An improbable, quirky, fun and friendly coastal resort town with wide streets and German colonial architecture, Swakopmund lies isolated on the edge of the Namib Desert with the cold and wild Atlantic Ocean to the west, the dune belt of the Great Sand Sea rising to the south and barren Namib gravel plains to the north and east. The normally dry Swakop River reaches the sea at Swakopmund. This site was chosen in 1892 by imperial Germans as their main harbour due to availability of fresh water. Swakopmund soon became a major port, before such activities were moved to Walvis Bay after German South-West Africa was taken over by the Union of South Africa in 1915.
Tourism is now the dominant industry of the town with numerous hotels, guesthouses, restaurants and adventurous pursuits on offer. With a refreshingly cooler climate than many inland areas of Namibia, Swakopmund is a favourite holiday destination for Namibian and international visitors alike. Activities include hot air ballooning and scenic flights over the Namib Desert, 4×4 trips, quad biking and sandboarding in the dunes, desert wildlife tours, marine wildlife cruises and kayaking excursions, as well as a worthwhile museum and aquarium.
Local fauna and flora have adapted to survive by utilising moisture from the coastal fog and many examples of Welwitschia mirabilis can be found on the gravel plains behind the town. The dunes may reveal Namib dune gecko, Fitsimmon’s burrowing skink, sand diving lizards, Perinquey’s adder (sidewinder), Namaqua chameleons, moisture-collecting beetles and more. Birders will delight in the numerous waders, pelicans and flamingos that are found in the surrounding area.