Imagine this. You’ve been in Africa for 18 months. You’ve spent the vast majority of your time in countries void of tourism, deep in the heart of Central and West Africa. Moreover, you’ve been driving a scooter through most of it – alone. Then in the heart of Namibia, you find yourself cruising across the Kalahari Desert. The sky is perfect blue and a fierce wind knocks you and your scooter all over the road. It’s hot. The air is dry, as is the barren landscape around you. Then, you hit a wall of white mist; like a squall of cold humid sea air. As you enter the wall of fog, the air cools, becomes humid and clings to your skin. You flip up your visor to see the buildings are of old German architecture, the colours of Europe, and many of the signs in German too. It feels as if you’ve been transported from Africa across the world. This is exactly how I felt arriving in Swakopmund.
Beyond being completely confusing, Swakopmund is the adventure capital of Namibia and one of my favourite places in all of Southern Africa. If you find yourself bored in this coastal town, I can’t imagine you’d find excitement too many places else. In so many ways, it’s the perfect backpackers travel destination: great food, good people, and lots of opportunities to get a bit crazy. I’m dying to get back to Swakopmund.
Things to Do and See in Swakopmund
- Skydiving: This is a must. If you’re not afraid – hell, even if you are – you need to get up in the air here. You’ll go up with a company called Groundrush Adventures. They are awesome!
- Sandboarding: A company called Alter Action runs awesome sandboarding tours just outside of town. You can book through just about any hostel, or head to their office downtown.
- ATV Riding: There are a couple options for Quad-biking on the sand dunes around town. It’s a fun way to get out and play in the dunes.
- Bird Watching: I know most people come to Swakop for the adventure, but there are a couple spots that you’ll find some really interesting bird life. You’ll be sure to see lots of flamingos!
- Surfing: There are a couple spots to hit the surf just out of town.
Where to Eat in Swakopmund
You’re not going to find a shortage of places to eat in Swakopmund. You get a mix of German-style cuisine, some African game, and seafood. It’s pretty much all one could ever want.
- Kucki’s Pub: This is my favourite place in town to eat. It’s got a bit of a homely atmosphere, great food, and fun staff members. If fills up fast, so get a reservation or show up early.
- Village Cafe: By far the best place in town to get breakfast, and you don’t need to get up early for it either.
- Lighthouse Pub: The seafood dishes here really good. The views are cool too!
- Groceries: There are loads of big grocery stores in Swakopmund, so no need to stress here.
Where to Stay in Swakopmund
There are more hostels and guesthouses popping up each day in Swakopmund, and you’ll have plenty of choices. These are my favourites.
- A la Mer Hotel: Mid-range hotel with beautiful rooms just a block up from the water. The newest rooms have heated bathrooms floors and a cozy atmosphere. The staff is likely the most helpful in town, and will guide you through anything from getting around, to booking tours, to (as they did for me) booking an appointment at the barber. They are top-notch, and this is where I’ll always stay in town if I have the chance.
- Amanpuri Traveller’s Lodge: A mix of a hostel and a lodge, this the backpacker’s paradise in Swakopmund. They have really nice dorms, some beautiful private rooms, and the prices are good all around. There’s also a bar, and since they are affiliate with the skydiving and sandboarding, packages are available on activities as well.
Getting to Swakopmund
- Fly: The Swakopmund Airport is small, and only caters to small charter flights. You can, however, fly into Welvis Bay just down the highway and then catch transport into town from there. It’s only about 15km away.
- Bus: There are loads of buses that ply to Swakopmund. The most popular company is Intercape which travels via Okahandja. You can also use Econolux. The best bet, I think, is to take the shuttles that are provided by the hostels which go hostel to hostel.
- Train: There is an occasional train service to Windhoek. However the 21 hour service is too slow, and expensive, for most to take..
- Car: To get to Windhoek, your best bet is to take the paved B2 to Okahandja then the B1 down to the city. The C28 also might cut down some distance, but it’s pretty bumpy and most likely quite a bit slower. You can get Sossusvlei by taking the C14 all the way to the C19, then turning right down the D826. Most of the road to Sossusvlei is quite busy even if it’s gravel, so be prepared for some washboard.
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