Boat tours in the bay of Walvis Bay - Namibia Safari and Lodges - Gondwana Collection

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Gondwana's Newsroom

Boat tours in the bay of Walvis Bay

Avatar of inke inke - 06. April 2018 - Tourism, Discover Namibia


Dirk Heinrich

The dark glossy shape leaps aboard at the stern of the catamaran and waddles straight past the tourists without batting an eyelid. The marine mammal stops right at the bow and waits to be given fish as if it were the most natural thing in the world. Carol-Ann Möller had warned her passengers in advance to expect Cape fur seals joining them. Some of them bite and as a matter of principle the seals should not be touched. After all, they are wild animals in their natural habitat. But they no longer shy away from humans. The seal patiently waits for the pilchards, i.e. South African sardines, which are handed to it one after the other. It swallows the fish in a flash, much to the delight of the tourists. Other hungry guests, like pelicans and Cape cormorants, also turn up on some days. When all the fish has been dished out the animals are off to other boats in the bay, where their appearance is rewarded as well. 

Namibia’s largest and most important harbour, Walvis Bay, is sheltered by a peninsula which is some 16 kilometres long and between 2.5 km and 700 metres wide. The bay and the lagoon are home to countless marine animals and seabirds. With a surface area of 12 600 ha (126 km²) Walvis Bay Lagoon is the country’s third largest Ramsar Site, a wetland of global importance for bird conservation. Depending on the time of the year, between 70 000 and 250 000 waterbirds and waders congregate there. The largest Ramsar Site in Namibia is the Etosha Pan, Lake Oponono & Cuvelai drainage system (600 000 ha) in the north and the third largest is the tidal lagoon at Sandwich Harbour (16 500 ha) south of Walvis Bay. 

The sizable bay of Walvis Bay not only offers shelter to ships but also to an abundance of small marine creatures such as juvenile fish, crustaceans and mussels which in turn sustain the larger animals. The lagoon attracts many species of seabirds, and dolphins and Cape fur seals can be seen in the bay on a regular basis. The bay used to be a whale nursery in the past, hence the harbour town’s name: Walvis Bay (whale bay). Alas, the huge marine mammals were almost hunted to extinction at this stretch of the coastline already more than a century ago. Now they are returning slowly but steadily. Occasionally the gentle giants of the oceans can be spotted in the bay again. Several boat companies offer dolphin and seal tours almost daily. While cruising around the bay for several hours they show their guests the port area, the oyster farms and introduce them to the many marine creatures and seabirds – while serving delectable refreshments such as fresh oysters and bubbly. 

Seals doze on the beach and splash about in the water at the tip of the peninsula. Immediately behind it, in the open ocean, the boats are accompanied by Heaviside’s dolphins. These marine mammals are only found along the south-western coast of Africa. They measure just 1.5 metres in length and entertain with their swiftness and acrobatic jumps. With a little luck, boat passengers are able to observe bottlenose dolphins, leatherback turtles, African penguins or sunfish. On rare occasions a southern right whale or a humpback whale is spotted. Various types of terns skim the ocean surface in search for food and dive into the sea to catch their prey. Kelp gulls and Hartlaub’s gulls are among the constant companions of tour boats. 

On the beach, black-backed jackals prowl around the seal colony, and huge flocks of Common terns take up residence for the summer months. During the Namibian winter the feathered visitors from Europe and Scandinavia are back in the northern hemisphere where they breed and raise their young. 

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