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Swakopmund, Namibia

Thursday, February 7, 2008
The Republic of Namibia on Africa's Atlantic coast shares borders with Angola and Zambia to the north, Botswana to the east and South Africa to its south. After Mongolia, Namibia is the world's least populated country per square kilometre.

Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt created much publicity for Namibia when they chose it as the birthplace for their daughter, Shiloh.

Namibia's Central Plateau runs north-south and is bordered by the Skeleton Coast, the Namib and Kalahari Deserts and the Orange River. Windhoek, the capital, is located a part of the plateau which has most of the country's arable land — albeit just one percent. Almost half of the population is employed in agriculture.

Early in the 20th century, Namibia was a German colony and became a League of Nations-administered territory after WWI. After WWII, the UN mandated control of it to South Africa, which it achieved independence from in 1990, making it the continent's youngest nation. It took almost 25 years of bush war to achieve that goal.

Swakopmund, the summer capital, is a small town on the Skeleton coast, lying between the dunes of the Namib Desert and the Atlantic Ocean. (The dunes grow around 20 metres a year). It was founded as a main harbour two years after Windhoek was established. Increased traffic necessitated the German South-West African colony to have a port of its own as Walvis Bay, just 33 kilometres south, was in British possession.

Britain, the dominant seafaring nation in the 1800s, annexed Walvis Bay and a small area surrounding the territory both to forestall German ambitions in the region and to ensure safe passage of British ships around the Cape.

These days, the town is approached through endless expanses of the Namib Desert, and the Skeleton Coast's booming surf and Bavarian spires come as a surprise to first time visitors. The skyline is dominated by the beautiful 1902 Swakopmund Lighthouse which is still is being used as an active aid to navigation.

Seaside promenades, half-timbered homes and beautifully preserved colonial buildings make it Namibia's premier beach resort. It is home to artists, hippies, strait-laced descendents of German settlers, miners, game rangers, safari operators, fishermen and stately Herero women in Victorian dress.

Colonial Germany influence is very evident with its eclectic blend of Bohemia and Bavaria. There are excellent restaurants serving seafood, strudel and schnitzel. Café Anton at Hotel Schweizerhaus is one of the most popular. They have a tempting array of Black Forest cake, Florentines, Bee Sting and very good coffee.

There is plenty to do — boat rides to see dolphins and seals, some of Africa's best fishing, diving and surfing. The surrounding Namib-Naukkluft Park is perfect for the ultimate desert camping experience, or longer safaris.

The Moon Landscape is a never-ending scene of barren hills resembling the lunar Sea of Tranquillity. It's best visited at sunrise or sunset.

Open-air seaside markets operate every day and it's a good way to get a fix of African culture while purchasing souvenirs. The Namibian National Marine Aquarium is close by and worth a visit.

Just outside town, a section of towering dunes has been set aside for recreation — sand boarding and skiing, quad biking, microlight flights, camel rides and off-road driving.

Outback Orange offers the ultimate way to experience the shifting sand dunes. Their quad-bike trips cover the riverbed, gravel plains and spectacular dune field.

Matt Kemp, originally from Melbourne, will be there to greet you, and after a full safety and eco-briefing you're ready to go. Helmets and goggles are provided and you twist and turn towards the end of the town and let loose.

After you've tackled some smaller dunes, you stop for a refreshment and power up for the stark and savage western side.

Night time entertainment is remarkably sophisticated with an assortment of drama, music and cultural events, a casino and happy parties at the many pubs and restaurants.

The four-star, award-winning Hansa Hotel is Namibia's finest and oldest. It is nestled in the centre of town and dates from 1905. The classical building is part of Swakopmund's heritage and offers style and comfort.

Walvis Bay has long been a haven for sea vessels thanks to its natural deepwater harbour. It is rich in plankton and marine life and draws huge numbers of whales. Now it boasts half of Southern Africa's flamingo population made up of greater and lesser flamingos. They are spectacular.

A short excursion to the Welwitschia Plains is where you will see the Welwitschia Mirabilia, Namibia's famous plant. The protected trees are around 1000 years old, some older, and grow nowhere else. The ''living fossil'' was discovered in 1859 and can now be found along the sign-posted Welwitschia Drive. The succulent plant produces just two leaves and in a place that has seen no rain for decades, it survives on humidity.


Southern Africa's Atlantic coast.


Safari Wise has five-day Skeleton Coast Adventure Tours. Accommodation at Hansa Hotel, breakfast, entrance fees, private vehicle and a dolphin cruise from Swakopmund are included. The cost is $2995 per person twin share and tours run year round and season rates apply.

Outback Orange two-hour quad bike tours are around $60 per person. Four by four rhino buggies are around $95 per vehicle. They also offer skydiving, 4x4 buggies and sandboarding experiences.

South African Airways has flights to Windhoek.

  • Perth $2458
  • Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane, Adelaide $2629

Valid for travel until November 30, 2008. Conditions apply.

All prices correct at February 7, 2008

For more information

Outback Orange
PO Box 697
Swakopmund, Namibia
Ph: +264 64 400 968

Café Anton at Hotel Schweizerhaus
Bismarck Street 1
Swakopmund, Namibia
Ph: +264 64 4003 31

Hansa Hotel Swakopmund
3 Roon Street
Swakopmund, Namibia
Ph:+264 64 414 200

Safari Wise
Box 815, Post Office
Coolum Beach 4573
Ph: 07 5446 6538

South African Airways
Ph: 1800 221 699
Ph: 1800 099 281 Western Australia

Namibia: it is recommended travellers to Namibia see their doctor at least six weeks before departure as there are specific vaccinations recommended. Other health precautions and preventions may also be recommended and best discussed with your doctor. For further information speak to your doctor or visit

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