Taking a day tour of Sandwich Harbour from Swakopmund with a stop in Wavlis Bay on The South of Africa Tour where I visit 13 new countries.
Sandwich Harbour is a unique and picturesque lagoon on the coast of Namibia south of Swakopmund and Walvis Bay and part of the Namib-Naukluft National Park. It is one of the few places on earth where massive dunes meet the sea.
At one point it was a port for whaling and fishing, until the harbor silted up and the outpost was abandoned.
From Swakopmund, I booked a last minute tour to visit the mysterious area. I called and went for a private tour with Turnstone Tours.
In the morning, I met with my guide “Burger” who picked me up in a white Land Rover Defender. We started our drive south to Walvis Bay to pick up a park permit.
The bay, with around a 85,000 population, is one of the only natural harbors on the entire Namibian coastline. It started as with a whaling industry and its location was highly sought after for the sea route to Cape Town.
Soon after the city we turned off toward the coast and Burger took some air of the tires to prep the car for driving on the sand. We stopped at an artificial bird island which is a platform suspended in the sea. The platform was set up by a local entrepreneur to collect guano for export and is still used today.
Then we continued with a stop at the Salt Works where Walvis Bay Salt Refiners, a South African company, is harvesting industrial salt. They produce around 100,000 tonnes of salt a year.
Foraging on the flats were flocks of greater and lesser flamingos as well as pelicans.
Finally we started inland, around the saltworks and into Dorob National Park. The environment changed drastically as we drove through from barren salt flats, to dense vehicle-height reed growths. We spotted a nursery set up by the park to test vegetation that would thrive and hold back the dunes.
Then the surroundings started to get sandy with mounds of shrub covered dunes. This area was used by the British Navy as a firing range and old rusty artillery shells still littered the ground. A couple of springbok herds observed us from a distance.
We eventually reached Namib Naukluft National Park and our path took us along the beach. Sunbathing seals scampered away as we approached.
As we drove some 80 kms from Walvis Bay, the dunes finally appeared in the distance. Burger deftly handled the Land Rover to climb and descend the massive mountains of sand. A group of paragliders were riding the wind across the dunes by the sea. We took our time to explore the dunes with stops when spotting interesting wildlife or viewpoints. We also dug into the sand where we found small holes hoping to find a chameleon and dreading to find a scorpion.
When the tide was low enough, we continued south alongside the shore. We stopped at the ruins of the abandoned whaling and canning factory which was mostly swallowd by the sand.
Finally we reached the lagoon where we stopped for a homemade lunch set up out of the back of the Land Rover. Burger and I enjoyed our view as we dined. We were completely isolated in the middle of a barren land with no signs of human life for miles around.
That was as far as we went. We then backtracked to the starting point. Besides spotting an Ostrich alone in the dunes, the scenery was much the same.
The Sandwhich Harbour tour was unique and exciting. As I stood on the top of the dunes watching the sea crashing into the mountains of sand, I couldn’t help but feel humbled by the grandeur and beauty of our planet. This was an experience I would never forget.