WHERE THE NAMIB DESERT MEETS THE ATLANTIC OCEAN
MEETING POINT / Parkplatz an der Promenade
OVERALL TIME / lunch time till sunset
LUNCH / provided on tour
EQUIPMENT / self driven in 4x4 or in Sand Waves vehicles
On the 8th of February during our month road trip in Namibia, Daniele and I went with our 4x4 to explore where the Southern Namib Desert meets the Atlantic Ocean and reached the impressive landmark of Sandwich Harbour.
We met Ben the owner of Sand Waves in front of the Flamingo Villas in Walvis Bay for lunch time. Beautiful weather, clear sky.
After getting to know each others and had a brief for the day we turned on the engines and started our 4x4 adventure.
Our journey starts crossing all the salt flats, where lesser and greater flamingos flock in large numbers to pools along the Walvis Bay lagoon.
Salt Works Southwest of the lagoon is this 3500-hectare saltpan complex, which currently supplies over 90% of South Africa’s salt. As with the one in Swakopmund, these pans concentrate salt from seawater with the aid of evaporation. They also act as a rich feeding ground for prawns and larval fish.
The lesser flamingo filters algae and diatoms (microscopic organisms) from the water by sucking in and vigorously expelling water from its bill. The small particles are caught on fine hairlike protrusions, which line the inside of the mandibles. The suction is created by the thick fleshy tongue, which rests in a groove in the lower mandible and pumps back and forth like a piston. It has been estimated that a million lesser flamingos can consume over 180 tonnes of algae and diatoms daily.
While lesser flamingos obtain food by filtration, the greater flamingo supplements its algae diet with small molluscs, crustaceans and other organic particles from the mud. When feeding, it will rotate in a circle while stamping its feet in an effort to scare up a tasty potential meal.
The greater and lesser flamingos are best distinguished by their colouration. Greater flamingos are white to light pink, and their beaks are whitish with a black tip. Lesser flamingos are a deeper pink – often reddish – colour, with dark-red beaks.
The shallow and sheltered 45,000-hectare lagoon, southwest of Walvis Bay and west of the Kuiseb River mouth, attracts a range of coastal water birds in addition to enormous flocks of lesser and greater flamingos. It also supports chestnut banded plovers and curlew sandpipers, as well as the rare Damara tern.
After crossing the lagoon we started driving crossing the peninsula of Pelican point towards the lighthouse, our first stop.
Pelican Point is a long sandbar guarding Walvis Bay.
The lighthouse, main landmark, is not situated at the edge of Pelican Point as you would expect. This is because the peninsula comprising a narrow strip of sand which extends into the sea in a northerly direction for about nine kilometres and protects the bay from the Atlantic Ocean, has grown considerably since the beacon was erected. As a result of sea currents, wind and periodic floods of the Kuiseb river vast amounts of soil were deposited on Pelican Point over the years, resulting in the sandbank now extending almost two kilometres beyond the current position of the lighthouse.
In this magical piece of land you will find hundreds of seals surfing the ocean waves, or just their basking in the sun, spot the dolphin’s, whales and mola-mola, hearing the distinctive call of the jackal roaming close by the lodge, observing their playful nature. Witness spectacular flocks of damara-terns, cormorants and flamingo’s flying or feeding in the more tranquil waters of the lagoon. Follow fishing vessels, and catamaran`s, to and from the Walvis Bay harbor presenting perfect photo opportunities on both misty and sunny days.
Having weathered the harsh climatic conditions it has been exposed to for over 70 years it will most likely continue to brave the elements for a long time to come. And it will not only continue to serve as a navigational aid for mariners, but will remain both a landmark for coastal residents and an attraction for tourists visiting Namibia’s central coast.
Left behind the Pelican Point and its beautiful scenery we went directly heading south, to the Namib Desert driving along the coastline.
To enter the area you need specific permits, unauthorized driving with your 4x4 vehicle is fined and punishable. Furthermore, access is strongly discouraged if you are not an expert dunes and sand driver and have the knowledge for coastline driving.
This is one of the few places on earth where the desert meets the Ocean, to be more precise this is the place where the Namib Desert meets the Atlantic Ocean. This is truly an unforgettable and memorable time of your life.
The Namib Desert is one of the driest destinations on the planet. It seems to be Mars-like landscape features nothing except high sand dunes, barren mountains and gravel plains extending to about 81000 km2 across three nations, Angola, Namibia and South Africa.
It is believed to be as old as 55 million years; thus, it is the oldest desert in the world.
Summer temperature at this desert often reaches 45 degree Celsius and night-time temperature can be as low as below freezing.
The Namib Desert is obviously not suitable for human life. Nonetheless, a number of living beings such as ostriches, antelopes, rodents and birds have managed to adapt to this desert.
Ben, our guide, has 15 years experience in the whole Namib Desert area and He knows everything about it. To drive in these remote and unusual places we are not only talking about having experience but also about planning such as monitoring weather conditions and tide conditions which refers us to the role of the solar and lunar system in the rise and fall of sea levels caused by the combined effects of the gravitational forces exerted by the Moon and the Sun, and the rotation of the Earth. A complex mechanism of understanding of mother nature to be able to gently ask permission to pass.
After a first approach driving along the coast line having the Atlantic Ocean to the right and the dunes to the left we stopped for a quick lunch break before facing the next stretch of coastline before the big adventure.
After another briefing on how to face the dunes from a technical point of view we were set to go following Ben behind his vehicle. The adventure finally began.
Foot straight down on the accelerator and it was finally time to attack climbing the dunes.
After a few fun bends and some ups and downs we stopped on a dune without knowing what was waiting for us behind. We just made it to Sandwich Harbour.
Formerly the bay was a moderately-sized commercial port based around whaling and small-scale fishing, but it is now best known for its birdlife in the lagoon to the south of the bay.
The area was surveyed in the 1880s by the Royal Navy but it was considered very inferior to Walvis Bay and no development took place. Occasional sealing vessels used the bay as an anchorage, instead of Walvis Bay, and there were some temporary settlements used by seasonal fishermen catching snoek (Thyrsites atun).
In the 1930s an ambitious project was started to build a guano island in the lagoon using sand pumps imported from the Netherlands. Unfortunately jackals could cross to the island at low tides and chased the birds away. All that remains of the project is the manager's house.
Currently the bay and lagoon are within the Namib-Naukluft National Park.
The fauna was surveyed by the South African Museum and the National Museum of Namibia. It was found that the fauna was totally marine.
We left this magical view point to keep going climbing up and down the dunes with our 4x4.
We were heading to the final view point, the best place, the breathtaking part of the tour. Ben favourite spot, and we could definitely understand why.
Maybe the only place where you can fully understand and appreciate the meaning for "The Namib Desert meets the Atlantic Ocean".
We spent quite a lot here taking photos and admiring the sun slowly going down. A romantic way to close our tour before sunset.
One stop only was missing after a whole day in the dunes under the heat of the sun and our feet and clothes full of sand. The wild moment of the day.
We climbed down the dunes and went back to the coastline while the sun just set.
We took our clothes off and run into the Atlantic Ocean for a swim as tribute for hosting us gently and showing us its magnificent beauty and as a challenge for our souls, as a reminder to stay humble and wild. As mother nature created us.
Fresh and clean inside and out, purified and washed the fears and worries behind and deep into the Atlantic Ocean, we drove back to Walvis Bay.