On her first visit to Namibia, our Africa Product Executive Laura was in complete awe of the incredible scenery and ever-changing landscapes. Here, she tells us about the highlight of her trip.
From the rust red dunes of Sossusvlei and the eerie trees of Dead Vlei to the haunting beauty of the Skeleton Coast and incredible game of Etosha, Namibia is a country of contrasts and one I won’t be forgetting in a hurry.
Although every day brought new and exciting experiences, one stood out in particular – kayaking with seals in Walvis Bay. During our stay in Swakopmund we drove half an hour to the harbour town of Walvis Bay where we met with our guide Jeanne from Eco Marine Kayaking. We jumped in Jeanne’s car as she took us around the bay and past a salt refining plant, the biggest producers of salt in sub-Saharan Africa, providing salt countries such as Nigeria, Cameroon and South Africa as well as Europe. The salt pans are a shocking pink colour created by salt-loving microbes which have formed on the surface of the water as it evaporates, creating quite a surreal sight to behold. We continue further around the bay with the pink salt pans on one side and the ocean on the other, passing flocks of lesser and greater flamingos, huge pelicans and tiny white fronted plovers along the way. As we leave the salt refiner behind we head to the Pelican Point peninsula where we will be kayaking. Along the way we pass salt-rusted jetties, huge beached jellyfish along the shore, and even jackal tracks weaving along in the soft sand.
The lone Pelican Point Lodge with its iconic lighthouse sits solitary on our left as we come across the first seals lazing along the shore in sociable groups. Jeanne stops our vehicle near a gap in between the sea of seals and jumps out to organise the kayaks and to pass us some warm and waterproof clothing we can use while we kayak. As soon as we get out of the car, the smell of the seals is overwhelming and the noise they make is unrelenting. Our guide warns us not to get too close to the seals as they can be aggressive on land, especially with new born young around. This is when we spot our first jackal on the beach, tiptoeing around the seals, they are searching for pups who might have died, or who have been abandoned by their mothers. Easy pickings and a hearty meal for them.
Once suited and booted, we push the kayaks into the water, jump in and set off. The shoreline is dotted with blubbering and squawking seals, including some pups, as well as some sea gulls flying overhead. We watch as some of the seals jerkily shuffle towards the sea and slip in, once in the water the seals become more comfortable and swim around us, poking their heads out of the water to inspect us. Playful and puppy-like, the seals swim around us and show off by jumping out of the water, while on land they remain ungainly and waddle to and from the shore. We kayak along the shallow waters next to the beach and watch the seals and birds in quiet fascination.
Our guide calls us back in to the shore, but we’re too busy watching the playful pups poke their noses out of the water, so close you can almost touch them. We finally head back in, sad to leave them behind, but glad to find a hot drink and some sandwiches waiting for us set up next to the van. Jeanne takes us back along the peninsula and we leave the seals behind. Along the way we see more jackals, including some pups hiding away from the wind under a jetty. We make our way back around to Walvis Bay town where our little trip ends. Some lucky people also get to see dolphins in the bay too, on this occasion unfortunately we did not. But it was an incredible morning activity, getting up close and personal with hundreds of barking seals.