Thursday, 6 April 2017

Namibia 2017 Part 22. Walvis Bay and Sandwich Harbour

Along with the Rhino trekking at Grootberg, today's trip was the only other we had booked ( or thought we had) before leaving the UK. Highly recommended on Trip Advisor we decided to go with it despite the cost which was 3600NR or around £230 . Perception of cost and value is a very subjective thing. Being of a certain age I remember when I would pay 25p to go and watch Liverpool FC play, in fact I was lucky enough to be taken by my Dad to see the World Cup final of 1966 at Wembley( the only time England have ever won anything significant) and the tickets were priced at 10/- which in today's money is 50p. My tickets for Anfield next season are £45 per match which is 180x the price in the late 60's. We returned to Wembley last year for a Cup final game and paid £90, again 180x the price albeit in both cases they were for seated views as standing places has been banished in the UK since the Hillsborough disaster. It does give me a sense of perspective on what other entertainment offers as value for money. 90 minutes for £45 at Anfield or a full day out for £115.
The tour has to be considered excellent value then!
We were picked up from our accommodation at 7.00am and driven the 30kms to Walvis, picking others up en route.
The boat sailed at 9.00am and the tour lasted until around lunch time and a light lunch of fresh Oysters, various nibbles and beers, fizzy wine or soft drinks was included .
Walvis Bay cruise
There was plenty to go around too so that was good. 
The captain stopped on several occasions to come and give a talk about what we were looking at, telling us about the boats in the harbour, why the oil rigs were there and the typical costs involved.
The first cruise liner to arrive last year was charged $65,000US to dock for 7 hours. Interesting stuff.

Cape Cormorant Phalacrocorax Capensis
All the time we were sailing large flocks of Cape Cormorant were flying around but the party trick was the Great White Pelicans.
Shame they didn't warn you what was going to happen next but on blowing a whistle in they flew.
Great White Pelican  Pelecanus Onocrotalusr
right alongside
Great White Pelican  Pelecanus Onocrotalus
One of the deck hands had a bucket of fish!
Great White Pelican  Pelecanus Onocrotalus
I was at the back of the boat and the deck hand was at the front so I missed the first one totally, the second bird I was in the wrong position as someone leant in front of me (Grrrrrr!) but the third time was a bit better.
Great White Pelican  Pelecanus Onocrotalus
I was amazed to see the size of the pouch!
Great White Pelican  Pelecanus Onocrotalus
I only wished I had a smaller lens as the short end of the 100-400mm was still far to long.
To get that right I would need a lot of practice but the birds weren't interested in another offering, well not in flight anyway.
Great White Pelican  Pelecanus Onocrotalus
They landed on the boat preferring to take the fish standing up.
Great White Pelican  Pelecanus Onocrotalus
I'm not sure that this was my idea of wild life watching but the photography was an interesting challenge. Should you go though, be prepared. Something like a 50mm lens would be much better I would think.
Next stop was out at Pelican Point and the Seal colony ( the alternative to Cape Cross)
Cape Fur Seal   Pelican Point
There are trips that allow you to kayak amongst them if that's your fancy. On our boat they had another trick. Once more the bucket of fish and whistle appeared and up popped a seal.
Cape Fur Seal
This one was a young one being trained still and everyone was told not to touch it in case it bit them. You can see they have a decent set of teeth too!
Amazing the way they could actually climb on to the boat, they must have amazing strength, but of course they are used to climbing slippery rocks too.
Cape Fur Seal
If I'm honest I didn't enjoy the seal experience mainly because others on the boat wanted to pose for selfies with them and in one case an aged Italian woman kept on going over to the seal and doing her seal talk imitations. Earlier I had helped her climb down some steps from the bow of the boat, now I could have happily pushed her overboard! These are wild animals but somehow, well I'm sure you understand so I won't go any further.
Apparently Namibia's fish quota is 550,000 tonnes of fish a year. They estimate the ever growing population of Cape Fur Seals, a protected species, consume 15,000,000 tonnes a year. Food for thought indeed.
The one thing Walvis Bay is famous for are Oysters. They are imported as tiny oysters from South America (it's too cold to breed in Namibia but the waters are full of food for them to eat) hung on ropes secured to oil drums and left to mature out in the bay. I got lucky and saw an Artic Skua fly past whilst the captain was telling us all about them!
Artic Skua  Stercorarius Parasiticus
That was about it for the boat trip, very informative on many aspects and certainly enjoyable but from a wild life perspective not really my cup of tea. 
We disembarked the boat and set off for the afternoon Dune tour. This time only four of us from the original boat full of perhaps 16-20.
We drove for 55 kms  to Sandwich Harbour and as the tide was out we were able to go the whole way along the beach. We passed several convoys of campers who apparently pay large sums running in to tens of thousands to do these escorted tours from Luderitz or possibly further south. 55kms was enough for me, the view never changed really although when you get towards Sandwich Harbour the really big dunes meet the sea.
We stopped on the beach for more snacks and drinks overlooking the lagoon.
Sandwich Bay  Namibia
It's supposedly a very important breeding area for birds but other than a few dozen Pelicans in the far distance and a nearby pair of White-fronted Plover there was little evidence of avian life whatsoever.
Had the tide been in we would have viewed all this from the top of the dunes we were told, there were 4 vehicles of various tours there and some enthusiastic folk claimed to the top, maybe 100m or more above sea level. I drank their beer allocation and watched! We were driven up there next so it was an effort I didn't need to make.
In fairness the views were spectacular.
Sandwich Bay  Namibia
Unlike anything I have ever seen before.
Sandwich Bay  Namibia
Next we were off for an exhilarating dune ride. It takes a lot of skill and practice to get it right and for the uninitiated it's quite a thrill. Going down the big dunes at slow speed you were staggered the vehicle didn't just drop as they were so steep then at the bottom it was foot flat down to climb up the next one at speed. Good fun for a while but it was a bit repetitive, especially the bit where we drove back along the beach. 
All we saw was sand for the most part....hardly unexpected.....but the desert wildlife was nowhere to be seen other than a pair of Ostrich.
And by special request by me, I asked if there was a place to see Dune Lark.
Our driver duly obliged!
Dune Lark  Calendulauda Erythrochlamys
Well it was a bit distant and had I been alone I would have waited for a closer view but I wasn't so I couldn't.
The best I can do is crop the image.
Dune Lark  Calendulauda Erythrochlamys
Is it or isn't it? Well he said it was anyway!
We were driven all the way back to Swakopmund so a total of around 150kms during the afternoon. It was 6.00pm so a total tour time of 11 hours. A long day. 
Yes, it was different and we were not planning to go to Sesriem to climb the dunes there either so it was a nice taster tour of sand even if I am not a fan of climbing it.
That evening we had booked The Wreck restaurant telling them we might be a bit later than the 7.30 pm we were booked in for. Sure enough we had a reserved table in the window but to our horror the place was packed with large tour groups that night. We were knackered and didn't fancy waiting an age for our dinner. We skipped starters and ordered a main to try and save some waiting and to our delight we were served before any of the big tables around us.
Nice one! We'd have gone again but the following day was already booked at The Tug for our last night and the lovely lady on the desk had promised us a window seat for our penultimate mealiness Namibia.
Our last day was to be spent tmaking the Living Desert Tour in search of the Little 5.
Open verdict on that as we we hadn't too much idea what to expect.

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