where the desert meets the ocean
Getting to Swakopmund, after so many kilometers in the middle of nothing among amazing landscapes and quiet antilopes, is a bit weird. Traffic jam, cities and crowdy places looked almost impossibile to be found in Namibia and suddenly here they are behind the dunes of the Namib Desert in a narrow stripe between the Desert and the Ocean, an totally unexpected Africa so different from what we could have expected.
But this weird initial feeling, Swakopmund proves itself to be a very nice stop during the long road trip in Namibia. As a matter of facts, Swakopmund is a city with a Californian atmosphere, long beaches, a nice boardwalk provided with a jetty, cute pubs and restaurants on the beach and a German colonial past ... as we told you before, a totally unexpected Africa!
The beauty of this part of Namibia lays, above all, in the contrast between the Namib Desert and the Atlantic Ocean that reaches its best at Sandwich Harbor, that you can visit thanks to organized trips from Walvis Bay.
swakopmund - what to see
Swakopmund is home to mote than 35.000 residents where the German colonial past is mixed with a Californian atmosphere. The first impression tells you that Swakompund should be a quite wealthy city thanks to local tourism and the proximity to Walvis bay, the most important port basin in Namibia and in the whole Western Africa. The few kilometers that separate Swakopmund and Walvis Bay are the driving force of Namibian economy. As a matter of fact, in this part of Africa you can find nice residential neighborhoods and a growing industrial centre that attracts foreign investments, from China in particular ... in conclusion, an utterly different world from the silent red Dunes of Sossusvlei and from the rest of Namibia: an Africa that is not Africa.
Despite this premise can sound as negative, actually Swakopmund is a nice and pleasant surprise. The city shows it German origins from an architectural point of view and thanks to tidiness and cleanliness. You can visit Swakopmund easily in an afternoon starti g from its Waterfront, nice and relaxing provided with cafes and good restaurants, perfect for a stop in front of the ocean. Then you can reach the old station, one of the most beautiful building in Swakopmund, built 1901, that now hosts the Swakopmund Hotel. Then you could go back to Tobias Hainyeko Road and start a nice walk among different colonial buildings, the best of whose is the Hohenzollernhaus. Another interesting building is the Woemannhaus, the public library, located in Bismarckstraße where you can also find the iconic red and white lighthouse, symbol of the city, the old and the Swakopmund Museum.
As you can see Swakopmund is a nice city, but don't expect it to be something special. It is a good place where to take a break after many days of road trip, it is a nice place where to relax, to hang out and to know a different part of Namibia and Africa, more similar to the European lifestyle.
As always in Namibia, here in Swakopmund the best attraction is Nature, Sandwich Harbour in particular, where Namib Desert and the Atlantic Ocean meets together forming dunes that look like cliffs overlooking the sea.
sandwich harboUr trip
As we were saying, foreign tourists usually decide to visit Swakopmund in order do the classic one day trip to Sandwich Harbour made of a morning boat trip in Ocean in front of Walvis Bay and an afternoon drive in the Namib Desert towards Sandwich Harbour.
We booked in advance our day trip with Sandwich Harbour 4x4, but unfortunately we couldn't reach our final destination. However you can find below a review of our experience.
The day trip started with a boat tour, whose departure was at 8.30 AM at Walvis Bay harbour. On the road from Swakopmund to Walvis Bay we experienced the first strange thing of the day: fog! Yeah, a thick fog that made almost impossibile to drive ( visibility lower then 100 meters ). Actually fog is not so unusual during the Dry Season ( June till September ) since the cold air coming from the Ocean meets the hot one coming from the Namib Desert and then it condenses creating humidity and low clouds.
However it felt so strange to be in Africa, in Namibia, on a narrow road between the desert and the ocean surrounded by that thick fog ... and then suddenly the light! As if someone had pulled the switch, the fog disappeared and the sun started to shine on the beautiful dunes of Namib Desert.
The boat trip was very interesting, since the guide explained different economical, historical and cultural feature of Namibia and you can see lots of funny animals: pink pelicans and seals kept us company while we were sailing towards the open waters and visiting famous Namibian oyster farms. On the boat you can have lunch and taste the delicious Namibian oysters, drinking a South African white wine. Unfortunately we weren't able to spot dolphins that usually swim in this part of the Atlantic Ocean.
At 12.30 PM the boat went to back to Walvis Bay so that we could start the second part the experience reaching Sandwich Harbour on 4x4, but unfortunately Federica didn't feel well and we had to cancel our trip. Thus we can't say anything about Sandwich Harbour, even if the photos and the videos available on the web are enough to say that it must be a wonderful place. We can tell you, though, that the dunes of Namib Desert located next to the road between Walvis Bay and Swakopmund are gorgeous too and they offer nice views and fun if you try to climb them!
So, if you visit Swakopmund don't hesitate to book this trip since it is very interesting and Sandwich Harbour should be a must. Keep in mind that you can't reach Sandwich Harbour on your own, since there are no roads only a pathway in the desert that only expert drivers can manage.
where to sleep
Swakopmund offers many different accomodazione and you shouldn't have any problems in finding the best option for you. We stayed at the Swakopmund Luxury Suites and we had a great experience. The room was huge with a comfortable bed, a nice shower and a super bath. We spent only €100 per night, a great value for money.
where to eat
The fact that Swakopmund is a touristic locations is made clear by the presence of many restaurants, pubs and cafes. The most famous restaurant of the city is The Thug, but it was a delusion despite is funny interiors. Too much crowded and it wasn't a good value for money, especially if compared to the: Ocean Cellar, a place that we strongly recommend. The quality of fish is very high and prices are ok. Here we found sushi!