A wild and protected coastline

The coastal strip is home to the beautiful towns of Henties Bay, Swakopmund and Walvis Bay, and the small settlement of Wlotzkasbaken. Its incredible national parks include Dorob National Park – proclaimed to protect sensitive environmental areas – which 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. The Atlantic Coast spans the entire western border of Namibia.

The Namib Sand Sea is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, one of only two in Namibia with the other being Twyfelfontein.


To protect the most frequented coastal area against damage caused by off- road driving, the stretch of coastline between the Kuiseb Delta and the Ugab River – eastwards from the low- water mark of the Atlantic towards the boundary of the Swakopmund district – was proclaimed a national park in 2008, elevating the status of the West Coast Recreational Area (WCRA) to that of national park, and proclaiming it as the Dorob National Park. It includes the Walvis Bay Lagoon – a RAMSAR site – but excludes the municipal areas of Walvis Bay, Swakopmund and Henties Bay, as well as Wlotzkasbaken. The Namibian coastline is a haven for numerous unique plants, animals and birds. A special feature of international interest is the occurrence of extensive lichen fields. Over a hundred lichen species have been recorded in the Namib Desert. A symbiotic composition of an algae and a fungus, lichens are dependent on coastal fog for survival. The continued existence of this intriguing form of desert life is a matter of serious concern to environmentalists, as lichens are extremely slow growing and are destroyed when vehicles driving offroad tread on them. The 200-km stretch of coastline between the Swakop and Ugab rivers is renowned for its excellent angling potential. Over the years popular angling spots along the coast were identified by dedicated anglers and named to indicate their distance from Swakopmund. To drive in specially demarcated off-road areas, drivers must have a permit, which is issued free of charge and can be obtained from Ministry of Environment, Forestry and Tourism (MEFT) offices in Swakopmund (064 40 4576) and Walvis Bay (064 20 5971). A free information pamphlet is also available from the above-mentioned offices, as well as from coastal information offices.


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 Swakopmund Jetty, originally built in 1905 during the German colonial era.

The Swakopmund environs

Camel and horse rides are offered a short distance from the town. Cars and 4×4 vehicles can be hired to embark on day trips or safaris into the desert. Beach-buggy excursions to the beach, dunes or hinterland also include sundowner tours, hunting and fishing safaris, and dune and tyre surfing. Flights over the town and the shipwrecks along the coast can be expanded to include charter flights further afield, while specialisedsafaris take visitors to see the dune landscapes and plants of the desert.

Reputable air-charter companies take visitors on short flips over the dunes and to further destinations.


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. Other places of interest in Walvis Bay include the historic cemetery along Ben Amathila Avenue and historic monuments such as the old railway tracks on the airport road and Railway Engine No 652. A relic from the first attempts to introduce railroad transport to Namibia, the narrow-gauge engine which arrived from London in 1899 can be seen in front of the railway station in a glass enclosure to shield it from the prevailing southwesterly winds and the corrosive effect of the salt-laden mists. 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 Lagoon takes pride of place as a scenic attraction in the Walvis Bay area. The tranquil body of water, its natural beauty accentuated by thousands of flamingos gathering at the rich feeding grounds, is over 3000 years old. The lagoon has been silting up for hundreds of years, a process hastened by man’s activities. Because of its value nationally and internationally as a wetland area, it was designated as a RAMSAR site in 1995, RAMSAR being a convention on wetlands held in 1971 in Ramsar, Iran. The lagoon is regarded as the most important wetland for coastal birds in Southern Africa. Wading birds including Lesser and Greater

The Walvis Bay lagoon is regarded as the most important wetland for coastal birds in Southern Africa.


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 MEFT offices in Swakopmund, Walvis Bay, Sesriem 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.



The Cape Cross Seal Reserve, with a surrounding area of 60 km2 consisting of flat gravel plains and the rocky outcrop where the seals gather, was proclaimed in 1968 to protect the biggest and best known of the 23 colonies of Cape fur seals that breed along the Namibian and western South African coast. The reserve is situated approximately 130 km north of Swakopmund. From January until the end of June the reserve is open on weekdays from 08:00–17:00; from the beginning of July until the end of November from 10:00–17:00; and in December again from 08:00–17:00. On weekends the reserve is open from 08:00–17:00. For further information contact the Ministry of Environment, Forestry and Tourism at Cape Cross, Tel: 064 69 4037. It was here that the Portuguese navigator, Diogo Cão, on his second expedition to Africa south of the equator, erected a stone cross in 1486. Two replicas of this cross can be viewed at the site where the original one was erected. Germany has undertaken to return the original padrão to Namibia.

A small lichen reserve containing a relatively large variety of species can be viewed from close by. Bird islands off the coast are also protected.

The South African (Cape) fur seal, Arctocephalus pusillus, is the largest of the world’s nine fur-seal species. As many as 210 000 of these animals gather at Cape Cross at any one time during the November/December breeding season.


The Skeleton Coast Park, proclaimed in its present form in 1971, extends from the Ugab River for 500 km up to the Kunene River in the north, covering an area of 16 845 km2. It protects about one third of Namibia’s coastline.

The landscape in the park ranges from sweeping vistas of windswept dunes, to rugged canyons with walls of richly coloured volcanic rock and extensive mountain ranges. Over a hundred species of lichen grow on the plains and west-facing mountain slopes, changing colour and becoming soft and leathery to the touch when the coastal fog generated by the cold Benguela Current pushes inland. Animals occurring on the plains are gemsbok, springbok, jackal, ostrich and brown hyaena, while desert- adapted elephant and even black rhino, lion and giraffe roam up and down the dry river courses. The northern section of the Skeleton Coast Park is a tourism concession area that is restricted to fly-in safaris and guests to Shipwreck Lodge north of Möwe Bay. Of special interest are the clay castles of the Hoarusib,

the saltpans near the Agate Mountain and the seal colony at Cape Frio. The southern section – between the Ugab River and just north of Terrace Bay – is accessible to the general public staying at Terrace Bay and Torra Bay. Because of the ecological sensitivity of the coastal desert, the entire park is managed by the MEFT as a wilderness area.

A day permit to drive directly through the southern section of the park is obtainable from the MEFT Tourist Office in Swakopmund, as well as at the Ugab and Springbokwasser gates. Visitors driving through need to enter before 15:00 and leave by 17:00 and may not visit Terrace Bay or Torra Bay along the way. Overnight visitors must be in possession of a valid reservation advice for Terrace Bay or Torra Bay and arrive at the checkpoints at the Ugab Mouth and Springbokwasser gates no later than 15:00 and leave from these points no later than 17:00.


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Torra Bay

Torra Bay is a seasonal fishing retreat, situated inside the Skeleton Coast National Park on the Atlantic coast. Open only in December and January, Torra Bay is famous in the angling circle due to the variety and quantity of fish that come down the Atlantic current. Other activities include bird watching, walking along the beach,

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Strand Hotel Swakopmund 

With its extensive and entertaining Restaurants, Bars, Lounges, Deli, sea facing Terraces and Conference & Banqueting Centre the Strand Hotel is the social epicenter of Swakopmund, Namibia. Uniquely located on the iconic and historic Swakopmund Mole and surrounded on three sides by the Southern Atlantic Ocean its 125 rooms and suites offer the finest uninterrupted

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The coastline along the Dorob National Park is a very popular attraction for fishing and holiday-makers in general. NWR’s Mile 72, 108 and Jakkalsputz offers accommodation within the park that is in close proximity to the ocean and perfectly situated from where to explore the park. Mile 72 and 108 provide a choice of either

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Brigadoon Guesthouse offers spacious, well-equipped rooms to accommodate two people, or families, in style and comfort, allowing an opportunity for total relaxation, away from the hustle, bustle and buzz of Namibia’s most vibrant town. Each room overlooks the lush garden from its own private patio deck where guests always appreciate their individually served breakfast. Visit Brigadoon Guesthouse Book your Stay

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