Swakopmund

Swakopmund

Things to do - general

Swakopmund is Namibia playground, a Namibia holiday destination for tourists and locals alike looking to escape the heat of the interior and to have a little adventure. The city itself resembles a small German town and manages to create a feeling of timelessness with its palm-lined streets, seaside promenades, restaurants, cafes, art galleries and museums. And while there is plenty to do within city limits, the real action happens in the desert surrounding Swakopmund. Quad-biking, sand-boarding, sand-skiing, parasailing and dozens of other guided adrenaline inducing activities are available by reservation from many of the adventure companies operating in the area. At Walvis Bay, visitors can join a dolphin cruise or explore the lagoon on a kayak tour.

Even with all this excitement Swakopmund serves as a good break during a busy vacation. Relax and have fun in a place well suited for both. Palm-lined streets, seaside promenades, fine accommodation, a pleasant summer climate and decent beaches. Welcome to Swakopmund – Namibia’s premier holiday resort! During the summer holidays and long weekends, thousands of Namibians flock to the coast, and this human migration happens for a number of reasons; Swakopmund has a real holiday feel to it and everyone wants to be there; during the December holidays, the cool Namibian coast offers relief from the intense heat of the interior; and more importantly as far as the tourist is concerned in these modern times, Swakop has changed, and has become the country’s leading adrenaline destination, with a wide range of activities to suit all ages and (most) egos.

The area of Namib Desert around Swakopmund is named the West Coast Recreational Area. And recreation is the towns number one draw card. There are countless pursuits to help you spend your time, and money. For those interested in adventure activities Swakopmund offers sand boarding, quad biking, dune carting, parachuting, hot air ballooning, shark fishing, deep sea fishing and beach angling to name but a few. For the more sedentary there are restaurants, cafes, art galleries, museums, a snake park and aquarium.

If danger isn’t your middle name, then the architecture and general feeling of Swakopmund might be more to your liking. This town has the ambiance associated with a small German village, and the town seems to be stuck in time. Although in recent times the new generation have woken up to the tourist potential of the area, Swakopmund still manages to create a feeling of timelessness.

Country Namibia
Languages spokenAfrikaans, German, English
Currency usedNamibian Dollar (NAD)
Area (km2)194.9 km²

Sports & nature

Swakopmund has a wide range of activities to choose from, We have listed some activities not to missed below:

Balloon Safaris - Experience the Desert and ocean view from a balloon in the sky includes Champagne Breakfast

Seal and Dolphin Cruises - Tour includes a trip to see some Dolphins, Namibia's famed Seal Colony and if you're lucky few wales

Sand Boarding and Quad Biking - Looking for something bit more extreme? How about taking a 5 Min training and surfing the dunes or taking a Quad bike with the group and riding in the oldest desert in the world

Sky Diving - Africa's premier Drop zone

Town and Cultural Tours - Take a tour through the History of Swakopmund and the Rural Areas

The Kristall Gallerie - Larges Crystals in the world

The Swakopmund Museum - Holds a lot of Swakopmund history and the story behind Swakop

The Woermann Haus Tower - In the heart of Swakopmund lays the Woermann Haus Tower with Internet café, information centre, Library and Art Gallery

National Marine Aquarium of Namibia - Experience Southern African Sea Life

Living Desert Snake Park - Many of Namibia's native snake species and other reptiles can be viewed

Buildings and monuments of note in Swakopmund include the Hohenzollern Building, the Marine memorial, the War memorial in memory of those killed in World War 2, Princess Rupprecht House originally a military hospital now a private guest house.The Kaserne buildings originally served as a barracks and is of a similar design to the Alte Feste in Windhoek and Fort Namutoni in Etosha. The old Swakopmund Prison is still fully operational and provides budget accommodation for the criminal fraternity of the Namibian coast.

The Swakopmund Railway station was completed in 1901 and now houses the Swakopmund Hotel, while the bells of the Deutsche Evangelical Church were imported from Germany. Standing close to the State House (Kaiserliches Bezirksgericht) is the Swakop Lighthouse at just over 20 meters it has been functional since 1902.

For day trippers a visit to the Cape Cross Seal Colony is worth a visit as it offers a taste of the Skeleton Coast and the seals are worth a visit. The Welwitschia drive is an interesting way to spend a few hours and introduces you to some of the fauna and flora of the Namib Desert. Bird lovers can pay a visit to the Swakopmund Salt Works or the Walvis Bay Lagoon, which in season is frequented by thousands of flamingos.

The main beach area is called the Mole, and is the result of a largely unsuccessful attempt to construct the artificial harbour (as South Africa owned the only natural harbor in the area at Walvis Bay). The towns most iconic symbol is the Swakopmund jetty, initially used as mooring for ships it later became a popular are for anglers and walkers, it has fallen into disrepair on numerous occasions and has been subject to several attempts to rescue it from complete dereliction. Recently large scale work has been completed on the jetty which now proudly boasts a small restaurant and bar area.

Culture and history info

Before 1990, Namibia had been known as “South West Africa”. The first European passage past this region was by the Portuguese sailor Diogo Cão, who erected a cross at Cape Cross in 1485. European interest in the region was minimal. Namibia seemed to be a dry desert wasteland. Gradually though, whalers, quano collectors, missionaries and hunters took an interest in this region. On the 7th August, 1884 (about the time the Americans were putting up the Statue of Liberty), the Germans declared South West Africa a German Protectorate.

Of course, once they declared the protectorate, the German Reich wanted to make the most of their land. They knew that much of Europe was getting fat on their colonies, and the Germans intended to get their share. Being long before the days of aviation, the most important consideration for the Germans was to establish a harbor. But there was a problem. There was only one natural harbor on this rugged, sandy coastline, and that was Walvis Bay. And Walvis Bay was held already… by the British!

The Germans set about exploring the coastline for a suitable spot to establish their harbor. The biggest consideration aside from a natural harbor was to find a spot from which they could get in to the interior. These days we take this for granted, but the desert is so dry that in the days of ox wagons, crossing an inhospitable desert was a tough thing to do. You needed water and feed for your cattle. The Swakop River, which, despite being an ephemeral river did hold some fresh water, springs even fairly close to the coast. So, within a few years it had been chosen as the site.

On August 4, 1892 the gunboat “Hyena” marked the spot with some beacons and soon the development of Swakopmund started. A year later, in August 1893, the first ship of settlers arrived in Swakopmund. They were mainly German colonial troops (or Schutztruppe), but there were about 40 settlers as well.

Settlement had started, and it was tough. There was raiding on the ox wagons heading into the interior and there was nowhere to stay. In the beginning the settlers build caves into the ground while they were still preparing houses. There was no harbor in the area, and so the ships would be anchored off shore, and small boats were used to offload the ships and bring the goods ashore.

The first attempt to build a harbor started in 1898. They were attempting to create a harbor basin, known as the Mole. The Mole was completed in 1903 and soon they started using it. But there was a problem. There is a natural northward movement of a huge amount of silt along the coastline and soon the Mole started to silt up. By 1906 they couldn't use it anymore as a harbor.

So, a basin wouldn't work, so they focussed on Jetties. They started work on a jetty in 1905 This initial jetty was a wooden structure which was used for nearly a decade. In 1912 they began building a more substantial iron jetty. This jetty is still standing. At first ships bringing supplies were all returning empty, but by 1907 mining had started in the interior, and or was being exported.

The plans for the iron jetty were never totally completed. In 1914 world events took place that would change everything for South West Africa. The First World War had broken out. It didn't take too long before the South Africans (then as the Union of South Africa) had beaten the Germans.

Since South Africa was then totally under the Union of South Africa this separate harbor didn't make sense. It stayed in use for a few years longer, but in the mid 1920s all operations to Swakopmund ceased. Walvis Bay was now the harbor for the whole country. Swakopmund was already an established town. Many of the towns buildings of the time can still be seen if you visit Swakopmund.

Soon Swakopmund town changed roles. The interior of the country gets extremely hot in summer, and so Swakopmund was an ideal escape. It had cool foggy weather and fantastic fishing. So, for a long time Swakopmund was mainly a holiday town. But this wasn't the end of the story for Swakopmund. It had long been known that there was uranium in the interior of the desert from Swakopmund. In 1976 the Rössing Uranium Mine had opened and started production.

Swakopmund soon became a hub for this mining. And a new bunch of people moved in. Swakopmund remains Namibia's main tourist town, with lots of interesting things to see and do both in the town and out in the surrounding desert. If you're visiting the town, there is a very nice museum which is worth a visit.

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Unfortunately there are no car rental offers at this location at the moment.