Traveling to Namibia was Plan B.
When we realized we couldn’t apply for our long-term Visas from South Africa, “border hopping” for the weekend seemed like a fun way to get in and out of the country long enough to enter on another visitor’s visa and see a new part of the continent to boot. When Plan B also turned out to be a dead end visa-wise, we decided to keep our plane tickets and Airbnb reservation, and make the most out of a weekend in Namibia. Why not?
Walvis Bay, Namibia is only a 2-hour flight from Cape Town, and then just a 40-minute drive from there to Swakopmund, where we spent a lovely weekend in the barren beauty of the Namibian desert.
The view flying into Namibia is a bit surreal—endless desert. And since you can’t see the airport, it does feel a bit like you’re making an emergency landing in the middle of nowhere.
Swakopmund feels very different from Cape Town. The beaches aren’t as nice and the weather is worse, but what it lacks in seasides, it makes up for in safety. We walked a lot—and at night! It was even safe to leave our sliding door open while we slept and to not have our car parked behind a secure gate (although I did wake up one night absolutely convinced that I heard someone stealing our car and proceeded to go outside to investigate in the middle of the night). Since we know of two people who had their houses burgled last week in Cape Town (one being on the property where we’re staying), it was a nice change.
This part of the Namibian coast where we stayed is strange—it’s hot and sunny in the desert of the Namib-Naukluft National Park, but a cool, misty cloud hangs over the coastal cities.
Our first full day in Namibia, we met up with our guide, Jeanne of Eco Marine Kayak Tours, to go kayaking in the lagoon at Walvis Bay. On our way there, we had to stop because of the tons and tons of flamingos. The “greater” ones are the taller, paler flamingos. The “lesser” flamingos are the small, bright pinkies with black bills.
We drove about 40 km from Walvis Bay to the remote peninsula of Pelican Point, where we were a little worried that Jeanne’s 4×4 might not actually make it through the thick sand. If you get stuck, she said (which many eager tourists do), you’d likely have to stay overnight on the sand bank.
The Walvis Bay Lagoon is known for its seals. When we signed up to go “kayaking with seals,” we assumed it would be kayaking to watch them lazing on the beach, or maybe to see a few seal swimmers here and there. We weren’t prepared for how surreal of an experience this would be. There were seriously hundreds of seals swimming around us as we kayaked. And so cheeky, too!
Be sure to watch with the sound on—they sound like little calves!
Chas said the conversation went something like this:
Police Officer: Who is that boy?
Police Officer: Oh, Obama. You brothers with that boy?
On Sunday, we drove out to the Moon Landscape in the Namib-Naukluft National Park. It’s a strange contrast to the flat desert and golden sand dunes that made up our drive to Swakopmund. It’s named the “Moon Landscape” because it resembles the surface of the moon. Or so says whoever named it, even if they haven’t been to the moon. Apparently, it’s been used for filming movies, but I haven’t been able to find any verification of that…
The Moon Landscape is so quiet and empty. And because it makes a kind of bowl, Chas and I could have a conversation from where I was on the floor of it to his position on the side of the cliff without raising our voices. Insane.
The Namib Desert is overwhelmingly beautiful, but also shadeless, hot, and barren. It was such a surprise to come across the Goanikontes Oasis Rest Camp in the middle of it all—which really is an oasis. Not only does it offer shade and a restaurant, but also llamas, super friendly goats, pot-belly pigs, ducks, chickens, etc. etc.
I read that the name “Goanikontes” is a Nama word that means “The place where you can remove your fur coat,” but why anyone would be wearing a fur coat in the middle of the Namib Desert is beyond me.
We feel so lucky that we get to experience all of these new places as we explore southern Africa this year. It was a sweet weekend away because it marked the end of our first three months here in Cape Town, and we spent a lot of the weekend looking back on some of our favorite moments of our expat time so far. I think we’re getting more and more used to being foreigners in such a unique country. We’ve come to love this great big place. And it’s a good thing to feel out of your element every once in a while, as we’ve found out.
Tomorrow we head off for a few weeks in the States with our families and to hopefully settle our Visa issues once and for all. We’re sad to leave—even for a little bit—and we’re already excited to get back and keep exploring.
Any takers on South Africa, Part 2? The dollar is strong, the land is big, and the company is sublime (if I do say so myself).