Swakopmund Namibia: Three Top Outdoor Activities
by Jane Flowers
Friday, July 27, 2018
Namibia is one of Southern Africa’s top destinations because of the wild beauty and multi-cultural influences. Swakopmund is a must-do place to visit as it’s on the coast between the surreal Namib Desert and the wild Skeleton Coast. After my 361km (224-mile) drive from Windhoek, sand dunes gave way to palm trees. I found myself in the charming town with German architecture and bustling cafes.
Swakopmund: Namibia’s tourist center
Swakopmund is locally known as the “Centre of Namibia” because it’s ideally situated to get the best experiences. In the holiday season around Christmas and New Year, advance accommodation booking is essential. Luckily, I found a room in the nearby settlement of Walvis Bay.
The coastal road south of Swakopmund
Walvis Bay is a 36-minute drive on an excellent road and made it worth the daily trip to Swakopmund. The Namib Desert’s sand dunes on one side of the road contrasted with the sea on the other. I had to stop the car and stand between the blue sea and silky sand mountains.
Best outdoor activities in and around Swakopmund
There were so many things to do, that I had to skim my bucket list down. Some of the best outdoor activities I enjoyed included:
- Namibia Skeleton Coast National Park road
- Quad biking at the Desert Explorers Centre, and
- Swakopmund jetty walk.
Namibia Skeleton Coast National Park (SCNP) road
The Skeleton Coast Park is a top recommended destination, but it’s best to book a tour. The road’s not always safe to drive on your own as it’s a 200km (124- mile) drive to the southern-most gates. I was pleased to have a 4×4 vehicle fully equipped with spare tires and water. The area is rugged and visitors need a special permit to stay in the park. However, I had an enjoyable drive up the C34 road.
Things to experience on the road to Skelton Coast
There are interesting things to experience on the Swakopmund C34 road to Cape Cross. Going beyond that point is not really worth the effort, I was warned. This stretch of the road didn’t get me close to any ancient shipwrecks. However, I experienced the wild desert, ocean beauty, birds, animals, and a meal at Henties Bay.
Four points of interest
I noted three main points of interest along this stretch of road:
- Swakopmund salt works was a good spot for wading birds which stood out clearly against the desert browns and white salt.
- Henties Bay is 70 km (42 miles) from Swakopmund. The drive through Namibia’s bleak, arid desert in the National West Coast Recreation Area didn’t excite me much, as there wasn’t much to see. But Henties Bay was a great stop for breakfast. The town’s really small, but there are cafes. I indulged in a huge burger at Misty Cafe.
- Beyond Henties Bay is the Cape Cross Seal Reserve. That was another hour of driving but was worth getting there to see the seals. It didn’t smell good though, as there are a lot of seals at Cape Cross. The upsetting thing for me was to see a few dead pups. However, that was offset by spotting a jackal scrounging around. It was interesting to note that Cape Cross was where Deigo Cao landed in 1485.
Quad biking the dunes
The quad biking at the Desert Explorers Centre was safe and great fun. There were families there and no grim faces. The adventure is best enjoyed with some friends so I went there with Angela, an adventurous soul I met in Walvis Bay. The guides were so helpful and didn’t try to push us past our limits. When I needed help they were there for me in an instant. It was such an awesome experience to stand out in the middle of a desert. I literally felt the weight of the sky on my shoulders. We stopped for a while to walk around a bit and the silence almost hurt my ears. Yes – there is a sound in the silence and it’s the breath in your chest.
Recommended items for quad biking
The guides provided us with helmets and a hair net, but next time, I would make sure I take bottled water, and then some more bottled water as it gets dry out in the dunes. The dust gets everywhere, so I was glad for some moisturized hand wipes that I always carry in my little backpack.
Top takes from quad biking
The quad biking was thrilling and it should be noted:
- The views of the ocean from atop dunes are breathtaking photo ops
- You won’t want to do the steeper dunes if you’re nervous about heights
- Know your own limits and communicate with the guides.
The almost-outdoors dinner experience on the Jetty
The Swakopmund Jetty was a must-do on my bucket list. I wandered out on the jetty with my new-found friend. Angela. The jetty isn’t the original and was reconstructed in steel. The walk on the jetty to the very end is an outdoor activity on its own. From there, I could see a good view of Swakopmund and the Namibian dunes. The soft evening glow and the sunset on the water were gorgeous. Surrounded by sea made me feel so free. At the end of the jetty is a restaurant.
The Jetty 1905 Restaurant
I was advised by friends to make a booking for the restaurant. There are many places to eat out in Swakopmund, but this is a popular place. There are huge windows so when we ate we could see water all around. I loved that feeling of being out over the sea that lashed the Skeleton Coast. Seafood was the obvious choice but I overdid ordering the chocolate mousse dessert. Definitely, the meal was good value for money.
Overall jetty and restaurant experience
- The jetty walk is a must-do in clear weather
The restaurant service is friendly but a little slow
The food’s delicious