africa and even overseas. The annual Christmas Market, Angling Bonanza, and Touchies in December are events that have a high priority on the yearly calendar.
Although shore fishing is still Henties Bay’s number-one attraction, there is much to do for those who don’t fish. The Jakkalsputz walking trail leads through the beautiful Solitude Bay with its rocky shores and hummock dunes stabilised by coastal desert plants adapted to grow in harsh conditions. The Omaruru River Walking Trail, a long hike along the riverbed and across the Namib Desert plains, gives hikers an experience of the harsh but beautiful desert environment. Remember to take drinking water along.
The Henties Bay Golf Course is laid out in the Valley. It is a nine-hole course, extending over 2.7 km, and has well-tended grass greens and tees, while the fairways are being planted with grass, which will turn it into a lush green spot in the riverbed. Golf competitions are organised regularly, especially during the December holiday season.
While quad-bikes provide fun on the beach, they should be used responsibly and with due consideration to residents and other holidaymakers. Areas specifically designated for their use are 10 km upstream in the Omaruru River environs and the beach either side of the residential areas. When riding on the beach, please take other people into consideration and be on the lookout for children and pets, especially during the holiday season. Quad-bikes are not allowed north of the Omaruru River and east of the C34 or in front of residential areas and campsites.
The following rules apply to vehicles, including quads and other motorised bikes:
– Permits are required for trails in and traversing the Dorob National Park.
– No driving is allowed on the beaches at Henties Bay, Wlotzkasbaken, Swakopmund, Cape Cross and the camping sites at Mile 14, Jakkalsputz, Mile 72 and Mile 108.
– East of the C34 routes, self-drives are allowed only on designated 4×4 tracks. (Detailed maps are obtainable from the Henties Bay Tourism Office).
– Bikes are prohibited on beaches between Walvis Bay and Swakopmund, and all areas north of Henties Bay.
– Beach driving is allowed elsewhere on clearly marked tracks.
– No bikes are allowed north of the Omaruru River up to the Ugab River.
– Bikes are allowed 10 km upstream from Henties Bay within the Omaruru River course.
– Vehicles are not allowed in the park between 21:00 and 05:00, except on proclaimed roads.
– Closed and exclusionary areas include the Damara Tern breeding area, the Swakop River, and lichen fields.