All my life I’ve been quite convinced that I was born on the wrong continent. The idea of a place like Seattle, London or Oslo where it’s always cold, rainy or both, sounds like heaven to me. So, you can imagine that a country like Namibia, which is famed for its 300 days of sunshine, isn’t always my cup of tea. However, every cloud has a silver lining, and to me, that lining is Swakopmund.
You can go from 40°C inland to 10°C in Swakopmund, and even after all these years, it still surprises and amazes me every single time I go there.
A few years ago, my best friend (who also prefers the Irish grasslands over African savannas) and her husband, decided to visit me from Johannesburg. Without a moment’s hesitation, I decided that I needed to take them to Swakopmund—my own slice of heaven.
We only had 5 days (including travel time) and my ultimate goal was to not only entertain them but to make them fall in love with Namibia.
The first day included the approximate 4-hour drive to Swakopmund from Windhoek.
Late afternoon, as we arrived in Swakopmund and checked into The Delight, we traded our summer dresses for winter jackets and jeans and went for a walk.
I didn’t plan much for our first day, especially since I didn’t know what time we’d get there or how tired they’d be, but since it was still light out, we thought it would be a good time to walk beachward. On the way, Woermannhaus caught their eye and we decided to go up the tower. I’d never been there myself, so I was quite happy to do the cliché touristy thing. The tower has a stunning 360° view of the town - the perfect way to view the beautiful ocean on a clear day.
I wanted to give them a taste of why Swakopmund is often called “little Germany”, so I thought that our first night’s dinner would have to be at a proper German beer garden. “Das Boot” in hand, we ate dinner and after dinner, the owner of the beer garden joined us for a few rounds of Knobel (real proof of authentic Namibian hospitality).
Obviously, things were off to a great start, and I was super enthusiastic about what was to come.
Oysters, OBS and Dune 7 Don’t Mix
Our second day started very early since we booked a catamaran from Walvis Bay. Instead of a morning coffee, our captain gave us Old Brown Sherry (OBS) to wake us up and aid against the freezing wind.
We didn’t get to see any dolphins or whales on the catamaran, but the seals (who are well-aware that boats equal food) were everywhere, including on the boat itself. There were also dozens of seagulls around us who were happy to grab fish straight from your hand - a surprisingly fun close encounter. We then had an amazing canapé breakfast onboard, that included oysters - something that I personally can’t get enough of.
After about three hours on the water, we were in the car and on our way to our next adventure. Since we were already in the area, I suggested that we go to Dune 7. I thought that this would make for the most memorable dune experience.
My friend made me look like a complete newbie as she practically waltzed up the steep, warm, moving sand, while her husband (who also indulged in numerous oysters and shots of OBS) and I practically crawled our way to the top. She still maintains that we inflicted the pain and suffering on ourselves by gulping down things that were never meant to be eaten, but I’m pretty sure it couldn’t be the oysters… could it?
At the top of Dune 7, they admitted it - Namibia was stunning. I did it, I made them fall in love with my country and that was ultimately all I wanted, and the best part - this was only day 2!
That night, I took them to the Old Steamer Restaurant, I’d only heard about it at the time, so I was a bit hesitant at first, but their reputation precedes them for good reason. The beautiful décor pulled me in immediately, but the food surpassed my expectations. An amazing buffet includes fresh seafood, a variety of vegetarian dishes, all your standard meaty favourites and even dessert.
A Dream Come True
The next morning was the first chance I had to show off the Swakopmund breakfast culture, so we ventured to the Village Café - the most colourful restaurant in town. The Village Café combines a large selection of traditional favourites with quirky original meals on their menu ensuring that whatever you decide to order, you’ll be left eloquently satisfied.
We had some time to kill, so next, we did some compulsory exploring of Swakopmund’s various arcades, shops and the like, which I highly recommend to anyone who loves quaint little shops and artsy things.
Then came the scariest and most exciting moment of my entire life - skydiving! It was always something I wanted to do, but it wasn’t until this trip that I had the courage or encouragement to actually do it.
My heart was already pounding in my chest on the drive, but the real fear only came when we boarded the aeroplane. For those who don’t know, you have to fly up to 10,000 feet before jumping out and I can promise you, it feels like a flight to the other side of the planet while you’re sitting on that plane. My friend was squeezing my hand to calm me down and one of the photographers, upon seeing this, put his hand on ours jokingly. As silly a moment as that was, it made us all laugh and did wonders in releasing some of the tension.
The moment of truth arrived… My friend jumped out before me and, perfect student that she always has been, followed the instructor’s directions to the tee. I, on the other hand, forgot everything he told me to do as soon as the door opened and I just stared down to earth. Before I knew it, I was falling, and somehow, it felt exactly like it does when I fly in my dreams (yes, I did just admit to that). After the familiarity and joy kicked in, I couldn’t stop laughing. I still wasn’t doing any of the things the instructor told us to do during the free-fall (I had to be reminded with a light kick and smack to open my legs and arms at the right time), but it was absolutely life-changing.
Late afternoon meant a stroll on the beach in the direction of the Jetty 1905 Restaurant. It’s been a favourite of mine since it opened, and I still haven’t found a better place to watch the sun set over the Atlantic Ocean. Fresh sushi, delectable seafood, a beautiful sunset, and a glass of wine ended this perfect day.
The Last Adventure
Our last full day in Swakopmund also meant our last day of adventure, so we had to do it right. We booked a sandboarding and quad bike combo tour and headed out to the desert. After getting stuck a few times, we got the hang of it and then the fun really began. Not only is this an awesome adventure, but it’s also absolutely beautiful and doing it with a company that respects the desert flora and fauna, means that you can get all the joy, without the destruction.
On top of one of the highest dunes, our guide gave us each a sandboard, showed us how to use it and sped off down the dunes. If you’ve never done it before, I highly recommend it, because it’s really a lot of fun for very little effort (if you don’t count making your way back up the dunes).
I booked a tasting tour that takes you to the olive plantation outside Swakopmund, Namib Desert Oils and then to a complex in the Swakop industrial area where you have lunch and delectable coffee at the Two Beards Coffee Roastery, do a craft beer tasting at Namib Dunes Craft Brewery and a gin tasting at Stillhouse Gin Distillery. So shortly after finishing our quad biking adventure, we left to meet the shuttle and spent our afternoon having tasty treats.
Since we had so much fun the very first night, my friends insisted we visit another one of Swakopmund’s German beer gardens for our last night’s dinner. After another game (or three) of Knobel, a hearty meal and another boot of beer we started playing pool with a group of Dutch travellers. A mediocre detail, I know, but something that I also love about Namibia - you always find the most interesting tourists from across the globe who are just itching to tell you about their trip, join you for a drink and learn more about our country.
Time to Go Home
Since it was our last day on vacation and we are adults and can make these decisions, we decided to have Nutella waffles and ice cream at the Waffelhaus for breakfast. I don’t need to say much more than that, after all, who doesn’t love waffles for breakfast?
I still thought of a dozen different things that we could have done or places we could’ve gone, but I think we jam-packed those five days to the max and it was unfortunately time to go home.
The Final Verdict
Would my friends come to Namibia again? They promised me they would, and next time I might take them to the Namib Desert or Damaraland or the breath-taking Zambezi during flood season. The truth is, there is a lot to love about Namibia, and with the right people by your side, it’s impossible not to enjoy every moment of even the shortest of holidays.
In writing this article, I also realised something else—falling in love with a new place is sometimes just as hard as loving something that you’ve become too used to. You might just need to look at your everyday surroundings with a new perspective to realise that you live in paradise. That said, I would like to quote Leonardo di Caprio from the 2000 movie, The Beach, “[Paradise is] not some place you can look for. Because it's not where you go. It's how you feel for a moment in your life […] and if you find that moment, it lasts forever.”
Author and photos: Annette Beyers
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