Newest Review: ... Without it's natural wonders the town wouldn't have flourished at all. And like most African towns near spectacular natural beauty Sw... more
Member Name: RupertMilton
Advantages: Loads of Adrenaline activities and tours
Disadvantages: Not the most interesting of towns
Swakopmund is a puzzling small town on the West Coast of Namibia. I actually had to keep reminding myself I'm still in Africa, as it has the appearance of a small German town after Global Warming has struck. It's the last remnants of the German colonial empire. And to prove my point just look at a picture of Shiloh, Angelina Jolie's daughter, and see what someone born here looks like. But for this reason I really liked it. I loved comparing the centre of town with its Lutheran churches and German beer to the more African quarter a little outside. There's Germans, Afrikaans, Bush men, Bantu and a load of other races living within the City which makes it feel like the Disney ride Its a small world. However there was one slightly sinister remnant of its German past, when browsing the antique shops I saw a surprising amount of Nazi memorabilia cluttering up the shop.
Being surrounded by the Atlantic ocean and the beautiful Namib desert is what I think makes Swakopmund the popular tourist destination. Without it's natural wonders the town wouldn't have flourished at all. And like most African towns near spectacular natural beauty Swakopmund has hundreds of activities you can enrol in if you have brought enough money. From the relatively cheap, like Sand-boarding, Quad Biking or Cape Seal tour, to the ridiculously pricey, Hot-air ballooning, fly over Skeleton coast and Skydiving. And with most activities it's easy just to book yourself onto them when you're there, and needn't worry about booking ahead. I'd personally recommend the Sand Boarding and Angling, but that's just me. The town also has a surprisingly good night-life, maybe not rivalling Las Vegas or Ibiza, but still for African terms pretty decent. And with so few bars you'll see most other travellers will congregate around a certain few.
Seeing as though it's a very Western style town everything is really catered for. Laundrettes, Fast-food restaurants, internet café and more tourist shops than you know what to do with. It's also relatively small and everything is within walking distance, which is good seeing as though it has no real public transport system. There's also an abundance of accommodation, too many for me to name or try to evaluate, but I seemed to gather after meeting other tourists, most of it is pretty decent, even the small backpacker lodges. There are some tourist sites you can visit without having to book yourself onto a tour, but these remain largely unspectacular. The museums either focus on boring topics, lack funding or both, and the Lutheran churches, like all Lutheran churches, aren't there too impress. But you could always chill out at the beach and face possible winds and freezing water.
The City is easy to get to via public transport, and relatively cheap. There are flights from Johannesburg, Windhoek and Cape Town to Walvis Bay, which is just 40km away and from there you can get cheap taxis or the local mini-buses. Then there's the Intercape that connects Swakopmund with Victoria Falls, Cape Town and Windhoek and everywhere in between, and is very comfortable and relatively quick. Compared to the local mini-buses which I took, which are a little more cramped but far cheaper, and you can get these from most town in Namibia. There's also a train from Windhoek, but unfortunately, like in a lot of Africa, they move at such slow speeds you'd think walking would have been faster, and they also run at irregular times with great delays, and sometimes cancelled for long periods of times. Swakopmund also lies close to some of Namibia's greatest sites, like Sossusvlei, Skeleton Coast and to some extent Etosha NP, and tours are readily available, albeit expensive, so I recommend hiring a car to see these places, it just works out a hell of a lot cheaper.
It's a relaxing town on the whole, besides a few apparent bush men who are adamant you buy some of their goods. And although the town may not fascinate you there's so much you can do around it. It serves as a fantastic base for safari goers and tour groupers and attracts quite an interesting bunch of travellers. It is however pretty expensive if you're on a tight budget, and if you're pushed for time I'd say crack on with touring the Skeleton coast or Sossusvlei and don't bother to long with Swakopmund.
Summary: One of the nicer Namibian towns.