This region extends from the northern border of Namibia at the Kunene River past Walvis Bay, covering an approximate one hundred kilometres wide stretch of desert and semi-desert terrain sandwiched between the Atlantic Ocean and the acacia savannahs of the northern and central Regions.
The coastal region is one of the world’s most captivating desert regions, and in the south lies a canyon second in magnificence only to the Grand Canyon itself.
Swakopmund is much loved by Namibians as a welcome respite from the heat of the interior. It is also popular amongst visitors because of its old-world charm and relaxed atmosphere. Founded in 1892 during the period of German colonial rule, it served as the territory’s main harbour for many years. Today this quaint desert town, hedged by desert and sea, is enhanced by lush green lawns, palm trees and carefully tended public gardens. It has a wide choice of hotels, pensions and restaurants, and several coffee shops selling traditional German cakes and pastries. The coast with its desert hinterland offers many options, both for adventure and for relaxation.
Quaint architecture from a bygone era adds to the time-out-of-place atmosphere of Swakopmund. When approached from the interior, domes, turrets and towers and towers on the skyline appear as a hazy desert mirage. Much of the distinct German colonial character has been preserved and today many of 5the town’s old buildings house shops, offices and other utility services.
The well-known information service and the oldest tourism organisation in Namibia, Namib i, is now in private hands, with Almuth Styles, who worked for the organisation for nine years, as its new owner. Almuth will continue to manage the centre as a general information and marketing service for the Erongo Region and also provides a comprehensive reservations service.
While Walvis Bay is Namibia’s major harbour town, it is fast developing into a sought-after haven for spending a holiday at the sea. Attractions are the lagoon with its prolific bird life and variety of recreational possibilities, a desert golf course, modern and comfortable hotels and a choice of restaurants, activities such as sightseeing from a donkey cart and kayaking on the lagoon at sunrise.
A former enclave belonging to South Africa, Walvis Bay and the offshore islands were incorporated into the Republic of Namibia on 1 March, 1994. The town has a well-developed and efficient port, while its fishing harbour is the hub of Namibia’s lucrative fishing industry. Entry permits to visit the harbour can be obtained from the Police Offices at the Harbour Entrance on 13th Road. Organised visits are undertaken every two weeks, usually on Thursdays.
The Civic Centre complex of the harbour town houses the Walvis Bay information office and consists of the Town Hall, Mayor’s Office and a Museum and Library, the latter with temporary membership facilities. A national monument, and the oldest building in Walvis Bay, is the Rhenish Mission Church, a timber structure which was built in Hamburg in 1880, then dismantled and shipped to Walvis Bay.
Henties Bay might not have an imposing historical background like Luderitz or Swakopmund, or be of any strategic importance like Walvis Bay, but it has rich array of anecdotes that will be remembered with humour and compassion by those who remember the place where they grew up, their holiday village and later possibly their permanent home.
In 1929 Major Hentie van der Merwe, a motor dealer in Kalkveld, discovered a fresh-water spring in an old delta of the Omaruru River while on a rhino hunt-expedition in the desert. He immediately fell in love with the place and for years it was his private haven to which he escaped every December.
In 1951 the South West Africa Administration proclaimed erven in the riverbed that could be rented under the condition that no permanent structures be erected there. Shacks on stilts wee built from wood and hardboard. In those years there was only one shop, where bare necessities such as rice, sugar, flower, tinned foods, coffee and paraffin could be bought.
Henties Bay has since become an increasingly popular proposition for holiday and retirement property investments, due to the relatively affordable property prices and its popularity as a holiday town. Its peaceful atmosphere and remote setting along the Skeleton Coast is one of its greatest assets. It is a place where the busy city dweller can find solace in the stillness of the night and the quiet rumble of the tides.
The absence of heavy traffic, mild climate and long stretches of unspoilt beaches create the ideal setting for a leisurely holiday of long walks, sunbathing and picnicking, especially for the overseas visitor after a tiring journey on hot and dusty roads. Sections of the beach are closed to anglers, vehicles and quad bikes, affording maximum peace and quiet to pedestrians and sunbathers.
A good place to stay in Henties Bay is Byseewah Guest House, positioned only 200 metres from the beach.
The sheer isolation of Luderitz, the curious way in which its colonial-style buildings cling to the rocks overlooking the bay, on some days a deep iridescent blue, on others grey and stormy, the crisp fresh climate, fishing boats bobbing up and down on the Atlantic horizon, penguins and seals diving beneath the waves, give the town a curious other-worldly allure. Tourists are slowly but surely succumbing to this appeal, and developments such as the four-star Luderitz Nest Hotel, owned by United Africa Hospitality and managed by its former owner Ingrid Morgan, are attracting ever more visitors to the town.
Luderitz was initially referred to as Angra Pequena, meaning Little Bay, by the Portuguese, whose navigator Bartolomeu Dias erected a stone cross on Dias Point on 25 July, 1488. Heinrich Vogelsang, agent of the German merchant from Bremen, Adolf Luderitz, landed at Angra Pequena on 9 April, 1883, to establish a trading station. Following negotiations with the Khoekhoi chief, Joseph Fredericks from Bethanie, he purchased the land within an 8-km radius of Angra Pequena. In April 1884 this land became part of the protectorate of the German Empire, marking the beginning of German colonial control in Namibia, referred to then as Deutsch-Südwest-Afrika.