11 Dec 2020
Several day trips around Swakopmund are worthwhile desert adventures to enjoy while staying at Gondwana’s delightful hotel. Here are some of my favourites:
Moon Landscape & Welwitschia Plains
An easy 30km drive from Swakopmund takes you to one of the most spectacular desert vistas - the Moon Landscape. Here, a series of small hills, gullies and ridges create an intriguing desert-scape in a medley of earth tones.
For a nibble, lunch or tea, drive down through the Moon Landscape into the greenery of the Swakop River to Goanikontes, one of the (oldest?) early farms in the area. Or gear yourself up for some corrugations in the road and continue along from the viewpoints, turning towards the Swakop River and the Welwitschia Plains, further on to view an abundance of welwitschias, the incredible two-leaved desert plants.
The C28 to the Namib Naukluft Park can be reached a few kilometres from Swakopmund (along the B2 to Windhoek) and leads to the D1991 turnoff to the Moon Landscape. Before you head out, remember to purchase a permit for the Namib Naukluft Park from the Ministry of Environment and Tourism offices, corner of Sam Nujoma Ave and Bismarck Street.
Walvis Bay & the flamingos
Another easy self-drive excursion from Swakopmund leads towards Walvis Bay and the flamingos. The 30km scenic drive between the desert and sea is a treat.
Once in Walvis Bay, follow the main road (Union Rd & 5th Ave) past the harbour and the entrance to the yacht club and waterfront into Atlantic Street. The road continues to the Esplanade, fringing the lagoon, towards Paaltjies and the salt works where many flamingos – both greater and lesser – and a variety of waterbirds can be seen. The Walvis Bay lagoon is a Ramsar site, a wetland of international significance, home to a wide variety of waterbirds and waders.
Backtrack for an enjoyable lunch at the charming and rustic waterfront.
Turnstone’s Sandwich Harbour Tour
The full-day trip takes you into the Namib Naukluft Park, first travelling along the coast and traversing a stretch of beach at low tide between the waves and sand dunes before negotiating the dunes for an exciting dune drive and an unmatched view of Sandwich Harbour. A natural bay where fresh water from the Kuiseb River’s aquifer trickles through the dunes, Sandwich Harbour’s vivid blues and greens sparkle magically in the desert extremes juxtaposed against the tawny desert shades. Constantly changing over the years, the lagoon was once accessible to ships and attracted entrepreneurs and industry, including guano-collection, fish-processing and beef-canning. Today, it is a glistening natural jewel in the Namib left to the birds, springbok and black-backed jackals of the area.
Bruno Nebe was the first person to offer a Sandwich Harbour tour commercially in 1997. The name ‘Turnstone’ refers to the small bird that turns over stones to find morsels to eat. Bruno wanted to impart his knowledge about the area and the natural world, making the trip both informative and enjoyable, discovering all the small things that make the desert so fascinating.
Turnstone Tours ensures it is as environmentally-friendly as possible, always sticking to the same routes through the desert on this breath-taking trip.
Eco Dune Tour – The Naturalist Collection (Bin mir ziemlich sicher es heisst Collection)
The morning Eco Dune Tour is a wonderful introduction to the Namib Desert, where your guide reveals that far from being a barren wasteland, the desert is alive with small desert-adapted creatures that call the Namib home. Tracks on the sand alert the guide to creatures like the Fitzsimons burrowing skinks, web-footed geckoes, shovel-snouted lizards, Namaqua chameleons, scorpions and sidewinder snakes. The tour is a wonderful introduction to the Namib, bringing you up close and personal with the desert creatures.
This excursion is one of the exciting tours offered by The Naturalist Collection. Established by well-known birder Steve Braine (from Batis Birding Safaris), the family business (which includes the Braine sons and daughters-in-law), now offers several other fascinating trips besides their popular birding trips: the Eco Dune Tours in the Dorob National Park on the outskirts of Swakopmund, Night Walks - offering a new dimension to living desert tours and the chance to see the nocturnal species of the desert like the palmetto (web-footed) gecko and orchestral spiders and scorpions, as well as longer birding trips in and out of the country and a one-day reptile tour.
Kuiseb Delta Quad Bike Tours
Fanie du Preez has run the quad bike tours in the dunes around Walvis Bay for the last twenty years. The Kuiseb Delta quad-bike tour has been described on Trip Advisor as ‘The best edu-desert experience’. The morning tour is a relaxed, fun and fascinating morning in the desert dunes, balancing the enjoyment of being out in the desert on a quadbike with intriguing archaeological finds and the natural wonders of the Kuiseb River Delta. The area was once home to ancient Khoi-San groups and the remains of their middens can still be seen as the shifting sands expose different sites. Ancient footprints of people, as well as the tracks of elephant, buffalo and giraffe can also be seen imprinted in the hardened river mud. Fanie shares his knowledge of this intriguing area on this enjoyable desert adventure.
Ron Swilling is a freelance writer, who has a deep love for the land of big sky, its vast open plains, spectacular scenery, free-roaming wildlife and salt-of-the-earth people.
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