Sandwich in October 2009All About Our Day Tours

Our day tours leave at approximately 08h45 and return around 17h00. You will be collected from your hotel in the morning and dropped off at the same point at the end of the tour. All tours include a full meal at lunch time, soft drinks throughout the day and National Park fees. Our picnics are an event in themselves: home made bread and pâtés, lasagnes and rice dishes, salads and fruit, freshly made cakes and coffee ... all enjoyed in the middle of nowhere with spectacular views to boot!

During the day we stop frequently to get out of the car and explore. We attempt to provide an understanding of the environments we visit, and work on the principle of interactive, interpretive guiding. Each tour involves some walking, but we take care not to overtire guests who prefer not to walk too far. In addition, tours usually involve some fairly adventurous driving in off-road and desert conditions. Our guides are highly experienced in this type of driving and always observe strict guidelines for your safety and for the conservation of the environment.

 

Sandwich HarbourSandwich Harbour

The Turnstone Tour to Sandwich Harbour begins when you are collected from your hotel at about 08h45. You drive along a beautiful dune chain adjacent to the Atlantic Ocean, zigzagging the original railway line between Swakopmund and Walvis Bay. This is an opportunity for a detailed look at the formation of 'the world's oldest desert' -  its origins, its composition and its movements.

mudflats and high duneYour first stop is at ' Bird Rock '- a guano island inhabited by about 200 000 birds and one of the first examples of man's efforts to utilize the rich natural resources of the area. The Lagoons at Walvis Bay and at Sandwich Harbour have been is designated as 'Wetlands of International Importance', while the 'Bird Paradise' at Walvis Bay is also a key nesting and feeding site for thousands of visiting and resident birds. A recent bird survey, overseen by expert ornithologists from Namibia and South Africa, counted record numbers of Flamingo, Plover and Tern between Walvis Bay Lagoon and Sandwich Harbour. Other  favourites,  such as Pelican, Avocet, Turnstone and a huge variety of waders can be seen, with numbers peaking at around 170 000 in November. Several endemic species, such as the Dune Lark and the Damara Tern, are also in the vicinity.

Leaving Walvis Bay behind, you head for the lower reaches of the Kuiseb Delta. This unique ecosystem is dotted with archeological sites, 450 year-old animal tracks, wind blown graves and magnificent dunes. There is evidence of ancient and recent gathering, harvesting and trading by the Topnaar, an indigenous Namibian community descended from the !Khoi group, which relies on the naturally occurring !Nara fruit for survival.

pelican and Sandwich TernTurning south, you begin the approach to Sandwich Harbour. This crosses barren salt pans and vegetation covered hummock dunes, which shelter small groups of Springbok, Ostrich, Jackal and the occasional Brown Hyena. Peregrine Falcons, Pale Chanting Goshawks and Black-breasted Snake Eagles can sometimes be seen hunting small mammals (such as gerbils and three-striped-mice) which share the dunes with a fascinating variety of desert-adapted insects, reptiles and plants.

 

picnic at Sandwich Harbour
Photo courtesy: Alec Connah

This section of the journey is as dramatic as the landscape, and it soon becomes clear why Sandwich Harbour is often described as inaccessible! Spring tides and shifting sands ensure an unpredictable route, but as you approach the towering, wind-sculptured dunes at the edge of Sandwich Harbour, there is a sense of entering a different world. All that is left of the old whaling station and its community of traders and fishermen, is the freshwater lagoon, a solitary deserted building and the strange greenery of this unique coastal wetland. This is the setting for your picnic - a large hamper full of homemade cakes, savouries, salads, fruit and drinks - and a spot of bird watching.  Some 40 000 birds - 34 different species - were recorded in this area during recent surveys.  Take a leisurely walk around the Lagoon (an official marine sanctuary) and you may also see seals, dolphins and even whales.

The drive back home affords a last look at these haunting landscapes and a chance for reflection ... you will arrive back at your hotel round about 17h00.

road to Sandwich   road to Sandwich along the shoreline

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Namib Desert

Exploring the Swakop and Khan RiverValley
- a unique tour of the Namib Desert -

harmless desert sand snakeLeaving from your hotel at approximately 08h30, this tour takes you inland into a unique ecosytem of gravel plains, sweeping dunes and river valleys. The first part of the tour focuses on a variety of classic dune formations with magnificent views, providing perfect opportunities to photograph the scope, shapes and colours of the Namib. It is also affords a fascinating insight into a world of reptiles, birds and insects living among the sand dunes. We'll probably be able to track some down for a close up view of gekos, lizards and harmless snakes - all uniquely adapted to surviving in the burning sands of the desert. It is also a good platform from which to take a brief historical perspective of the area and get an insight into the key role played by the Swakopmund and Walvis Bay enclave in the development of Namibia.

Welwitschia MirabilisWe venture deeper into the desert and the massive Namib-Naukluft National Park via the Swakop River valley and the Moon Landscape, formed over 460 million years. Botanically, this is like landing on another planet: 1 500 year-old Welwitschias, lithops, hoodias and mist-gathering lichens are unforgettably surreal. So - in quite a different way - is the historically-loaded oasis of Goanikontes. Once an important stop over for travellers heading inland from the coast, the palms and blue gum trees which still haunt this 19th century Schutztruppe garrison, symbolise man's doomed efforts to re-order the desert.

springbock in the Khan River valleyAs we head into the lower reaches of the Khan River Valley, there is a chance to see Oryx, Springbok, Kudu, Klipsringer, Steinbock, Ostrich and Jackal set against the harsh rocky landscapes of the pro-Namib. Geologically, this area is of huge significance: from countless small-scale mineworks of hand-hewn tourmaline and rose quartz, to the largest open-cast uranium mine in the world. Their mineral treasures apart, these geological formations are stunningly beautiful: marble, mica, spider-web dolorite and granite cliffs provide interesting short walks and climbs to explore the area. On the way back to Swakopmund, we see yet another side of the Swakop River: an established community of small holdings lining the riverbed. These range from asparagus production, date plantations and olive groves, to small stock husbandry, riding stables and a 'camel farm'. As with all our day excursions, this tours returns to Swakopmund at about 17h00. Our delicious picnic lunches, taken in splendid scenery, are not to be missed - nor is the exciting 4x4 dune-driving necessary to reach the best panoramas!

Cape Cross seal colonyCape Cross and the Messum Crater

A journey northwards hugging the shoreline to the Skeleton Coast. You'll see lichen fields on the gravel plains, flamingos and pelicans on the salt pans, the bizarre seaside settlement of Vlotskasbaken, and Namibia's most northerly coastal town of Henties Bay. After visiting the seal colony at Cape Cross (one of the largest in the world), you'll head inland towards Damarland and the dramatically different scenery of mountainous semi-desert. At the Messum Crater (a massive impact crater of geological significance) you will see some of Namibia's best examples of Welwitschia.

Please note that we also take day tours into The Spitzkoppe,  and for fishing enthusiasts, we can arrange a day's angling from Namibia's famed fishing grounds north of Swakopmund.

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