Travelers come to Namibia to explore its extraordinary landscapes, rare wild animals and remote indigenous peoples. Just off our shores is yet another set of wonders to explore. Namibia sits on the edge of the Benguela current, which brings the cold waters of Antarctica sweeping north along our beaches. This helps to make Namibian seas suitable for a unique variety of life from its unusually rich plankton to massive right whales.
There are quite a few boat touring enterprises working out of Walvis Bay. Catamaran Charters were among the first in the business, and they continue to be one of the best. Their boats are large, clean and comfortable, and they offer a wonderful combined sand and sea tour with another local tour company, Sandwich Harbour 4x4. Most importantly, however, is the knowledge, sense of humour and hospitality of the Catamaran Tour guides.
The Silversand, Silverwind and the Silvermoon depart at 8:30 every day, and they set out to seek their own big five or Lagoon Five. These are the dolphin, the sea turtle, the seal or sea lion, the whale, and the giant sunfish, or mola mola. Like game on land, there is never any guarantee of seeing some of these animals, but seals are virtually guaranteed, and most tours will spot dolphin.
Seals are likely to greet you shortly after you embark. Technically speaking, these are not seals, but sea lions. They weigh up to 300 kilograms and eat ten percent of their body weight in fish every day. Three or four pilchards are not enough to disrupt the balance of nature for these beautiful animals, but the guide and the crew will still chase them off before too long to prevent them from becoming tame.
Seagulls and pelicans are sure to visit as you motor off into the sea. Once you are underway for a little while and have had a visit from the seal lions, you will be offered a “Namibian Coffee.” It is a tasty little drink served from a big brown bottle into a tiny wine glass. It looks and tastes almost exactly like sherry! (Ok, it really is sherry). Actual coffee, water and soft drinks are also available throughout the tour.
Next you will visit the oyster farms, which is another phenomenon of the Benguela current. Because of the high density of plankton in this area, oysters mature much faster than just about anywhere else in the world. It normally takes two years for an oyster to reach maturity, but here, it only takes eight months!
The oyster seedlings were originally imported from Chile, but in recent years one of Namibia’s enterprising oyster farmers started cultivating them in a laboratory in Swakopmund. Oysters are hermaphrodites, meaning they possess both male and female sex organs which change with the temperature of the water. This is the process instigated in Swakopmund’s oyster lab.
You can normally expect to see quite a few dolphins on a catamaran tour. They like to play with the boats, and you are likely to find a few swimming along in the wake in front of the catamaran. It’s tough to catch a jumping dolphin on camera, but you will probably get your chance.
Before going back to shore, or continuing on with your Sandwich Harbour tour, you will be given a wonderful early lunch, with fresh raw oysters, champagne and a selection of little breads and baked goods from Probst Bakery.
A morning cruise in Walvis Bay lagoon has become a standard activity for guests visiting Swakopmund and Walvis Bay for the beauty and serenity of the open sea. With all of the incredible landscapes, wildlife, and indigenous peoples in our country, it is easy to forget the incredible beauty and variety of life that inhabits the world beneath the sea just off our coast.
by John R Wheeling | Leisure Times Namibia