Swakopmund

Colorful buildings in Namibia's seaside hamlet of Swakopmund.

Swakopmund is situated along the foggy throes of the Atlantic coast in Namibia.

Country:
Namibia
Size:
193 km2
Population:
44 725
Established:
1892
Annual Rainfall:
10mm

Introduction

Swakopmund is a seaside resort town, which makes it the premier holiday getaway in Namibia. The interior of Namibia has intense heat during the summer months, therefore making the coast the perfect December getaway for that real holiday feel. Another relief to the heat is the cool early mornings and evenings in Swakopmund throughout the year, because of the cold Atlantic Ocean meeting the Namib Desert creating a fog bank.

In 1892, Swakopmund was founded by Captain Curt von Francois as the main harbor of German South West Africa, drawing a lot of attention to the harbor. The city is home to the Swakopmund Airport, lying on the B1 road and the Trans-Namib Railway from Windhoek to Walvis Bay. Other historic attractions in Swakopmund include buildings such as the Altes Gefängnis prison, designed by Heinrich Bause in 1909, and the Wörmannhaus, which was built in 1906 with a prominent tower, but is now a public library.

In Swakopmund, there are many different activities and attractions to keep you busy. These include a transport museum, the National Marine Aquarium, a crystal gallery and, south of the Swakop River near Langstrand, you can experience the beauty of the sand dunes. Broaden your experience by stepping outside the city to enjoy a game of golf at the Rossmund Desert Golf Course (one of the only 5 world-renowned all-grass desert golf courses). For the adrenalin junkies, the city has many extreme sports, such as sand boarding, quad biking, dune carting, parachuting, hot air ballooning, shark fishing, deep sea fishing and beach angling - just to point out a few! For the more laid back tourist, Swakopmund offers an array of restaurants, cafes, art galleries, museums and a snake park.

Reasons to Visit

1

Fishing frenzy

The Atlantic Coast is renowned for its various fishing attractions. Decide whether you want to cast your lines from the shore or if you’d prefer to brave the waters of the Atlantic in search of greater challenges, one of which is shark fishing. Fishing in the area is strictly catch and release, and permits are required.

2

Blast from the Past

The Swakopmund Museum and its collections documenting the town's colonial history and indigenous people is a privately-run facility which was opened in 1951 by dentist Dr. Alfons Weber. It is the largest privately run museum in the country and various types of indigenous plants, animals, minerals, and archaeological findings are on display.

3

Location, location, location

Swakopmund is ideally situated for those who wish to travel the coastal region of Namibia. It is a gateway to Henties Bay, the renowned fishing capital of the country, as well as the uncanny beauty of the Skeleton Coast to the north and Sandwich Harbor to the south.

Useful Info

Getting There
Plane

By Air

Visitors to the town of Swakopmund can reach the area through various channels. The easiest is to fly directly to Walvis Bay International Airport from either Cape Town or Johannesburg, or the Swakopmund airstrip via Windhoek. Guests visiting Swakopmund, however, usually do so on a tour through Namibia, and it might not be the first destination.

Car

By Road

Swakopmund is situated approximately 50km from Walvis Bay. The short drive along the coast is a great way to get to know both towns. Guests traveling to Swakopmund from other destinations can enjoy the scenic landscapes of Namibia. Guests will always be transported in a private, air-conditioned vehicle by an experienced guide.

Weather & Best Time To Visit

Swakopmund is surrounded by the Namib Desert but is situated on the coast of the Atlantic Ocean and therefore has a milder climate than the inland desert areas. As with the Skeleton Coast and other areas on the coastline, the town often experiences fog that is blown in from the Atlantic. The climate is mild, ranging between 15°C and 25°C, which makes Swakopmund a year -round destination.

The winter months are more foggy than that of the summer months, but the coastal regions can experience up to 180 days of fog a year, which makes it a highly likely occurrence. The fog is thickest in the early mornings and disappears in the afternoons. It is a vital source of precipitation for the region. 

History

Swakopmund was founded in 1892 as the main harbor of German South West Africa.  The harbor was officially established on the 8th of August when the gunboat Hyäne ('hyena') crew planted two beacons on the beach.  The area was named after the Swakop River, as the German word Swakopmund directly translates to Swakop River Mouth. It is still disputed whether the Swakop River’s name was derived from the Nama word 'Tsoakaub', or the San (Bushman) word 'Xwakaob'. Where, in Nama, 'Tsoakaub' means 'excrement opening', given to the river mouth as dead animals litter the riverbanks after floods, 'Xwakaob' simply means 'Rhinoceros River' in the Bushman language.

The original breakwater silted up very quickly, and in 1905 construction of a wooden jetty was started. The wooden jetty also proved inadequate and then, by 1914, work was started on a steel jetty. This jetty became a pedestrian walkway after the First World War and is still in use after some renovations were done between 2006 and 2010. Some historic buildings still exist that were built by trading and shipping companies. In 1915, Walvis Bay became the main port when the Union of South Africa took over German South-West Africa. After this, many of the government services ceased, people moved away, businesses closed down and the town became less prosperous. Today, it is mostly a holiday town.

Wildlife

The most abundant animal in the region would be the Cape fur seal. It is the largest species of fur seal, being slightly bigger than the Australian sub-specie. Cape Cross Seal Reserve is 120km north of Swakopmund - a short drive by Namibian standards. Cape Cross Seal Reserve is home to the largest Cape fur seal colony in the world. The number of fur seals are estimated to be around 25 000. They make a living out of the vast fishing grounds of the Namibian shore. A Namibian government-initiated study states that the seals eat more fish than the fisheries can catch, but Seal Alert South Africa estimates that they consume less than 0.3% of commercial fish resources.

Desert tours allow one to see some of the remarkable desert-adapted species. On these tours, there is a chance to sneak a glimpse of the 'Little Five' of the Namib Desert. The 'Little Five' comprises the Namaqua chameleon, sidewinder snake, shovel-snouted lizard, palmato gecko and the cartwheeling spider. The cartwheeling spider is so named as it escapes from predators by cartwheeling down sand dunes. The spider can do 44 cartwheels a second going down a steep dune. The area allows for excellent birding, as it contains both desert and coastal species. Species such as the endemic Damara turn and dune lark are a must see for birders.  Both African flamingo species can be seen at the Swakopmund salt works.

Vegetation & Terrain
Swakopmund is Namibia’s largest coastal town. In terms of vegetative and terrestrial attributes, there are several sites in the area that have to be mentioned, the first being the Swakop River. The river, although ephemeral, is one of the largest temporary rivers in the dry western reaches of Namibia, and is home to some of the most unusual plant species in the country. The Welwitschia, or 'tree tumbo', which is found on the mostly dry banks, only ever produces two leaves that grow endlessly along the ground and can become thousands of years old. The river valley has also recently become used for agricultural developments such as growing tomatoes.

The moon-like landscape situated right next to town has become one of Namibia’s main exports, as film crews from all over the world visit the area for location shoots because of its inhospitable vastness, which is even more frightening when the fog rolls in from the Atlantic. Visitors to the area need a permit, however. Closer to town, the dunes are also one of the area's main attractions, especially for adventure activities. Although situated 70km from the town itself, the Rössing Uranium Mine, which one of the largest open pit uranium mines in the world, has become a growing concern for the plant species and agricultural developments in the area.

Activities

Swakopmund has often been described as Namibia’s adventure capital. It also encompasses some of the most beautiful and ecologically significant landscapes the country has to offer. One such area is the Walvis Bay Lagoon. The wetland is often besieged by the pink greater flamingo, and more than 150 000 birds can be seen here at times. Various other migratory bird species can also be seen. The town of Swakopmund is historically rich. The Woermann Tower and its exceptional views, and the Swakopmund Museum, are great places to learn more about the town, its architecture and the people that live there. 

Adventure seekers can go quad biking on the dunes right outside of town. The waves of sand that shoot up into the air as you turn are a source of endless fun. Dune-boarding and dune-skiing are similarly thrilling experiences, and are both relatively easy to grasp. If the heat gets to you, go out into the ocean on a dolphin tour at Pelican Point to cool down whilst in search of dolphins, seals and whales (in season). Orcas or killer whales have even been seen in the area. The dunes next to the town are also home to various desert-adapted animals, and guided walks and 4x4 drives offer guests the opportunity to see unique creatures such as the legless lizard.   

Experiences to be Savored

Flamingoes descend on the shores of Walvis Bay.

Astounding Architecture

The town of Swakopmund is the sanctuary for various buildings that date back to 1884 when Namibia, previously referred to as South-West Africa, was still part of the German Protectorate. The architecture evokes a unique, nostalgic feel.

Swakopmund Brauhaus

When you enter the Brauhaus Bar & Restaurant you are immediately transported to 1990’s. Enjoy a Hansa, Tafel or Windhoek lager, all of which are brewed in Namibia, or grab a traditional bite to eat like Wiener schnitzel, Eisbein or game from the region such as oryx and kudu.

Flamingo Festivities

A short drive from Swakopmund to Walvis Bay offers visitors the opportunity to experience the inundation of up to 150 000 flamingos at the Walvis Bay lagoon. Their distinctively pink shade shimmers against the blue waters, creating a wondrous reflection.

FAQ

When visiting Swakopmund, what other nearby destinations should I incorporate into my trip?
When in Swakopmund, it is advised to make a trip to the Skeleton Coast National Park and Cape Cross.
When is Swakopmund the busiest?
The most popular time to visit Swakopmund is in December.
What sort of fishing is available in the area?
There is deep sea fishing, shark fishing and beach angling.
What is Swakopmund's most iconic symbol?
That would be the jetty, which was initially used for mooring ships, but is now popular amongst walkers and anglers.
What is the most popular food in the area?
Swakopmund is known for its fish, rock lobster and the popular Swakopmund oysters.
What languages do they speak there?
English is widely spoken, and German is also spoken in Swakopmund. There is quite a bit of German influence in the town, such as in its architecture.
Is there internet connectivity?
It is a fully functioning town, so there will be internet connections all around. Some restaurants and shops may offer complimentary WiFi.

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