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I Dream Africa

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Sandwich Harbour

   

Sandwich Harbour

Sandwich Harbour, 50 km south of Walvis Bay, historically served as a commercial fishing and trading port, and indeed, the name may well be derived from an English whaler, the Sandwich, which operated in the mid-1780s. It's thought that the captain of this ship produced the first map of this coastline. (However, the name may also be a corruption of the German word "sandfishche", a type of shark often found here). Although it's now a total wilderness, Sandwich Harbour has historically hosted various enterprises, from fish processing and shark-oil extraction to sealing and guano collection. In the late 1800s the southern end of the lagoon even supported an extensive abattoir, which was set up by some enlightened soul who'd taken up the notion of driving cattle over the dunes to the harbour for slaughter and export. All that remains of these efforts is an early-to mid 1900s hut used for guano collection, a rusting barge, a graveyard and some wooden beams from the abattoir. The site is open 6am to 8pm daily; however, there are no facilities for visitors.

The area will be of particular interest to birdwatchers, but the combination of the sea meeting the dunes, the diversity of the wildlife, an interesting history that awakens the imagination and the sense of wild isolation makes this a very rewarding popular activity for travelers in the vicinity of Swakopmund and Walvis Bay.

As you drive along a beautiful dune chain adjacent to the Atlantic Ocean, zigzagging the original railway line between Swakopmund and Walvis Bay. This is an opportunity for a detailed look at the formation of 'the world's oldest desert' - its origins, its composition and its movements.

You will see Bird Rock - a guano island inhabited by 200 000 birds and one of the first examples of man's efforts to utilize the rich natural resources of the area.

The Lagoons at Walvis Bay and at Sandwich Harbour have been designated as 'Wetlands of International Importance', while the 'Bird Paradise' at Walvis Bay is also a key nesting and feeding site for thousands of visiting and resident birds. A recent bird survey, overseen by expert ornithologists from Namibia and South Africa, counted record numbers of flamingo, plover and tern between Walvis Bay Lagoon and Sandwich Harbour. Other favourites such as pelican, avocet, turnstone and a huge variety of waders can be seen, with numbers peaking at around 170 000 in November. Several endemic species, such as the Dune Lark and the Damara Tern, are also in the vicinity.

Leaving Walvis Bay behind, you head for the lower reaches of the Kuiseb Delta. This unique ecosystem is dotted with archeological sites, 450 year-old animal tracks, wind blown graves and magnificent dunes. There is evidence of ancient and recent gathering, harvesting and trading by the Topnaar, an indigenous Namibian community descended from the !Khoi group, which relies on the naturally occurring !Nara fruit for survival.

   
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