The Bay of Whales
The town Walvis Bay (meaning Bay of Whales in Afrikaans) has a changeful history. It was discovered by the Portuguese sailor Diaz, who explored the West African coast from 1482 to 1489, and who sailed into the bay for the first time in 1487. At the beginning of the 18th century the place developed into a sought after fishing ground for fishermen from North America and Europe, due to its abundance of whales and fish.
The town itself was founded in 1793 by Dutch from the Cape (South Africa), but was annexed by a British war vessel only a few years later. Since 1850 Walvis Bay grew steadily due to its trade connections, but it was occupied in 1878 by the British Crown, as many British fishermen and Guano trades had settled there. Furthermore the bay was of strategic importance for the sea route.
In 1884 the German Protectorate included the surrounding areas of the bay Walvis Bay became a British enclave.
In 1910 the South African Union was established and as part of the Cape Province Walvis Bay was integrated into the Union. At the beginning of the First World War the town was shortly occupied by German troops and after German South West Africa had been put under South African administration as League of Nations mandate in 1919, the South African parliament decided in 1922 to assign the town to South West African territory.
However in 1977 the town was reassigned to the Cape Province which was seen as a repeated annexation, especially as efforts for the independence of Namibia were made since the early seventies. In 1990 Namibia became independent. A resolution of the UNO stipulated that South Africa was to hand over Walvis Bay to Namibia, but it never happened. Only with the end of the Apartheid regime the Walvis Bay area was handed over to Namibia in 1994.
Today Walvis Bay is the third largest town of Namibia and its only deep-sea harbour. About 55,000 and 65,000 people live in Walvis Bay depending on seasonal workers for the dominant fishing industry. As the water of the coastal area is very clean Walvis Bay is known for its high quality fish, oysters, rock lobsters, etc.
There are quite a few touristic highlights:
One of them is a boat trip along the coast to view dolphins and seals, whereby the seals jump right into the boat. With a bit of luck whales with their impressive tail fin can be spotted.
For bird enthusiasts and anglers trips by boat or 4x4 vehicles to the bird colonies of the 10 kilometre long lagoon of Sandwich Harbour are a special treat. In this large natural lagoon more than 120,000 birds have been counted, including pelicans and flamingos.
A trip to “Dune 7” just outside town is also well worth it. It is the highest dune in the area and one can not only enjoy an amazing view when standing on top of it, but also try the trendy sport called sand boarding.
As Swakopmund is a mere 30 km away, one can easily visit this coastal town and its attractions.
One should not forget to mention the huge salt fields around Walvis Bay. On an area of 3500 hectares 400,000 tons of high quality salt are annually produced.