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I Dream Africa

I Dream Africa

Walvis Bay

   

Namibia’s primary harbour town, Walvis Bay, is only 30km south of Swakopmund. It is nestled between the high coastal sand dunes stretching inland and the Atlantic Ocean. Its name was derived from a time when whales freely roamed its waters. Early Portuguese seafarers called it ‘Bahia das Baleas’ – the bay of whales.

Longbeach is a popular holiday spot, halfway between Walvis Bay and Swakopmund. Quad biking is the name of the game here and it is a fun and worthy experience for the whole family. Adrenalin junkies can also try their hand at the freedom of paragliding or the intense rush of sand dune boarding. Another must is climbing Dune 7 - one of the highest sand dunes in the world, situated just east of Walvis Bay towards the airport. You haven't experienced Namibia until you've climbed this mega dune.

History

Early days saw Dutch, French, English and American whalers who came to fish its rich waters, and in 1878 the bay and the territory twelve miles inland were annexed by Britain and ceded to the Cape colony for its administration. They were reintegrated into Namibia only after Independence in 1994.

Early traders were the families of Dixon and Morris, who arrived from the Cape by ox-wagon to open a trading station. Over the years, Walvis Bay saw the many early explorers, travelers and missionaries such as missionary Scheppmann, who opened up a mission station near Rooibank called ‘ Scheppmannsdorf’ in the Kuiseb valley. Fitted with harbour facilities, the port nevertheless allowed the import of important commodities and trading goods into the vast hinterland.

Walvis Bay saw the passing through of vast quantities of weapons and ammunition, which fuelled the wars going on in Namibia before the German colonial period, mainly between the Hereros and the Namas. After the building of the harbour in Swakopmund, Walvis Bay’s significance as a port town dwindled significantly. It only gained momentum again in 1914, when the South Africans started their military campaign against the Germans, which they concluded successfully in 1915. At that stage Walvis Bay was linked by railroad to the rest of the country with the building of the railway line from Walvis Bay to Swakopmund.

In the years following, the harbour works were upgraded and in 1927, they were officially opened. A number of economic success stories have been written in Walvis Bay, of which the harbour industry with its many branches such as logistic companies, engineering works, suppliers and subsidiaries, is the most important. Another one is for instance the whaling industry, which was flourishing up until 1950, when the whaling station burnt down.

The fishing industry has been the backbone of Walvis Bay, with a whole number of fishing companies operating from here. The heavy small of fishmeal, ground from fishing surpluses, is endemic to Walvis Bay. There is the guano industry, which makes a fine fertilizer because of its high nitrogen content, which is harvested from huge platforms just a few kilometers north of Walvis Bay. Salt works just south of Walvis Bay are another earner of revenue.

In the last years, Walvis Bay has started to benefit significantly from the tourism industry, and has some fine outdoor activities and wildlife locations such as the Walvis Bay lagoon and Sandwich Harbour. Some 55,000 inhabitants are living in Walvis Bay today. They are a mix of people from all over Namibia, while outside influences such as from the fishermen and sailors from the Cape and their families, as well as mariners from all over the world and the tourists add to the cosmopolitan flair.

Near Walvis Bay, all along the Kuiseb dry riverbed, live the Topnaar, a Nama tribe who have been living traditionally off a desert vegetable, the so-called narra fruit. Walvis Bay also has excellent airport facilities, and its road and tourist infrastructures also leave nothing to desire.

Highlights

  • Dune 7
  • Welwitchia
  • Moonlandscape
  • Lagoon
  • Dolphin & Seal Cruise
  • Mission church (1880)
  • Old Railway Engine No 652 (1899)
  • Municipality of Walvis Bay
  • Bird Sanctuary
  • Dolphin Park
  • Harbour
  • Longbeach (Langstrand)
   
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