Do you know the origin of the Cape Cross in Namibia?

To most, the name Cape Cross relates to the Fur Seal Reserve along the Namibian Skeleton Coast. However, its origins are rather interesting. During the Great Exploration, the Portuguese were the first Europeans to land on Namibian soil. Namely, Diogo Cão in 1486. Before shipping out, he erected a stone cross in honour of the king of Portugal.

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The crosses served varied purposes. Some symbolized religion, proclamation of ownership of the land and of course landmarks for passing ships. Centuries later the cross was taken down and sent to a museum in Berlin. And replaced with another cross, constructed by German settlers in the 1800’s.

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Eventually the German colonials invested further research into Cape Cross and found the  massive Cape Fur Seal colony. The Englishman who was doing the exploring also found a great reserve of guano (i.e. bird poo). Yes, most of us would not find this discovery all too interesting. However, there was a great need for the product in England to be used as fertilizer.

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Just like that, a concession was granted by the German Colonial power for the English to establish The Damaraland Guano Company. Eventually, the general focus shifted from guano to seal skins. The shift included a change in authority as well. Coming to an end in 1903.

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Finally in 2001 all that remained was demolished to make way for the Cape Cross Lodge and the Reserve was founded. Today, the location serves as an attraction to visitors. It is strange to think how much happened at the site and how things have shifted over time.

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This is a great place to visit while staying at The Delight Hotel in Swakopmund.

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If you have any information on the history of Cape Cross, we invite you to share it with us in the comment section below.

Author – Jescey Visagie is a proud Namibian and is passionate about writing and language. Tag along for the ride as she tries to uncover new insights into Namibia and explores what the country has to offer.

 

 

 

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Namibia: Delightful things to do in Swakopmund

 

If you find yourself in Swakopmund, the coastal town of Namibia, not knowing how you can  spend a delightful time with the family, here is a small list of activities that will put a smile on everyone’s face.

  1. Visit Swakopmund Museum

This museum offers a great insight into Namibia’s complexity. It does not only exhibit Namibian history, but also features the extraordinary Namibian wildlife and is well worth a visit.

Otjimbingwe wagon in the Swakopmund museum.

Otjimbingwe wagon in the Swakopmund museum. Image credits : Gregory J. Vogl

  1. Explore the National Marine Aquarium of Namibia

While at the coast, it is advisable to learn more about the creatures living in Namibia’s Oceans. The Aquarium features a variety of sharks, sting ray’s and many more fascinating ocean inhabitants. An exciting place that the kids will enjoy.

Shark at the National Marine Aquarium Swakopmund.

Shark at the National Marine Aquarium Swakopmund. Image credits : jackieinct

  1. Ride a Camel

Enjoy a relaxing camel ride along the Namibian coastline and the Swakopmund river while feeling like true royals!

Camel riding in Swakopmund

Camel riding in Swakopmund. Image credits : S. Visser

  1. Quad Bike through the dunes

If you want action, this should be the activity for you, cruising through the dunes on a guided tour to the roaring sound of your quadbike. You can also try yourself in dune boarding or paragliding in the dunes.

Quad biking in the Namib Dunes near Swakopmund.

Quad biking in the Namib Dunes near Swakopmund. Image credits : Fanie Gous

  1. Tour through the Namib Naukluft Park

A self- drive tour through the Naukluft park to see the oldest plant in the world should be both an educative and exciting morning trip for the family. Just remember to get your permits for the tour at the MET offices in Swakopmund first.

Welwitschia Mirabilis. Oldest plant in the world.

Welwitschia Mirabilis. Oldest plant in the world. Image credits : brilliant bothany

  1. Climb the Woermannhaus

The view from the top of the tower is exceptional and showcases all of Swakopmund. Downstairs you will find an art gallery where you can feast your eyes on Namibia’s best art pieces.

Woermannhaus in Swakopmund.

Woermannhaus in Swakopmund. Image credits : Don Simon

  1. Shop at the Street Market

If you are in the mood for shopping, the city street market can keep you busy for hours, sifting through the elegant jewelry made from indigenous Namibian materials by Namibian locals.

 

Street Market in Swakopmund.

Street Market in Swakopmund. Image credits : Dennis Dawson

  1.  Visit the  Arts and crafts centre

This centre hosts the workshops for many local artists who showcase their talents in embroidery, jewelry making and art where you can witness firsthand how these crafts are made.

 

Arts and crafts Centre in Swakopmund.

Arts and crafts Centre in Swakopmund. Image credits : NTB

  1. Visit Cape Cross

Cape Cross is not only home to seal colonies but also many historical monuments spread all over the vicinity.

Seal colony at Cape Cross.

Seal colony at Cape Cross. Image credits : Coba Baufeldt

  1. Explore the Living Desert Snake Park

For an ultimate thrill, visit the snake park where you can view and if wishes interact with Namibia’s reptiles.

Snake at Swakopmund Snake Park.

Snake at Swakopmund Snake Park. Image credits : Jackie Hebbard

Here is our delightful map of Swakopmund showing you exactly where to find these activities and attractions :

The Delight Swakopmund Map.

The Delight Swakopmund Map.

To find out more about the brand new Delight Hotel, the perfect getaway at the Coast, click here.

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Follow my Footsteps: Into the mist …

Cape Cross (and its seal colony), about 130km north of Swakopmund, was my destination for today. (Before I did anything though, I needed to stock up on food and take up the generous offer of moving from my tent to a room. A bit of quiet and an electric socket would be much appreciated. There are pros and cons to staying at a backpackers. The pros – besides the cost – include meeting interesting folk, like Steve Bailey, a retired man from the UK cycling from Cairo to Cape Town. The cons, include them sometimes getting too busy, making it difficult to cook a meal in the small kitchen, never mind scrumming for the bathroom facilities.)

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The road through the desert edging the sea is a salt road, kept in good condition by the prevailing sea mist. On either side are flat gravel plains dotted with small hardy salt bushes. This is Mad Max territory if there ever was. It’s a surprise to find a small settlement of colourful houses (with water tanks) called Wlotzkasbaken alongside the road. Could or would anyone want to stay out here in the desert sands? But, this coastline is fishermen’s haven and signs to fishing spots line the road north, from ‘Mile 4’ to ‘Tolla Se Gat’.

Lichen fields are fenced off on the eastern side of the road north of Wlotzkasbaken, to protect them from vehicles and quad bikes. Contrary to appearances, the desert is an extremely fragile environment. Vehicle tracks can remain on the gravel for decades and lichen populations are easily destroyed. Lichen, a combination of an algae and a fungus living symbiotically, depends on the sea mist for its survival in the desert and is vulnerable to disturbance.

I was happily walking between the lichens when I stopped in my tracks, just as I was about to put my foot down on a horned adder! That woke me up quickly. The little guy didn’t move and made no sign that he had nearly been trodden on by a dirty boot and 60kg of human. I said a quiet thank you to my angels and continued northwards past Henties Bay to Cape Cross. The flat plains gained shape and then evened out again, and rustic tables with blocks of salt crystals from the Henties salt works lined the roads. The entrepreneurs worked on an honesty system. The prices were painted on the table and a buyer was required to put the amount in a bottle with a slot in its lid. I couldn’t resist this charming system – or salt, a commodity that once held the power of gold.

At Cape Cross, I first paid a visit to the graves of the guano collectors and those who once lived in this barren area, and afterwards continued to the replica of the cross erected by Diego Cão in 1486 and the bustling cacophony of Cape fur seals. The smell reaches you first, then the sound of braying, barking and bleating. Some seals are fast asleep, some are wanting to joust with all and sundry (or so it seems) and others are swimming in the waves, while lost little ones call for their moms. It’s wonderful mayhem out there.

The cold and the hour of the day forced me back into my vehicle and onto the salt road. Smelling like seal and with my car heater on to thaw my hands, I drove back to the misty town with my headlights on and my heart full.

Ron SwillingRon Swilling is a freelance writer, based in Cape Town, writing for Namibian and South African publications. She is a regular contributor to Gondwana’s History and Stamps&Stories columns and documented the information on the Wild Horses in the Namib Desert for Mannfred Goldbeck and Telané Greyling. She invites you to ‘Follow her footsteps’ on her journey from the Orange River, exploring the Gondwana routes through the intriguing country of Namibia.

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