By Jason & Lyndon Duplessis
Our final morning in Sossusvlei was quick. We left early in the morning for Swakopmund. All in all it was a fairly scenic drive with multiple landscape changes as we drove. We went from the red dunes of Sossusvlei to huge open plains to mountainous ridges and canyons. Finally we ended in Swakopmund with its coastal dunes. Unlike the dunes of Sossusvlei which have turned red over millions of years of rust, the Swakopmund sand and dunes were very nearly white in color. Lucky for us we had no flat tires this leg and arrived in the nearby town of Walvis Bay in the late afternoon. After a short tour we drove another half hour north to Swakopmund.
We stayed at Atlantic Villa, a boutique guest house just on the outskirts of town. The rooms were unique but had plenty of space and amenities. Our room had two bedrooms, two bathrooms and a living area similar to an apartment home. Overall they were very nice accommodations. We also visited the Swakopmund Boutique Hotel, the Swakopmund Hotel and Hansa Hotel which we would later stay at. Each was a nice choice, but in Swakopmund it’s more about what you do than where you stay.
For dinner on the first night we walked just down the road to a restaurant called The Wreck. The outside was shaped like the hull of a boat, hence the name. If you stay at Atlantic Villa we would highly recommend it. It was affordable and each of the agents with us enjoyed their meals. The Amarula ice cream was especially good.
Living Desert Tour, Swakopmund
Without a doubt one of the highlights of my Namibia trip was the Living Desert Tour. Our guide, Chris, who is a native Namibian and about as full of energy as anyone I have ever met, came to pick us up at the hotel. It was evident from the start that he was going to be an entertaining and insightful host and I do believe he could captivate me while talking about some seriously mundane topics. Thankfully the tour itself was the farthest thing from it and when you combine those two factors it makes it a must see in my opinion.
It just so happened that out of our group everyone chose to partake in the Living Desert Tour except for Jason who instead went on the Dolphin Cruise. Because of this we only had to make one more stop to pick up a couple other clients before heading to the dunes to get started. Almost immediately upon entering the dunes we all step out of our large vehicles for the introduction/briefing. In all there are two guides, each with their own vehicle. Chris does most of the talking while the other guide scours the nearby dunes in search of life. So while he is off trying to find us a snake or gecko we are learning about the dunes. We learn about leeward and windward, how the quadbiking is ruinous to the desert animals and the landscape. We learn how the seedpods and grass that get blown in from as far as Botswana form the bottom of the food pyramid and we learn a few of the animals that make up that pyramid. All the while Chris is jumping between English for our group and German for the other group in the second vehicle. Instead of slowing us down he makes it fun and keeps it lighthearted with a lot of jokes and both our group and the Germans have a good sense of humor about it all.
After getting some of the basics we set out to find our first living creature. Chris spots a telltale sign of a dune gecko and begins to dig. The tunnel splits off in two directions and he follows the one path. It splits again and he is getting a look on his face that says he might be digging for a while. Luckily he has chosen the correct path and uncovers an absolutely beautiful gecko. Properly referred to as the palmetto gecko, this guy is so iconic that he is literally the face man for the company’s ads (Living Desert Adventures). After we all take turns getting close and photographing him we scamper off and find a small dancing white lady spider. These guys roam the dunes and when threatened can curl into a ball and quickly roll down the side of the dune to escape danger. Next we find some skink tracks and find a couple of the blind, legless snakelike creatures. They are smooth to the touch and Chris shows us how they practically swim through the sand.
Of course snakes are always a big draw but as the day goes on and it starts to heat up a little bit the guides are finding less and less snake tracks. Luckily they spot some very faint markings on the side of a dune and Chris manages to discover a tiny dwarf adder. 99% of the population of Swakopmund has never seen this guy, according to Chris, and it is easy to see why. This little guy buries his entire body in the sand and all you can are two black eyes. He pops up his tail and uses it as a lure to any geckos or lizards that come near. Eventually we were able to see him out in the open and he was kind enough to pose for us.
After this our next objective was to find a chameleon. Chris and his fellow guide got out of the vehicles and scoured a massive area while we waited patiently. Unfortunately they came back empty-handed and we were about to drive off when someone spotted a rather large chameleon right in front of our vehicle. He had been not 15 feet from us the whole time and blended in so well that it took us all that while to spot him. As Chris handled him he changed color which they apparently tend to do when they are feeling a little bit of stress. As a peace offering he was given a few grubs and to all of our delight he went after them with those famously long roll-up tongues. We observed him and photographed him for quite some time before moving on.
We ended the tour with the landscape photography portion, a fantastic way to wrap up this fine trip.
The food on our second day in Swakopmund was quite good too. After our activities, most of the group decided to have a light lunch on the pier at a restaurant called The Jetty 1905. A bit of an odd recommendation, but be sure you check out the restrooms if you visit this restaurant. Each room is unique with pictures on the walls showing how the town was built. For dinner we went to Kucki’s Pub in the middle of town. Once again we had great food. Our dessert recommendation here is the crème brulee which was excellent.
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