Walvis Bay, sometimes referred to as Walfish Bay, lies 30 km south of Swakopmund, just beyond the southern tip of the actual Skeleton Coast, and the town`s natural deepwater harbour, protected by the Pelican Point sand spit, is the only safe haven for larger vessels along the whole length of the Namibian coast.
Due to mass concentrations of plankton and marine life, large numbers of southern right whales gathered in these waters and were eventually hunted on a grand scale.
Nowadays the town, with its large bay and sand dunes, is an important tourist centre. Although the largest concentration of Cape Fur Seals on the Skeleton Coast is further north at Cape Cross, thousands of these animals favour Pelican Point which can be visited on a wildlife viewing cruise from Walvis Bay.
A popular alternative to the catamaran and yacht cruises are the kayak trips offered by a couple of specialist operators. They take place in the mornings only, when winds are light and the seas generally calm. Visitors are driven to the Point by Land Rover and paddle among the seals, experiencing unbeatable views as the curious animals swim alongside.
Most of the yacht and boat tours leave from the Yacht Club which lies between the main port and the Lagoon, a prime birdwatching location, especially during migration when huge flocks of seabirds, flamingos and waders gather, often close to shore.
Even though Walvis Bay and the Skeleton Coast are blanketed by fog for much of the year, this very rarely affects the local wildlife cruises. As well as cruise company offices the waterfront at the Yacht Club has a couple of restaurants and curio shops and more than a few interesting decorative features.
Our trip was on the catamaran Silvermoon. Not long after setting off, we were intrigued when the skipper announced that Lady Gaga and her sidekick Sookie would likely be joining us on board. He was of course referring to a couple of friendly Cape Fur Seals from the local Pelican Point colony. It was apparently Lady Gaga's day off though as, just after setting sail, only Sookie jumped on board to scoff down the free fish!
After several very wet 'high-fives' with the skipper and the Silvermoon`s passengers, 'flipper-shakes', and a bucket-load of fish, Sookie plopped back into the sea to join his companions.
The largest concentration of Cape Fur Seals on the Skeleton Coast is further north at Cape Cross, and is classed by many as a must-see attraction. Up to 100,000 animals are packed into a narrow strip of land between the viewing area and ocean. During the breeding season, huge bulls regularly crush pups to death when jockeying for position or fighting opponents and the carcasses lie rotting until jackals or other scavengers clear up. The stench is apparently horrendous so we were content to view the colony at Pelican Point from the comfort of a boat.
Unlike most similar structures, the lighthouse at Pelican Point has been painted white with black bands rather than red to provide increased contrast against the dunes and prevailing mist. The first beacon on Pelican Point was established in June 1915 and consisted of a small automatic acetylene gas lantern, mounted on a wooden pile driven into the sand.
"Never mind that wee poser - check me out! Hey! Look behind you Silly!"
Fog blankets the coast here for much of the year and unfortunately visibility was drastically reduced during the trip. There were plenty of vessels docked at the harbour further up the coast and many more anchored offshore but they were barely visible through the murk. Luckily the Skipper offered to sail over and give me a closer look at the nearest vessel, the Russian Deep Sea Trawler Nikolay Kudryavtsevs (L1334) when the fog lifted slightly.
Large freighters, oil tankers and bulk carriers, well spaced, were waiting a free slot at the port to unload. Some of the Offshore Tugs / Supply Vessels had their identities painted over. Gulf Service was one of the exceptions.
No natural oysters occur along this stretch of coast so they were initially imported from Chile. The shellfish soon thrived in the warm underwater currents and oyster farming is now a multi-million dollar industry in Namibia. This rusty fishing boat permanently anchored offshore is used to service the oyster beds and act as a cleaning platform.
We didn't spot any whales or Mola Mola (Sunfish), during our trip, although we did see lots of dolphins. The smaller of two species encountered provided the entertainment, swimming under and around the cat's twin hulls before breaking the surface. I only saw one make a spectacular jump but it was quite far off and I didn't manage to capture it on camera. Kelp Gulls (below), Flamingos, and several species of Tern were also spotted as well as a lone African Penguin, also known as the Jackass, swimming in the distance.
The Silvermoon`s skipper and crew laid on quite a spread below deck with oysters, calamari, and assorted snacks washed down with a glass of sparkling wine - a great way to end the trip. Then it was back to Swakopmund for one more night there before heading north to Damaraland, Vingerklip and Etosha.
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