To the south lies a bird sanctuary of international importance, in the east are the elongated fingertips of the oldest desert in the world, to the north are beautiful sandy beaches and in the west flows the brilliant Benguela Current, one of the most intricate oceanic ecosystems on the planet. With so many wonderful features around it, Walvis Bay is the epicentre of adventure on our coast. Be it an ocean-faring activity, curiously wandering through a bird paradise or staying in a quirky self-catering spot right by the lagoon, there is fun to be had in Namibia’s harbour town.
After a scenic flight on FlyNamibia’s Windhoek to Walvis Bay route, a drive into town reveals picturesque pockets of flamingos wading in marsh-like greenery, strikingly juxtaposed by the dunes nearby. A beautiful introduction to Walvis Bay, the town where flocks of flamingos fly overhead by the dozens while you are sipping a morning coffee.
Where to stay and have that morning coffee is the next question. On prime real estate within walking distance of any and every activity in Walvis Bay is de Baken. This wabi-sabi, weird and wonderful self-catering accommodation was built and decorated largely with reclaimed materials. Even the property’s original structure on the corner of Richard Dyer and JJ Cleverly streets was repurposed sustainably. The complex’s six units each have a unique spin on nautical themes, paired with quirky names like Sandy Bottoms and Flirty Flamingo. For architect Conrad Schaffer, de Baken is a passion project inspired largely by Wlotzka’s Baken, the holiday settlement north of Swakopmund that embodies the quintessential, rustic beach cabin. Conrad is both the mastermind behind the design and the operational owner of the accommodation facility.
From de Baken you can stroll to your dinner reservation on the waterfront or even have your own braai at your fully kitted accommodation unit. Not only is this place absolutely aesthetically pleasing, they have truly thought about everything you might need for a comfortable stay, including crisp white linen bedding, Netflix and Slowtown coffee.
In Walvis Bay, the early bird gets the better weather. Since a strong southwesterly wind tends to pick up in the afternoon, most guided activities take place in the early morning, like the catamaran charters favoured by visitors. On misty mornings at the Walvis Bay waterfront, Catamaran Dolphin Cruises conducts three-hour guided tours to the Pelican Point peninsula. Step onto the sleek white cat and a group of pelicans are already on board, joining the voyage out to sea. With plenty of delicious snacks and Namibian oysters, sherry or bubbly and a few overzealous marine animals, the cruise is every bit as relaxing as it is informative.
Catamaran Dolphin Cruises’ guide Cathy is incredibly knowledgeable and tangibly passionate about the ocean. Sharing insight into wild animal behaviours, the complexities of oyster farming and even a little maritime law, this particular cruise allows you to laze on a boat bobbing on the Benguela Current, while learning invaluable facts about our ocean. Seals, pelicans and elusive dusky dolphins make entertaining appearances, be it playfully parading in the water or, in the case of pelicans, ceremoniously landing on the boat’s hulls, making for brilliant photos. Sufficiently spoiled, educated and relaxed, after disembarking Catamaran Dolphin Cruises it is easy to understand why the sea-faring lifestyle is considered the ultimate luxury.
Walvis Bay is best savoured close to the water, and the ideal place to embrace the maritime attitude is the Yacht Club among sailors and water babies of every kind who congregate for frosty Hansa Draughts and wholesome pub grub from the on-site restaurant, Rojo.
Whether you sit outside by the jetty on a sunny day, in the light-filled domed dining room facing the beach, or under a big umbrella by the kiddies playground, Rojo dishes up a vibe completely unique to Walvis Bay. The menu covers light lunches as much as generous dinner meals, all inspired, in one way or another, by the fresh ocean air. Choose between a wide selection of burgers, wraps, steaks, fresh seafood or sushi, either way you cannot go wrong. Every item on the menu is thoughtfully prepared and paired with the ideal setting at the Yacht Club. Dining at Rojo is essential to the Walvis Bay experience.
Once you have refuelled at Rojo, another activity awaits. On the outskirts southeast of Walvis Bay lies a birding paradise of international importance. Flamingo, cormorant, pelican, oystercatcher, tern and plover are just some of the avian species to see and photograph in their natural habitat. Referred to on maps as the Bird Sanctuary or Bird Paradise, the area is accessible by 4×4 from the C14 road to the airport. Juxtaposed by small sand dunes, the environment is characterised by low-lying water pans, fields of wetland reeds and succulent creeper plants. Flocks of feathered bodies wade through the water, occasionally fluttering up to the sky in a hurry, just to circle back and feed some more. It is truly a sight to behold, and it makes for a special kind of adventure to patiently move through the bird sanctuary.
Joyce on what’s to love about Walvis Bay
Since flying from Windhoek to Walvis Bay with FlyNamibia, I have proclaimed myself an honorary resident of this coastal town. I would have loved to grow up there! With the dunes of the Namib just a short drive away and the calm waters of the lagoon on the town’s doorstep, I can only imagine how much fun it is to be a kid in Walvis Bay. Even for an adult, there is so much to explore.
We stayed at the picture-perfect de Baken self-catering accommodation, and boy, did I have fun taking photos between the interesting architecture, bright colours and beautifully decorated apartments. They are within easy walking distance from the lagoon to take a close look at the stately pink flocks of Flamingos that migrate there in thousands, feeding while looking gorgeous.
Because of the peninsula that shelters Walvis Bay, our journey with Catamaran Dolphin Cruises was smooth and calm. I learnt so much about pelicans, seals and the whole Walvis Bay area. And I tried a fresh Namibian oyster for the first time – how delicious!