In this article, we will discuss the best things to do in Swakopmund and Walvis Bay, the two most important cities in Erongo Region, Namibia. Besides being crucial to the Namibian economy, they are two of the most popular tourist destinations in Namibia, with plenty of tours, activities, and sightseeing.
Swakopmund is the capital and a very laid-back colonial town with a vibe that mixes Germany and Africa. It earned the curious nickname of “the most German town in Africa.” It’s full of hotels and lodges, a trendy holiday destination for the Namibians and some Europeans, especially French and German.
Walvis Bay is Erongo’s biggest city, and its deepwater natural harbor made it a historically significant port, which is one of the most important in Southern Africa. You can see endless trucks transporting containers to Namibia, Zambia, Zimbabwe, and Botswana. The Namib desert and the cold waters of Benguela current on the Atlantic Ocean completely surround both cities.
Namibia is probably one of the easiest places to travel in Africa. It’s cheap, safe, and has an incredible list of activities, including some of the most popular natural wonders in Africa. This means that Namibia is one of the best African destinations for adventure and family travel.
Here we mostly explore the adventure side of Swakopmund, but you can check here why you should visit Namibia with kids!
How Is the weather In Swakopmund
Swakopmund enjoys a mild desert climate, in other words, it’s usually dry and hot but with very foggy mornings. The average temperature ranges between 15 °C (59 °F) to 25 °C (77 °F).
Rainfall is less than 20 mm per year, making gutters and drainpipes on buildings a rarity. It can go without rain for several months or even years. Though it actually rained for 2 hours in Walvis Bay when we went there… so… lucky us? 🙂
Best Things To Do In Swakopmund And Walvis Bay
We had 2 full days and 3 nights to explore Swakopmund & Walvis Bay, and there were two things that we had to do: a day or half-day tour into the desert and the quad-bike + sandboarding combo on the dunes.
This left us with time to spend in both cities, check the beach, and we even managed to do another activity in Swakopmund, Tommy’s desert tour, in search of the “little 5”.
Tommy’s living desert tour
We had read a few good reviews about it but weren’t really sure if we should do this tour. One morning looking for geckos, snakes, lizards, scorpions…
We had mixed feelings about it, however, let us put it clearly: we loved it, and it’s one of our top things to do in Swakopmund! “We would do it again and recommend it to our friends!”
Tommy is such a character, incredibly funny, always with a witty comeback and a joke or story to tell. He created the original desert tour, a really enthusiastic about the desert, and is a true conservationist.
The guides are very conscious about the tour’s intervention in the environment and try to minimize it while showing us the hidden animals of the desert.
As the guides pointed out, if you are in a vehicle going 40 km/h, you won’t see anything and think that nothing is happening in the desert.
But if you stop the car, walk a few meters, go on your knees and start looking, really looking… You will start to see the tracks and the footprints and realize there is much more than you initially thought.
Tommy and his crew showed us how little it rains in the Namib desert and how plants and animals adapt to this extreme environment:
- A lizard that runs like hell (nicknamed the Ferrari), apparently, when it bites, it’s very difficult to release. Well, he bit Claudia’s ear, and the legend says she is still wearing it as an earring…
- A spider that builds tunnels with its web and sand. We could see and touch these tunnels Incredible how we could pass them between us, and they resisted without being destroyed.
- A snake who hides in the sand, camouflaging perfectly. Just try to find it in the picture below. Yeah, I know…. we would definitely step on it… and we were walking barefooted…
- We saw, touched, and fed a Chameleon with larvae and beetles… That lucky bastard chameleon got a full meal for free.
- A scorpion caught in a small bush near us… Apparently, they are deadly and can through their venom…
- Another lizard, the Palmato gecko, has skin so thin that it is transparent, and you can see the internal organs. But it’s so cute and has such beautiful colors, as you can see…
Do you know what those black marks/stripes we see in the dunes are? Although it may look like dirt, that black sand is magnetite! It gives a different color to the dunes and much character, don’t you think? Also, look at what you can do with a giant magnet…
At the end of the tour, we were taken into the desert and drove in the dunes. A little bit of adrenaline after a fantastic morning in search of the little five and learning so much about the desert.
This was a very entertaining, fun, and educational tour.
It costs paid 850 NAD per person (less than 60 USD); it was an excellent value for money and is a travel drafts recommendation! If you want an alternative, check out this awesome tour.
Quad-biking in the Namib desert, close to Swakopmund
Two of the most famous things to do in Swakopmund are quad biking and sandboarding in the dunes. We went for 2 hours of quads and + 1-hour of sandboarding. This costs 700 NAD per person.
We had never quad-biked nor sand-boarded before, so we were slightly apprehensive. We had the usual security briefing and instructions before riding into the dunes.
It’s incredible how the guides always seem to try to scare us before these kinds of activities. I can only imagine the crazy clients they get sometimes…
Honestly, this wasn’t very much adrenaline, but riding a quad bike into the desert is cool. You kinda have to let it go and not try to control it too much. Just relax and have fun.
The most important thing is not to lose momentum uphill, or you will be stuck. It happened once. OPS 🙂 Going downhill can be slightly scary the first time, but then it’s nice. As time passed, we were getting faster and having more thrill. We couldn’t have chosen a better place for our first quad ride.
We stopped a few times for photo opportunities, and once I was able to do this with a small magnet…
Want to try this? Have a look at this tour.
Sandboarding in Swakopmund, Namibia
Finally, after two hours of quads, we stopped, and our guide went to get the boards. We were pretty anxious about this one. It looked dangerous… I mean, one can get up to 70 km/h on those things…
And you know what? Be careful because it can be dangerous. If you lose control or don’t pull up the board, you will have an accident. And that wouldn’t be fun. Claudia had a minor one and scared the s**** out of me.
Anyway, the sandboarding is much more about adrenaline than the quads, but the biggest problem is: It’s 15 seconds down, 15 minutes up… After experiencing it a few times, you start wondering if it’s worth the effort of climbing again…
We only did it stand down and but I will try again if it’s stand up 🙂
Sandwich Harbour tour
Sandwich Harbour is 55km south of Walvis Bay in the Namib-Naukluft National Park. No official roads lead to Sandwich Harbour, and the tracks change and/or disappear due to tides and strong winds
The tour started in Walvis Bay with rain! – Yes, it rained for a while in the Namib desert – and the first stop was to see the flamingos. After the flamingos, we headed south to the cocaine production or salt pans… we weren’t sure but were advised not to sniff too hard anyway 🙂
Herman asked us if we felt adventurous if we wanted the adrenaline route through the dunes or the lazy route through the beach… I think you can guess what we choose 🙂
Well, we weren’t expecting this… the tour became more like a rally in the dunes! And it was so much fun! Herman is a great sand/dunes driver, and despite the rallying up, down, around, and across the dunes, we always felt safe.
Before coming to Swakopmund, we thought the Quad-bikes or sandboarding would be the most adrenaline we would get, but how wrong were we! This tour was exhilarating, and we enjoyed it very much:)
The view from the highest dune was fantastic, both into the desert and Sandwich Harbour. From up there, you can see the endless dunes on the horizon and the sea crashing into the enormous dunes. It’s a unique and impressive landscape.
After enjoying the scenery and taking all the photos we wanted, it was time to enjoy the way down and have lunch: oysters and champagne (or any other drink) in the desert by the sea. Returning to Walvis Bay, we enjoyed another rally through the dunes and listened to Herman’s endless repertoire of funny stories. We even got to see and chase an ostrich…
The tour costs 1200 NAD (75 USD) and was well worth it. We loved it and couldn’t ask for more than we got! It felt like we were doing a little of a Dakar rally, and that was thrilling. Definitely another travel drafts recommendation!
If you are going to Swakopmund/Walvis Bay, we recommend trying these activities. Maybe we got lucky and chose the best tours in Namibia, but the truth is: if you go with Tommy’s or Herman’s, you will have a great time.
The tours couldn’t be more different but equally fantastic!
Luxury Hotel in Swakopmund
Strand Hotel Swakopmund is ideally located in front of its beach and very close to the Swakopmund Museum. This is probably the best hotel in Swakopmund and a perfect venue for a romantic escapade, surrounded by ocean on three sides…
Pamper yourself at our Atlantic Spa, where you can have a variety of therapeutic treatments and be spoiled by our therapists with a couples massage.
However, the strand hotel Swakopmund is also family-friendly, with a children’s pool and a restaurant on site. Every room includes an air conditioner, WI-FI, LCD TV, and a living room.
Mid-range Hotel in Swakopmund
Hotel Eberwein is a German-style hotel known for its German precision and service. It is centrally situated and a perfect place to be based if you want to explore the area.
Each comfortable room at Hotel Eberwein provides a private bathroom, a minibar, and free WIFI. It’s perfect for those who enjoy exploring local dining options with a large variety right on their doorstep.
Budget Hotel in Swakopmund
Marietjie’s Guesthouse is close to the tourist attractions and offers complimentary Wi-Fi and free parking. The rooms at the guest house offer a seating area and provide a fridge, microwave, and kettle. So, hot drinks can be made with complimentary tea and coffee supplies and savored in the comfort of the seating area, which is great if you are on a budget and want to save on a meal.