Thursday, 6 April 2017

Namibia 2017 Part 21. Swakopmund and surrounds.

We left Erongo in brilliant sunshine and once again enjoyed the stunning scenic drive of the D2315.
This time though we stopped just the once when I spotted a Black-chested Snake Eagle by the roadside.
Martial Eagle Polemaetus Bellicosus
We eventually picked up the tar road of the B2 and arrived at our accommodation in Swakopmund early afternoon.
And the sun was still shining!
We might not have had a pool but the accommodation choice was excellent. We had chosen a self catering apartment at Villa Sohrada in the suburbs of Swakopmund. The hosts live in one house and rent out the apartments in the one next door. We actually stayed in what appeared to be a garage conversion and very comfortable it was too.
Villa Sohrada  Swakopmund
We were greeted with a fruit bowl, tea, coffee, biscuits etc which was all unexpected. Had we wanted to we could have cooked evening meals there too as the kitchen area was equipped with enough to do so but we were only interested in trying the local restaurants.
Villa Sohrada  Swakopmund
One big benefit was there was an excellent internet connection too, that made a change!
Villa Sohrada  Swakopmund
All this for just £40 or 675NR.
That meant that even including dining out it was the least expensive place we stayed.
A drive in to town and the tourist information centre followed and we picked up leaflets on suggested activities in and around Swakopmund. There is certainly plenty of choice! We had already asked our accomodation hosts to book the recommended boat/dune tour trip and that was one day accounted for, we just had to fill the rest. Back at Villa Sohrada I rang a few options. We decided the 2 hour flight in a small plane was too expensive for us at £500, and besides, Claire hates flying so I think she was relieved to find out how much it cost. I tried to book in for a Living Desert tour but they were all fully booked for the next couple of days but I did manage to get a booking for the last day in Swakop, although not my first choice provider. Tomorrow then, it looked like Cape Cross and the Fur seal colony was the best option.
Tonight though we were booked in to The Tug , a well recommended restaurant in the centre of town, a 10 minute drive away.
The Tug   Swakopmund
The slightly odd looking building is built around part of a Tug boat, we were lucky to get a table with a sea view and you can watch the sun go down over the horizon and see hundreds of Cormorants and Flamingo's heading to their roosting spots. 
The food is inexpensive by UK standards and very palatable too. I would have preferred mushy peas to salad with my fish and chips though!
Once again. our second day in Swakopmund had the sun shining through and off we headed north to Cape Cross. 
It's a longer drive than you think and driving through the arid desert scenery does get a bit boring after a while.
Dorob NP Namibia
The light was a strange mix too and as you can see in the photo, heat haze made photography difficult again.
There were the odd distractions though, a wrecked boat is probably on everyone's stopping place.
Skeleton Coast  Namibia
The Skeleton Coast  gets it's name from the number of shipwrecks and perhaps there is evidence of more further north but this was the only one we saw.
Arriving at Cape Cross you pay the same entry fee as Etosha. 80NRpp plus 10NR for the car.
We had already read about the smell from the seals and in fairness it wasn't that bad however, once you have seen one seal
Cape Fur Seal  Cape Cross
I don't really need to see this many!

Cape Fur Seal  Cape Cross
In fairness, quite a sight though.
There are lots of young ones but the mortality rate is around 20%,
Cape Fur Seal  Cape Cross
and the smell comes from the rotting carcasses.
Opportunistic Kelp Gulls hang around for an easy meal and the easy entry point is the trough the eye sockets. All a bit gruesome.
Kelp Gull Larus Dominicanus

I decided to leave the seal to their slumber
Cape Fur Seal  Cape Cross
and found a stretch of nearby beach. 
Gray's Lark , Namibia's only true endemic perhaps?
No chance but I did get decent views of Red-capped Lark.
Red-capped Lark Calandrella Cinerea
and a new species, White-fronted Plover.
White-fronted Plover Charadrius Marginatus
The light had gone quite dull now, not exactly a sea mist but somehow the air was thick.
After an hour at Cape Cross we were ready to return to base. It's a long drive, about 100kms each way and to be honest not really something I would bother with again, particularly as we would see another seal colony much closer to home. I certainly didn't regret not taking a flight along the coast, it was all a bit monotonous. I think the main reason for heading that way is probably the fishing.
Skeleton Coast
Nearly every vehicle we saw had fishing rods strapped to the car.

Back to base, tonight we were dining at The Jetty restaurant which is at the seaward end of the pier where The Tug is situated. Again good wholesome well prepared food. We both had a trio of differently presented cooked Oysters followed by a seafood on flatbread as a main course.
The Jetty  Swakopmund
Nothing spectacular but, along with a couple of large beers it cost around 600NR or £40. In the UK the beers alone would be about £16 so we think it good value for the price.
The next morning we headed to Walvis Bay, both to check out the birds and to confirm our booking on the combined boat and dune tour we were due to make the following day. Just as well we did as there was no record of it but they did have room for us.
Meantime we headed down to the beach were you will find hundreds of Flamingos.
Lesser Flamingo Phoeniconaias Minor
Large numbers feed at the outflow from the promenade so you can get very close for photography.
Lesser Flamingo Phoeniconaias Minor
Sitting on the prom is a good spot for flight shots
Lesser Flamingo Phoeniconaias Minor
and if you look carefully you should be able to spot a couple of Greater Flamingo in amongst the lesser variety.
This one was actually taken on the road towards the salt works at Pelican Point
Greater Flamingo Phoenicopterus Roseus
A couple of opportunistic Curlew Sandpipers and Sanderling taking advantage of the flamingo's work at disturbing the sand.
Some Cape Teal gave good views from a similar spot
Cape Teal  Anas Capensis
but it seems I upset the locals by parking on the edge of this long straight road as one kayak towing vehicle actually stopped rather than pulling out past me and made a show of his disapproval. There were no signs to say you can't though!
It was low tide though so unfortunately most things were a long way out at the waters edge.
Walvis Bay
but there were a couple of exceptions besides the Flamingo.
A Grey Plover
Grey Plover  Pluvialis Squatarola
and another "lifer", Hartlaub's Gull
Hartlaub's Gull  Chroicocephalus Hartlaubii
The sun was still shining so we decided to head back to Swakopmund where Claire had some R&R with a book. 
We had taken the back road back home and passed an interesting pool. I went back for another view!
There were a few Lesser Flamingo
Lesser Flamingo  Phoeniconaias Minor
Some close up Avocet
Pied Avocet   Recurvirostra Avosetta
and a few small waders but the heat distortions proving difficult for photographing them, all of which I'd seen elsewhere so i just concentrated on the bigger species.
Lesser Flamingo Phoeniconaias Minor
Back to base, tonight we were dining at The Wreck restaurant which is conveniently within walking distance of Villa Sohrada. It was very smart too. Great food, superb sea views excellent service and no more expensive than elsewhere either.
Dover Sole with Mussels. Yum!
The Wreck   Swakopmund
and Claire had a steak.
The Wreck    Swakopmund
We decided to book the following night too. No issues with driving that way!

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