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Entries about seals

Arrival

Arrival and First Day

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Welcoming in The Year of the Dog.

Welcoming in The Year of the Dog.

Leaving Hong Kong.

Leaving Hong Kong.

We departed from Hong Kong just a few minutes after the arrival of the Year of the Dog. Probably not the most fortuitous start to a Chinese New Year. The usual firework display across Victoria Harbour had been cancelled out of respect for the nineteen victims of one of Hong Kong's worst ever bus crashes which had occurred six days earlier on February tenth. In addition, my previous four days of teaching at school had been devoid of any children, as all primary school and kindergarten children were urged to stay at home, due to a nasty outbreak of influenza.

Our journey to Namibia was on board Ethiopian Airlines. We would travel for ten hours to Addis Ababa Airport, then change planes for a further five hour journey to Windhoek. This was our first time on Ethiopian Airlines and we found it pretty good. Or at least for someone like me, who really does not like flying, certainly no worse than any other airline. The highlight was the Ethiopian beer - Habesha cold gold - served with each meal. We are developing a taste for African beer.

Peter on board with his Habesha beer.

Peter on board with his Habesha beer.

Addis Ababa Airport is quite small and very busy. It struggles to cope with the number of travellers passing through it. As we took off on the second flight towards Windhoek, we had good views over Addis Ababa, a city we have yet to visit.

Flying over Addis Ababa.

Flying over Addis Ababa.

Flying over Addis Ababa.

Flying over Addis Ababa.

When we arrived in Hosea Kutako International Airport, we were met by a representative of tok tokkie shuttle service. We had pre-booked them to take us to our first hotel, the Hilton in the centre of Windhoek. Namibia is not great on public transport and we were not hiring a car, so had to rely on pre-booked shuttles to get from A to B. Tok tokkie seemed to be pretty reliable.

Windhoek's airport is called after Chief Hosea Kutako. Kutako was born in 1870 and became a founding member of Namibia's first nationalist party, SWANU. During the 1950's and 1960's, Kutako petitioned the United Nations to help end South African rule and help Namibia gain independence.

Getting off the plane in Windhoek.

Getting off the plane in Windhoek.

Hosea Kutako International Airport, Windhoek.

Hosea Kutako International Airport, Windhoek.

Windhoek's International airport is around forty kilometres from the city of Windhoek. The journey from the airport passed through a lot of greenery and distant hills. Our driver told us they had been having quite a bit of rain in recent days, so I'm not sure if it is always so green. The driver was pleased about the rain, as he told us he kept a herd of cattle and, of course, needed the rain for their grass.

On the journey from the airport.

On the journey from the airport.

By the time we reached the Hilton Hotel we were extremely tired, but our check in did not go at all smoothly. The girl who checked us in simply gave us a room key, but no information. We pointed out that our two night stay came with dinner and breakfast and asked for details. She claimed it was room only. This led to a bit of a fight, ending only when the receptionist admitted our deal possibly included dinner but refusing to accept it included breakfast. She promised she would double check everything for us, but of course, she did not, so, despite our tiredness, we had to contact the headquarters of the Hilton group in the U.S. ourselves with a complaint and they, fortunately, got back to us quite quickly telling us our deal included two dinners and two breakfasts. We returned to the reception with the reply we had received and breakfast was added to our reservation, but we still could not get any information about where we could eat dinner or what we were entitled to. Not the best of starts. Feeling a bit stressed we took ourselves off to the Hilton's rooftop pool for a calming swim.

Our Room.

Our Room.

View from Our Window.

View from Our Window.

Calming down in the pool.

Calming down in the pool.

At the roof top pool.

At the roof top pool.

View over Windhoek from the pool.

View over Windhoek from the pool.

That night we ate in the hotel's Ekipa Restaurant where we had no problem convincing them our dinner was included in our deal. We tried a local Namibian food buffet. We had not realised by this stage that the hotel was not so good at keeping things hot on a buffet. Still service in the restaurant was really friendly, unlike at the hotel's reception. Most of the food was quite ordinary: chicken, hake, vegetables, spinach. However, I was brave enough to try the mopane worms. These are not actually worms; they are caterpillars of a kind of emperor moth known as Gonimbrasia Belina. Apparently they are highly nutritious. For some reason I expected them to be crispy and crunchy, but they were not. When I bit into one, the soft squishy insides shot into my mouth. I cannot say I enjoyed this experience very much and I certainly won't be repeating it. Yeuk!!! Thank goodness we had lots of beer to wash the food down with. I was on the Hansa draft and the bottled Tafel lager. Both were excellent.

We are getting on a bit age wise, truth be told, and we made no attempt to see Windhoek on our arrival day. We left it till the next day when we would have had a chance to recover from our long journey to Africa. I must say our room at the Hilton was very quiet, peaceful and comfortable and we slept really well here.

Me eating a mopane worm.

Me eating a mopane worm.

Mopane worms on the buffet next to some sort of gizzard dish.

Mopane worms on the buffet next to some sort of gizzard dish.

A more sensible diner he stuck to the chicken and the fish.

A more sensible diner he stuck to the chicken and the fish.

Posted by irenevt 00:41 Archived in Namibia Tagged desert namibia seals Comments (6)

Dolphins and Seals

A Cruise from Walvis Bay and Exploring Swakopmund.

sunny

Next day we got up early and had a bit of a rushed breakfast as we had booked a half-day cruise out of Walvis Bay. Our pick-up to Walvis Bay arrived bang on time and we set off along the coastline - the Atlantic Ocean on one side and the sand dunes of the Namib Desert on the other.

Walvis Bay takes its name from the Dutch words 'Walvisch Baye' which means Whale Bay. It has the only naturally occurring harbour of any size on the Namib coastline. The natural harbour exists due to a long sandy spit of land known as Pelican Point. The natural harbour led to this area being highly sought after. The British retained control of this area even when the rest of South West Africa was under German control.

The waters of Walvis Bay are rich in plankton and this in turn leads to an abundance of marine life. We had a quick look around the harbour area of Walvis Bay before and after our cruise. Our cruise was through Laramon Tours. There were several stalls selling Namibian handicrafts around the harbour area. There were also a few pelicans.

Harbour at Walvis Bay.

Harbour at Walvis Bay.

Harbour at Walvis Bay.

Harbour at Walvis Bay.

Our boat.

Our boat.

Local girl manning craft stall.

Local girl manning craft stall.

Pelican.

Pelican.

This cruise was actually the cheapest of the three day tours we took, but it also had the most generous and best supply of food and drink. We seemed to be constantly handed drinks throughout the cruise.

A short time after setting out, we were joined on board our boat by a large male seal called Nicholas. These seals are wild, but have become tamed by the people who run the cruises. We were told some of the seals that come on board are more tame than others and we should only touch the seals if the guides told us it was safe to do so. I was able to stroke Nicholas's fur and he rewarded me by shaking himself like a wet dog and soaking everyone on the boat. Nicholas and all the other seals we saw on this trip are cape fur seals. This kind of seal lives along the coasts of South Africa, Namibia and Angola.

Nicholas the seal being fed by Jason our guide.

Nicholas the seal being fed by Jason our guide.

Nicholas leaving the boat.

Nicholas leaving the boat.

Next we sailed into an area that was filled with dolphins. There are three kinds of dolphins in this area: heaviside, Atlantic bottlenose and dusky. To be honest I am not sure which kind we saw, but they were fascinating, so playful as they dived, surfaced and leapt all around the boat loads of gasping tourists.

Playful dolphins alongside our boat.

Playful dolphins alongside our boat.

Dolphins.

Dolphins.

Dolphins.

Dolphins.

Dolphins.

Dolphins.

Dolphins.

Dolphins.

I could have happily watched the dolphins all day, but we headed off towards the sand bar called Pelican Point which is responsible for Walvis Bay's natural harbour. Here we saw a colony of cape fur seals in the shadows of Pelican Point Lighthouse. This lighthouse was built in 1932. It is now home to the luxurious Pelican Point Lodge. The lighthouse is made of cast iron and stands 35 meters high. Walvis Bay's harbour was filled with many different sailing vessels from large ships to small yachts. The sounds from the seal colony were incredible as the animals called out greetings, threats, mating cries, who knows to each other.

Ships in Walvis Bay.

Ships in Walvis Bay.

And more ships.

And more ships.

And even more ships behind the seal colony.

And even more ships behind the seal colony.

Seal colony.

Seal colony.

Pelican Point Lighthouse.

Pelican Point Lighthouse.

Enjoying the ride.

Enjoying the ride.

These markers indicate an oyster farm in the ocean.

These markers indicate an oyster farm in the ocean.

We also stopped near a shoal of mola mola fish. Also known as sunfish, these are the heaviest bony fish in the world. Finally we moored next to an oyster farm. Oysters are imported from Singapore, Thailand and Norway when they are just the size of a nail. They are placed in baskets under sea water and allowed to grow for between six to ten months. Speaking of oysters, it was time for lunch: delicious fresh oysters, devilled eggs, samosas, finger sandwiches, meatballs, schnitzel, chicken wings and much more. Fantastic!!!

Me enjoying oysters and champagne.

Me enjoying oysters and champagne.

Peter enjoying a delightful lunch.

Peter enjoying a delightful lunch.

Best seat on the boat.

Best seat on the boat.

And for me.

And for me.

After lunch we headed back to Walvis Bay. We had befriended a British couple on the boat. One of them sometimes worked as a magistrate in Hong Kong so he and Peter were deep in conversation about Hong Kong politics when suddenly the magistrate cried out in shock. Right in the middle of them, moving his head from side to side as if hanging on every word, it was Nicholas again back on the boat for more fish.

The return of Nicholas.

The return of Nicholas.

After a very enjoyable trip, we were bussed back to our hotel in Swakopmund where we sobered ourselves up a bit with a refreshing dip in our icy pool. From the rooftop we could see local fishermen preparing their catch for market.

A sobering dip....

A sobering dip....

in a pool with a view.

in a pool with a view.

Watching the fishemen prepare their catch.

Watching the fishemen prepare their catch.

Refreshed, we set out to explore Swakopmund. We walked along the seafront past the aquarium and beds of beautiful flowering succulents to the town's pier.

Flowering succulents.

Flowering succulents.

Flowering succulents.

Flowering succulents.

The Aquarium.

The Aquarium.

Swakopmund was founded in 1892, two years after the German colonial founding of Windhoek from the ruins of Jonker Afrikaner's town. The town was started by Captain Curt von Francois whose statue we saw in Windhoek. It became the main harbour of German South West Africa, as the British had already gained control of the best harbour at Walvis Bay.

Swakopmund has a long pier sticking out into the ocean. The first pier to be built here was a wooden one and was completed in 1905. However, this became severely damaged by borer worm, so construction of a new iron jetty began in 1911. There are restaurants at both ends of the pier. It is pleasant to walk out into the sea with the waves lapping all around you and the chance to enjoy beautiful views back towards town. I loved the old fashioned lights which lined the pier.

Swakopmund Pier.

Swakopmund Pier.

Looking back towards town.

Looking back towards town.

Looking between the lights towards town.

Looking between the lights towards town.

On the pier.

On the pier.

Although we were sightseeing we were also on a practical mission, so after the pier and the seafront gardens, we cut up Sam Nujoma Avenue to find Charley's Desert Tours and book a trip to Sandwich Harbour. I was impressed by the lovely desert rose and rose quartz stones on the shop assistant's desk. At first I thought they were candies as they looked good enough to eat.

Rose quartz and desert roses.

Rose quartz and desert roses.

After purchasing our tour, we looked at some of the Germanic style buildings and the shops and restaurants near Charlie's Desert Tours.

Germanic architecture.

Germanic architecture.

Arts and shopping.

Arts and shopping.

Then we walked to Swakopmund's lighthouse. This was first opened in July 1902 and is still in operation today. It is 21 years older than the lighthouse at Pelican Point. Nowadays the lighthouse is also home to a restaurant. The building directly in front of the lighthouse is the state house, the Swakopmund home of the Namibian president. Near the lighthouse stands the marine statue, or to give it its German name, Marine Denkmal. This was designed by sculptor AM Wolff to commemorate the German First Marine Expedition Corps that helped quell the Herero uprisings of 1904. Protesters have sprinkled the statue with red blood-like paint to protest the attempted genocide of the Herero people during this war.

The lighthouse.

The lighthouse.

Marine Denkmal.

Marine Denkmal.

Near this area moving away from the sea there are some interesting old buildings such as the Hansa Hotel dating from 1905, the Old Post and Telegraph Office and some old churches.

The Hansa Hotel.

The Hansa Hotel.

The Old Post and Telegraph Office.

The Old Post and Telegraph Office.

Going towards the sea from the lighthouse there is a war memorial, which commemorates the soldiers who died in the two world wars.There is also a craft market and the Swakopmund Museum. We did not visit the museum. We strolled around the craft market.

The War Memorial.

The War Memorial.

The Craft Market.

The Craft Market.

Leaving the craft market, we headed to the mole. The mole is a sea wall built in 1899 by architect FW Ortloff. It was intended to improve Swakopmund’s poor harbour, but was rendered ineffective by the Benguela Current, which sweeps northwards carrying lots of sand from the southern deserts. The sand deposits choked up the entrance to the harbour. Nowadays the mole is a lovely sheltered place for a swim.

Peter at the mole.

Peter at the mole.

Me at the mole.

Me at the mole.

After looking around here we headed back along Swakopmund Beach and through its little seafront park which was filled with guinea fowl pecking for food.

Swakopmund Beach.

Swakopmund Beach.

Guinea Fowl.

Guinea Fowl.

Guinea Fowl.

Guinea Fowl.

We took a slight detour away from the seafront to see Woermann House on our way back. This large yellow building with a tall tower
was designed by architect Mr. Friedrich Hoft and completed in 1905. It was originally home to The Damara and Namaqua Trading Company, but in 1909 was bought by Carl Woermann after whom it is named. The house is now a state owned monument. Then we had a look at the Höhenzollern Building with its statue of Atlas holding up the world on its back. This was once a hotel.

Woermann House.

Woermann House.

Höhenzollern Building.

Höhenzollern Building.

Atlas atop the Höhenzollern Building.

Atlas atop the Höhenzollern Building.

Then it was home and dinner in our hotel, a lovely meal, but very noisy due to a large group of loud German tourists.

Posted by irenevt 00:44 Archived in Namibia Tagged cruise bay dolphins seals walvis swakopmund Comments (4)

Along The Skeleton Coast.

Shipwrecks, Desert and History Lessons.

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Next day we had booked ourselves a day trip with Open Space Tours up the Skeleton Coast as far as Cape Cross. We turned out to be the only people on the tour. We were driven by an American man called Jay, who was married to a Namibian woman and had lived in Namibia for many years.

The Skeleton Coast refers to the northern coast of Namibia and the southern coast of Angola. Namibian Bushmen refer to this area as "The Land God Made in Anger", while Portuguese sailors used to call it "The Gates of Hell". The name Skeleton Coast was first used by John Henry Marsh when he used it as the title for his book about the shipwreck of the Dunedin Star.

This area is known for stormy seas, dense fogs and inhospitable desert. The shores used to be littered with the skeletons of whales and seals killed by the whaling industry here, which is probably why John Henry Marsh choose the name Skeleton Coast. Several shipwrecks line the Skeleton Coast victims of its stormy waters.

Our first stop on our trip was at the wreck of the Zelia. The Zeila got stranded in the early morning of the 25th of August 2008 about fourteen kilometres south of Henties Bay. This fishing trawler had been sold as scrap metal to an Indian company by Hangana Fishing of Walvis Bay. However, the Zelia got stranded when it broke free from its towing line while on its way to Bombay.

Me and the Zelia shipwreck.

Me and the Zelia shipwreck.

Peter and the Zelia.

Peter and the Zelia.

Close up of the wreck.

Close up of the wreck.

Both of us with the wreck.

Both of us with the wreck.

As we made our way back to the car, we were approached by two Namibian men selling some stones they had found in the Namib Desert. They had some pretty ones and I bought myself a desert rose like the ones I had seen in Charley's Desert Tours.

Seller of desert stones.

Seller of desert stones.

Next we drove into Henties Bay. This town is called after Major Hendrik "Henty" Stefanus van der Merwe who discovered the place in 1929. He had been hunting for rhinoceros in order to sell their skeletons to an American museum, but he ran out of water and after a long walk found fresh water here. He decided to return to this area and build a wooden hut near the riverbed that saved his life. He spent his time here fishing and relaxing. Slowly others began to build in this area and it gradually developed into a small town, particularly popular with anglers due to the rich fishing nearby. One of Henties Bay's sights is its gallows. As there were no cleaning services in Henties Bay, it became very difficult to keep it clean and this led to a great deal of bickering among the people who lived or holidayed here, so in 1978 two of the first permanent residents of Henties Bay, Frank Atkinson and Willie Cilliers, attached a rope and a noose to an old tree stump with a warning to keep the town and beach clean – or else! This, of course, was just a joke, but the gallows quickly became an attraction in its own right.

The gallows at Henties Bay.

The gallows at Henties Bay.

We stopped on the beach not far out of Henties Bay just to look up and down the coastline. It seemed to stretch endlessly - flat and barren - a shipwrecked sailor's nightmare. How many men foresaw their own deaths when washed up there? And yet, perhaps for that reason, the area also held a sort of fascination - a fight for survival, a battle against the elements.

Peter and I in the wilderness.

Peter and I in the wilderness.

Peter with our tour guide Jay.

Peter with our tour guide Jay.

Back in the car and next stop was Cape Cross. Some people visit here due to its seal colony, but I personally was more interested in the crosses placed here by Portuguese explorers in the fifteenth century.

Our first stop was the ticket office which mercifully had toilets. Yeah! And outside it there were some bones from the carcass of a whale - the sort of thing that gave the Skeleton Coast its name.

Peter and the whale.

Peter and the whale.

Then we went to the seals, truth be told we were a bit sealed out after our cruise of the day before. There were hundreds of them basking, fighting, sleeping. You name it they were doing it. Visitors are supposed to pass through the seals on an enclosed walkway, but seals can get on it. Our guide said they jump onto it, though I remain unconvinced that seals can jump. They don't seem made for such an action. Anyway there was a seal on the walkway and it bit an Italian tourist and he had to limp back to his car covered in blood and our guide told him he would have to have a rabies shot and for me suddenly seals were not so cute anymore and I decided I really was more interested in the history than the wildlife.

I wanted to look at this marker, but was too scared of the seals to go near it.

I wanted to look at this marker, but was too scared of the seals to go near it.

Seals, seals, seals.

Seals, seals, seals.

And even more seals, seals, seals.

And even more seals, seals, seals.

And seals.

And seals.

Cape Cross is called Cape Cross because in 1486, Portuguese seafarer and explorer, Diego Câo, arrived here and placed in the ground a stone pillar topped by a cross. This marker established Portugal's claim to the territory. Câo was on a voyage aimed at trying to find a sea route around Africa to India. His cross marker became a landmark and an important navigational aid. This was to be Câo's last voyage. He disappeared without trace on it and, to this present day, no-one has any idea what happened to him.

Many years later in 1893, Captain Becker of the German flagship Falke rediscovered this Portuguese cross and had it sent to Wilhelmshaven in Germany. German Emperor, Wilhelm II, insisted that a replica should be made and re-erected near the site of Câo's original cross. The actual original of Câo's cross is now in the German Museum for Technology in Berlin. In 1980 as the result of an initiative led by Director of the State Museum in Windhoek, CG Coetzee, a new cross made of Namib dolerite was erected on the exact site of Diogo Cão's original cross. In addition, architect François Malan designed three information platforms to celebrate the five hundred year anniversary of Diego Cão's historic voyage.

Peter with the historical crosses.

Peter with the historical crosses.

And with the other one.

And with the other one.

Both of us at Cape Cross.

Both of us at Cape Cross.

Both of us at Cape Cross.

Both of us at Cape Cross.

At one point in its history Cape Cross was known as a centre of guano production. Guano is the waste left by fish-eating birds. It can be used as a fertilizer and in the manufacture of explosives. Guano was once so valuable it was known as white gold. At one point there was a 21KM railway track from Cape Cross to a bay where ships waited to be loaded up with guano.

We left Cape Cross and headed off into the desert where we found beautiful wide open vistas and lots of lizards. Salt crystals are available for sale at the sides of the road.

In the desert.

In the desert.

In the desert.

In the desert.

In the desert.

In the desert.

Salt crystals for sale.

Salt crystals for sale.

After leaving the desert we drove back almost to Swakopmund noticing some interesting mirages on route. We stopped for a picnic lunch of beer, filled rolls, chocolate and fruit.

Picnic in the desert.

Picnic in the desert.

Then we drove back via the location. Locations were areas black Namibians were forced to move to under the Apartheid regime. Now they are no longer forced to live there, but some are trapped there through lack of money and resources.

The location.

The location.

The location.

The location.

Back in our hotel, we cooled down with a swim then headed into town to do some souvenir shopping. I bought several wood carvings of people and animals. Then, although we had not seen the big ten or even the big five, we got acquainted with the big six - a six pack with beers from South Africa, Lesotho, Botswana, Mozambique, Zambia and Tanzania. Peter's idea of heaven.

The big six.

The big six.

The big six.

The big six.

We ate dinner in the Brauhaus, a German restaurant in the centre of town. This restaurant has excellent food and a great selection of bottled and draft beers. Then we wandered home via some interesting art and craft shops.

Me in the Brauhaus.

Me in the Brauhaus.

The Brauhaus.

The Brauhaus.

Peter in the Brauhaus.

Peter in the Brauhaus.

Posing with arty, farty shops.

Posing with arty, farty shops.

And again.

And again.

And again.

And again.

My turn.

My turn.

Posted by irenevt 06:07 Archived in Namibia Tagged desert ship seals crosses wrecks Comments (5)

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