Three days in Swakopmund, Namibia
Namibia has always been on my bucket list so I was ecstatic to be invited on the Legacy Hotels and Resorts and Air Namibia media trip to Swakopmund, Namibia to experience everything Namibia has to offer for conferences and business travel.
Namibia is part of the SADC region which means South Africans don’t need a Visa to enter. The exchange rate between the Namibian Dollar and the South African Rand is 1:1 but no foreign exchange is necessary because most places except Rands anyway. While it is the driest country in sub-Saharan Africa, its raw beauty is unrivalled. The country’s Coastal Desert is one of the oldest deserts in the world. There you will see the natural wonder of the dunes meeting the ocean. Namibia is one of the few countries in the world to specifically address conservation and protection of natural resources in its constitution. The animal life is so varied, from a rich marine ecosystem to the wondrous creatures of the desert. The capital, Windhoek is just a one hour 50 minute flight from Johannesburg and once there you can hop on a 40 minute flight to Walvis Bay airport, the closest airport to Swakopmund, which is the entrance to the Skeleton Coast. Namibia’s otherworldly landscape is a popular location to shoot Hollywood movies, two of the most recent films that were filmed there are The Mummy (2017) and Mad Max: Fury Road.
A short flight from Joburg
We were bound for Legacy Hotels and Resorts’ Swakopmund Hotel and Entertainment Centre in Swakopmund. I checked in a for both my Air Namibia flights (Joburg to Windhoek; and Windhoek to Walvis Bay) a day before making sure to get a window seat for both flights. Once at OR Tambo I realised just how convenient the online check in was as I didn’t need to queue and easily sailed through to the boarding gate. This was the first time I had ever flown Air Nambia and I found the staff to be very friendly and professional. The airplane itself was surprisingly roomy with ample overhead space for hand luggage. The flight from Joburg to Windhoek is one hour and 50 minutes and during the flight passengers are served drinks and a light meal. The meal was filling and presented very well, flying at around midday it was just the right amount of sustenance that was needed. On arrival at Windhoek there was a bit of a rush since our flight to Walvis Bay was scheduled to leave in 45 minutes. Namibia is a SADC country which thankfully comes with a separate queue for SADC citizens in immigration, however there are so many southern Africans flying into and out of Namibia that you need to resign yourself to standing in the line at immigration for up to an hour. Luckily, the process went very fast and we managed to get to our next flight on time. The flight from Windhoek to Walvis Bay was on a smaller plane but was equally comfortable. Even though the flight was just 40 minutes we were still served a light snack of juice and biltong. Stepping off the plane at Walvis Bay you truly feel like you’re in a far away country. The desert sands hug the runway and palm trees line the boundary of the airport. The actual airport terminal is small but new and very tidy. Once we got our bags together we were met by the team from Legacy Hotels and Resorts and Air Namibia as well as our airport transfer Cars and Guides Airport Transfers. It was uncharacteristically clear and warm, locals call this ‘East Weather’, but straddling the desert and the sea Swakopmund is generally much warmer than Jozi. Yet in our roomy, air conditioned vehicle we felt none of the desert heat.
A thrilling introduction
Just ten minutes into our journey to the hotel the driver suddenly stopped. In the middle of the desert standing on the side of the road were two hitchhikers carrying guitars. What first appeared to be two random strangers turned out to be our on-board entertainment, getting us in the mood to make a quick stop at a beachside ‘shebeen’. This was not your average beach bar though, it was all organised by events company, Events Link Africa. The bonfire, cold drinks and snacks were as welcome as an oasis in the desert. Yet this was still not the conclusion of our thrilling introduction to Namibia. Events Link also organised for each of us to receive a unique pair of sneakers boasting the Namibian flag designed by proudly Namibian rapper, Ees. These would certainly allow us to take our memories and leave our footprints behind in this wonderful country.
The Swakopmund Hotel is conveniently located in the heart of Swakopmund, walking distance from the picturesque town and the pier. The elongated nature of the building’s design is due to it being a converted train station, first built in 1902. The building’s origins have been honoured throughout the hotel, the restaurant is actually named Platform One. Walking through the tastefully designed foyer your first sight is the tranquil swimming pool and central area which then gives way to the hotel rooms. After two flights I was most eager to get acquainted with the bed and I was not disappointed. My hotel rooms was pristine with a substantial bathroom with a combo bath and shower and a wide, inviting balcony beyond the comfortable bed, sofa and writing desk. That night we dined at Platform One restaurant, feasting on a showcase of Namibia’s seafood – mussels, prawns, kabeljou, calamari and hake. Even though we had already had more than a full day we couldn’t resist trying our luck at the blackjack table at the Mermaid Casino. The hotel and entertainment centre also boasts a cinema. With good WiFi, comfortable accommodations, a fantastic restaurant and on site entertainment it is the perfect place for both the single business traveller to rest his or her head or for conference groups to enjoy the facilities.
It’s a ‘boat’ time
Day Two was an early start. It’s a good thing Platform One starts serving breakfast from 6.30am. We left the hotel and headed back to Walvis Bay for a three and a half hour catamaran marine safari. What’s different about this tour, however, is that due to the rehabilitation of seals and pelicans at Sandwich Harbour the animals are so friendly that they jump on board, swim and fly alongside the catamaran for most of the tour. On the tour we were also lucky enough to spot Benguela Dolphins and also had a brief sighting of Bottlenose Dolphins. There is never a shortage of cool drinks and water during the catamaran cruise and a delicious lunch of German breads, cheeses, meats, sausage rolls and pies is served around midday. The highlight is the platters of fresh Namibian oysters that are served with lunch. At just R790 per person this is an affordable and thrilling adventure to take delegates on. A word of warning though, if you are prone to sea sickness be sure to take anti nausea medication.
Where the dunes meet the ocean
The views of sand and sea from a car are breath taking in itself but taking a scenic flight with BushBird and “Sossusfly” allows you to see the full magnitude of the landscape from the air. Our final activity for the day was a two-hour scenic flight in a light aircraft. Containing just six people including the pilot this is not the kind of airplane you’re used to. I would advise caution for individuals who suffer from nausea or claustrophobia but it is a truly once-in-a-lifetime experience. From R4200 per person this is a premium activity that executives might enjoy as an extra something special to add value to conference or business trip or as an incentive.
A Namibian sunset
The conclusion of Day Two was bittersweet. We were exhausted and exhilarated after an action-packed day but sad to be leaving the next day. The only thing that could top this day was the sight of a beautiful Namibian sunset and The Tug Restaurant is the best place to experience this. Located at the pier and with large clear windows the restaurant has unrivalled views of the ocean. It’s a travellers’ trick that you find the best food at the busiest place in town and this is certainly true of The Tug. Expect the freshest seafood, hearty portions, a superb wine selection and excellent service. It is a must visit addition to your Swakopmund trip.
Quad bikers in the mist
On Day Three of the trip we awoke to shrouds of mist. I immediately thought our last activity, quad biking in the desert with Desert Explorers would be ruined due to the weather but keep in mind that mist is a norm is Swakopmund, as it arises when the cold coastal air meets the hot desert air, so we carried on as planned. After a short tutorial on the automatic quad bikes we were off. It was a bit scary at first but soon the adrenalin of riding through the dunes, especially through the mist, takes over. I felt as though I was on another planet! It’s important to note that Desert Explorers follows a very strict route for its tours so that desert fauna and flora are never disturbed nor harmed. This ended up being the highlight of my Namibia trip and is a must do activity. It’s the best way to experience the desert and once you’re out on the mist-covered dunes it’s clear to see why Namibia is such a sought after movie location.
Home and away
Just like that our Namibia tour was over. We bid farewell to the staff and management of Swakopmund Hotel and Entertainment Centre who had made us feel like royalty while we were there. After an incredible but tiring trip it was great to just sink into the seat of my Air Namibia flight and get some rest. Air Namibia flies from Johannesburg to Windhoek 14 times a week and from there you can take a connecting flight to Walvis Bay. However, you could also fly from Cape Town direct to Walvis Bay. Air Namibia also makes seven flights a week from Windhoek to Frankfurt, Germany. The best part of our flight back home was that while the flight from Windhoek to Johannesburg usually takes one hour 50 minutes, with an early start and good weather we actually managed to land a full 50 minutes ahead of time.
2019 Conference Packages at Swakopmund Hotel and Entertainment Centre
The full day conference package for 2019 includes:
- Tea/coffee on arrival
- Mid-morning tea break
- Lunch at the platform one restaurant
For groups of 30 pax and larger a buffet menu will be served
One soft drink is included with lunch
- Mid-afternoon tea break with snacks
- Plenary room hire
- Mineral water
- The following standard audio-visual equipment:
- 1 x PA system
- 1 x Microphone
- 1 x Flipchart with markers
- 1 x Data projector
Any other audio-visual equipment you may require can be hired in at additional cost
Full Day – R590 per person
Half Day – R495 per person
Click here to view lunch and tea options for the full and half day conferences.