As a major fishing port possessing a rather dispersed town centre, and lacking the eye-pleasing colonial-era architecture of Swakopmund, Walvis Bay attracts few overnight visitors. Tourists that come are usually on a day-trip from Swakopmund to do some activity on the lagoon. However, the town’s very ordinariness and down-to-earth nature can actually be quite appealing after the surreal, toytown nature of Swakop. What’s more, tourist-oriented accommodation and decent dining options, clustered round the lagoon and new waterfront, are on the increase –Walvis Bay is even home to arguably Namibia’s finest restaurant – and the town makes a better base for the highly worthwhile excursion to Sandwich Harbour. Other minor attractions include Dune 7, the highest sand dune in the area, which lies 7km out of town and is fun to sand-board down, and the town’s modest museum, which can be found at the back of the library.

The lagoon

As southern Africa’s most precious coastal wetlands, Walvis Bay lagoon, together with the adjacent tidal mud flats and salt pans, have long been a top destination for keen birders, hosting over one hundred thousand birds in summer – notably thousands of flamingos, but also masses of pelicans, terns, plovers, grebes and cormorants – and around fifty thousand in winter. More recently, more casual wildlife lovers have begun to enjoy the lagoon, on catamaran cruises or kayaking tours, gliding among dolphins and Cape fur seals. Further out, in season (July–Nov), humpback and southern right whales are regularly sighted from boats, and even the occasional leatherback turtle (Feb–March) or killer whale.

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