An expedition to Namibia to explore its hidden tourism gems got me to a place where the ocean meets the dunes, Sandwich Harbour. During one morning in Swakopmund, I visited the Ministry of Environment and Tourism office to see where I could go exploring. I was told of a place called Sandwich Harbour and had omitted it while planning the trip with Namibia Tourism Board.
“If you do not find any tracks when entering the harbour, it means no guides have gone in nor any self drive explorers so do not enter because you wont get help if you get stuck. Secondly if the tide is high still do not go in, this is the only place in the world where dunes and ocean meet and its no easy drive.” Said Zelda Raffie, an officer at the ministry’s office.
As she said this I was busy thinking, this poor lady has not seen me behind the wheel of an off road vehicle. I always fancy myself as the best driver this side of Monaco when it comes to off-road driving. Mpho Tlale, who assumes the position of a navigator, accompanies me. We make a slow drive to Walvis Bay in our fully equipped rental 4x4 vehicle.
The Sandwich Harbour is located south of Walvis Bay in the Namib-Naukluft National Park and The Lagoons at Walvis Bay and at Sandwich Harbour have been designated as Wetlands of International Importance. The drive is a scenic one passing heaps of sea salt being harvested on the evaporation fields, flamingos on flight and a narrow track surrounded by water. We finally reach the gate and deflate the tyres for better sand traction.
The harbour is a birdwatcher’s paradise and an ideal seasonal fishing spot. Sometime in the mid-1780’s it served as a commercial fishing and trading port but now a total wilderness area. The drive on the silky sand requires excellent driving skills. The power of your 4x4 may not be fully to your disposal unless incorporated with the techniques to good off road driving skills. We had our share of getting stuck.
Occasionally having to reverse the vehicle and drive forward in order to compress the wet sand and build a track. Sometimes leaving the vehicle to watch seals swimming nearby as well as sea and land birds such as pelicans, avocet and tern.
Although the desert may seem not to have anything except dunes and small vegetation, it is home to a number of small mammals. Herds of springbok, ostrich, jackal and the occasional Brown Hyena, Peregrine Falcons, Pale Chanting Goshawks and Black-breasted Snake Eagles are sometimes spotted. The sandwich harbor is an enchanting place for both off road drivers and wildlife lovers where endless dunes are met by endless waters of the Atlantic Ocean.