The adventure capital of Namibia: Swakopmund

Running north-south straight through Namibia is a plateau, flanked by the Kalahari in the east (the natural habitat of the Bushmen or San) and the Namib in the west. The enormous dunes of the Namib are halted only by the rolling surf of the Atlantic Ocean. One of the most well-known coastal towns there is Swakopmund, about 350 km from Windhoek. This summertime capital is also sometimes known as the ‘adventure capital’ of Namibia and a great spot for some special experiences. LUXURY TRAVEL BUTLER went to Namibia to test it out…

The atmosphere on Namibia’s Atlantic coast is radically different from that in the desert interior. While it can be blistering hot in the central parts of the Namib, the temperature drops off at the coast due to the Benguela current, which comes from the southern seas around Antarctica. So, a silver-grey mist frequently hangs above seaside resorts like Swakopmund and Walvis Bay. Not a thundery inclement mist, but rather a refreshing screen in front of the sun that keeps the temperature around 20 °C so the 40,000 inhabitants of Swakopmund and its visitors enjoy a mild climate.

Extreme dune driving and mini desert expeditions

Swakopmund is the base of operations in Namibia for exciting experiences like ‘extreme dune driving’, where passengers in an open vehicle with a throbbing V8 motor plunge down the sides of the dunes.

You can also make this downhill plunge lying on a ‘sand board’ − the speedometer shows you how fast you are surfing down the sand wave. Speeds of 35 - 45 km/hour are not unusual.

Those looking for something a bit loftier can also go parasailing behind a 4x4 to enjoy the bird's-eye view above the desert.

And for the participants that would prefer something calmer, a desert trek with guide Tommy Collard is highly recommended.

This mini-expedition, which lasts two hours or longer, can even be done after sundown. During a so-called “Living Desert Tour” with this expert desert freak, you discover that a tremendous amount of life lurks in an apparently desolate sand flat: snakes, geckoes, lizards, chameleons, all manner of insects, scorpions and many other beauties.

Ghostly shipwrecks

The first European to sail into Walvis Bay was the Portuguese sailor Bartholomeus Diaz in 1487.

Today, a boat trip across these waters, 33 km from Swakopmund, is an ideal water experience (especially if you can be on board the ‘Flipper’ with Captain Johnny – like we could!).

During the trip − during which you can sample ample oysters − you encounter many marine animals like sea lions, bottle nose dolphins, pelicans, sea turtles or whales (especially prevalent in August and September).

From time to time in fish-rich Walvis Bay, you also come upon a ghostly shipwreck. However, the Skeleton Coast in Namibia is most famous for this.

The Skeleton Coast lies to the north of Swakopmund, where you’ll find tall dunes, vast pastel-coloured plains, mountain ranges, deep canyons, saltpans and… over 400 shipwrecks (which give the coast its name).

The scenic beauty around the Skeleton Coast is especially impressive during a panoramic flight.

Rössmund Lodge

If you are looking for a place to stay for the night near Swakopmund, Rössmund Lodge is a nice option. It’s a small hotel about 10 kilometres east of Swakopmund with 24 rooms. Near the lodge, by the way, is the Rössmund Golf Course, where you can play golf on grass (int he middle of the desert!), while the springboks quietly graze…