A week in Walvis Bay, Namibia

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1-Pinterest dunes namibiaA month in Namibia felt like a month less than we should have spent in this wild and beautiful and interesting country. But we went, and a lot of boats crossing the Atlantic from Cape Town seem to skip right by on their way to the Americas. In all fairness, we’ve had to make plenty of “can’t see everything” calls ourselves, but Namibia is so easy to roll in. Going north coastwise to Namibia offers a better wind angle when heading out in to the Atlantic. It’s also a good shakedown before big passages for boats that have been sitting around Cape Town marinas for a couple of months. There’s good provisioning to top up stores before you go, at prices similar to South Africa’s, so that’s no reason to beg off either. But mostly, it’s interesting, and so much different from South Africa than anticipated, and worth the minor added time/effort to visit.

In the south, Luderitz was a step into colonial Germany. Once north of Luderitz, dramatic desert scenery blew us away, as did the rich marine life. Walvis Bay, Namibia’s only deepwater port, was our final stop before clearing out. We thought we’d just stay a couple of days- funny how quickly that turns into a week, when there’s a lot to see and do.

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Walvis Bay was our last stop, and chance to get up close to the massive sand dunes that were tantalizingly just out of reach in our anchorages to the south, barred from access by the rough surf that made dinghy landings untenable. Now- we could just drive right up to the mountainous sand dunes! So we trundled into a rental car: six of us now, because our Atlantic crew, Ty, has arrived, made sharing a compact was “interesting” but the distances weren’t great, so we had a ball! Quad bike ride UP the mountain-like Dune 7, sandboard skimming down.

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4-whats known as shit eating grin-ty and atv

5- german goodiesSwakopmund was like a little piece of Germany, stuck in the desert. German language, signs, architecture, food. It was like a spiffed up, whitewashed version of Luderitz: more cute than faded.

It also turned out that Walvis Bay is a good place to do final prep and provisioning. Where Luderitz is a country hamlet of just a few thousand, Walvis is the second most populous community in the country, after the capital Windhoek, and pushes up towards 100,000. There’s a more upscale community in the historic town of Swakopmund, about 40km north of Walvis; the big Food Lover’s Market there was full of all the veggies we could want. Down in Walvis, there were deals on packaged food, meat, and booze. Probably because Walvis Bay is a major port, there’s even a wholesaler where cruisers can score a discount on bulk purchases.

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Most days, the harbor where Totem anchored looks just as socked in with fog as it did during our arrival. This oil rig is near the entrance: see the second picture for an idea of the scale. Lounging at the base are Cape fur seals, which happen to be some of the largest seals in the world, dwarfed by the rig.

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At the waterfront were a collection of charter businesses and restaurants. Nestled in was an organization called the Namibian Dolphin Project. They’re doing some very interesting work and outreach. If anyone reading this will be sailing up the coast of Namibia, they are especially keen to have reports of sightings for dolphins and whales you see along the way! Get a picture to help with species identification, try to remember about where and how many you saw, and share details with Barry and the crew.

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The Namibian Dolphin Project’s offices are a mini-museum to local cetaceans, full of artifacts and information. We were there when a group of little kids stopped in, and staff basically dropped what they were doing to engage them. This education is so important: people protect what they know!

Next door was the very friendly Mola Mola (catamaran tours and safaris). They have the best “radio telephone” I’ve ever seen: this is a truly mint VHF.  They gave me a quiet place to sit when I needed it (thank you Isobel!), and kindly loaned the VHF when I needed to call out a dinghy from Totem. Bonus: flirtatious sulphur-crested cockatoo in residence.

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Particularly entertaining in the Walvis anchorage was the wildlife we could see from the boat. Pelicans and seals were accustomed to being fed by tour charters. Look just above the name on this catamaran, and you’ll see a seal being ‘helped’ back into the water.

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Pelicans preened and pooped all over these boats, their feathers a faint shade of pink. Both fur and feathered critters came running when called by the charter crews, but learned to leave us alone (one afternoon of a much-pooped-on dinghy was enough!).

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Truly spectacular, though, were the flocks of innumerable flamingoes. It felt so exotic, and so improbable, to have flamingoes and fur seals sharing the same water! But that’s Namibia: full of surprise natural delights. We passed these flamingoes on our drive up to Swakop.

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We’re somewhere in the Atlantic, far far from the pretty flamingoes on passage somewhere between Ascension Island and the Caribbean. I will be able to read comments, but can’t respond until we make landfall and have ‘normal’ internet again.

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8 Responses to A week in Walvis Bay, Namibia

  1. Teri April 12, 2016 at 7:35 pm #

    I gasped when I opened your post in my inbox today! What are they doing back in Namibia?! Read on, you say…
    Wonderful to be reminded of things so familiar from our journey to Nam.If you’ve looked at my blog, (tericappart.wordpress.com), then you know that I have been writing periodic entries from our travels there last summer. And about my painting project based on the landscape and people of Namibia. Your stories and photos are great…so fun to read and see! We had those little packages of shortbread from Spar many times…a favorite on our many kilometers of driving the bumpy roads. Be safe and enjoy the middle of the Atlantic!

  2. Amy Bradford April 12, 2016 at 10:00 pm #

    As if you weren’t salty enough, you guys have really put some serious blue water under the keel lately! Barbados is going to feel like a little slice of heaven. We watch your progress with awe. Wishing you continued fair winds!

    Somewhat in your wake, we are headed to Cape Verde tomorrow or the next, with an Atlantic crossing towards the end of April.

    • Behan April 24, 2016 at 7:31 am #

      Fair winds for your Atlantic crossing Amy – hope we’ll meet the Pelagic crew!

  3. Ardyth April 15, 2016 at 4:20 am #

    It’s been a joy to read your blog, Behan. I only wish I had signed up years ago! Safe travels home!

    • Behan April 24, 2016 at 7:23 am #

      thanks Ardyth! Crazy to think we’ll be in the USA soon.

  4. Jackson Mwalundange April 24, 2016 at 9:18 am #

    Thank you for visiting my country, guys. Had you gone deeper inland you’d have discovered that it’s a land of rain and drought, of deserts and jungles, mountains and plains, and of people of all colors and cultures.

    • Behan April 26, 2016 at 9:34 am #

      Hi Jackson, I wish we had gone further inland in Namibia…my #1 regret for our time in southern Africa! The taste we had of how interesting it is from our stops in Luderitz and Namibia were a tease. The Swakop museum helped us learn more…but it’s a museum. I think we’ll have to go back!

  5. Amy Stevens October 10, 2016 at 8:28 pm #

    I lived in Namibia for three years and loved it! Thanks for bringing back some happy memories. 🙂

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