In the central part of the coastal region, its old-world German influence and palm-frond greenery a refreshing surprise in the desert, is the town of Swakopmund – the heart of adventure sport in Namibia and a good place to get a delicious slice of Black Forest cherry torte.
This is where Namibians, who call it Swakop, go on holiday to escape the heat of the interior, to surf and stroll along the promenade, to see the colour green, to eat fresh oysters and good German cake. The cool Atlantic breeze and morning fog bank are a most welcome change for people who live in places where the average summer temperature is 35˚C. For the visitor they will be welcome too, and Swakopmund offers you a chance to brush off the desert dust and integrate with locals, a colourful mix of Ovambo, Herero, Damara as well as German and Afrikaans Namibians. Remnants of Namibia’s colonial past – such as beautiful old buildings and striking Herero women going about their business in their voluminous Victorian dresses – give a surreal quality to this seaside town but a visit to the Swakopmund Museum will soon give you greater understanding these unexpected sights.
This is also a gathering place for curio sellers from all over Namibia, and an absorbing array of African arts and crafts, expressing the cultural heritage of their makers, can be found here. At Kristall Galerie remarkable examples of the rich mineral and gem wealth of Namibia are on display, including a 1-ton quartz crystal and some fine meteorites. Rainbow-coloured semiprecious stones, exquisitely designed jewellery and cut stones are sold here, and master jewellery makers can be observed at work.
For the adventurous traveller, Swakopmund is the springboard to multiple high-adrenaline activities. Thirty kilometres south of Swakopmund is the port and fishing town of Walvis Bay and in the area around these two towns some of the world’s highest dunes can be found, making dune boarding and dune quad biking top of the list of local adventure sports. In fact, it is possible to be conveyed across the dunes in a variety of ways – on the back of a horse or camel, on fat bike or by 4×4 vehicle. Or you can paraglide, take a light aircraft trip, hot-air balloon ride or sky dive for a bird’s-eye view of the breathtakingly beautiful phenomenon of mountains of sand plunging down to meet ice-blue sea.
Before you head back into the wilds and wonder whether Swakopmund wasn’t just another desert mirage, you can sort out a few practicalities. The town boasts an excellent camera shop as well as many outdoor specialist shops. Top up on good German beer and coffee and German cake at one of Swakop’s quality craft beer breweries or roasteries, assure yourself that the modern world still exists, and then hit the open road for more unspoilt Namibian wilderness.