I n 1929 Major Hentie van der Merwe, a motorcar dealer who operated from Kalkveld, discovered a fresh-water spring in an old delta of the Omaruru River while on a rhino-hunting expedition in the desert. He fell in love with the surroundings and for years it was his private haven to which he escaped every December.
Henties Bay has since become a popular proposition for holiday and retirement property investments, due to the relatively affordable property prices and the town’s popularity as a holiday resort. Its peaceful atmosphere and remote setting along the Skeleton Coast is one of its greatest assets.
Henties Bay Tourism
Tel/Fax (+264 64) 50 1143
What to do in Henties Bay
A peculiar and probably one of the most photographed landmarks in Henties Bay is the Gallows, an old tree stump (which formerly contained a rope and a noose), put up in 1978 as a ‘friendly but firm’ warning to keep the town and beach clean – or else! Another surprising phenomenon is a fresh-water fountain situated almost on the beach in the so-called Valley, an old tributary of the Omaruru River. Apparently this fountain served as a lifesaver to many early explorers, one being Henties Bay’s own Major Hentie van der Merwe.
One of the biggest events in Henties Bay is the annual Fish Festival presented in August each year, attracting visitors from all over Namibia, South Africa and even overseas. The annual Christmas Market, Angling Bonanza, and Touchies in December are events that have a high priority on the yearly calendar.
Although shore fishing is still Henties Bay’s number-one attraction, there is much to do for those who don’t fish. The Jakkalsputz walking trail offers the beautiful Solitude Bay with its rocky shores and hummock dunes stabilised by coastal desert plants adapted to grow in harsh conditions. The Omaruru River Walking Trail, a long hike along the riverbed and across the Namib Desert plains, gives hikers an experience of the harsh but beautiful desert environment. Remember to take drinking water along.
The Henties Bay Golf Course is laid out in the Valley. It is a nine-hole course, extending over 2.7 km, and has well-tended grass greens and tees, while the fairways are currently being planted with grass, which will turn it into a lush green spot in the riverbed. Golf competitions are organised regularly, especially during the December holiday season.
While quad-bikes provide fun on the beach, they should be used responsibly and with due consideration to residents and other holidaymakers. Areas specifically designated for their use are 10 km upstream in the Omaruru River environs and the beach either side of the residential areas. When riding on the beach, please take other people into consideration and be on the lookout for children and pets, especially during the holiday season. Quad-bikes are not allowed north of the Omaruru River and east of the C34 or in front of residential areas and campsites.
Henties Bay environs
Situated in the Dorob National Park (the former National West Coast Recreation Area), Henties Bay offers the nature lover an attractive albeit sensitive natural environment with diversified fauna and flora and many sites of interest. Some of the biggest and best specimens of the renowned Welwitschia mirabilis grow among the hills of the Messum Crater. This curious plant – some specimens are estimated to be at least 1,500 years old – is endemic to the Namib Desert, from Swakopmund northwards to Mossamedes in Angola.
Desert-adapted game species seen on the desert plains and in the dry watercourses include steenbok, springbok, gemsbok and Hartmann’s mountain zebra.
Ostrich are commonly seen in southern Damaraland.
This wonderland can be explored along 4×4 routes to destinations such as the Messum Crater, Brandberg West, the Ugab Menhir, Spitzkoppe, Omaruru River and various mineral mines. All roads are signposted and graded. An A2 satellite map with all the routes can be bought from the Henties Bay Tourist Office.
Lichen fields can be viewed at Mile 30 south of Henties Bay, just north of the turnoff to the Cape Cross Nature Reserve and on the way to the Messum Crater. Visitors are asked not to leave the existing roads, but to park their vehicles next to the road and inspect these interesting organisms on foot. If a little water is sprinkled on them, they magically come to life.
The Damara tern, a Namibian endemic that makes its nest in shallow scrapes among the saltbushes (ganna) on the gravel plains, is especially threatened by off-road driving. The nesting grounds of these diminutive birds occur between the coastal road and the sea, and there is an important breeding colony just north of the Omaruru River. If you leave the road to reach the beach, stay on the existing tracks.
The Omaruru River offers the opportunity for walking, quad-biking and 4×4 driving, and has excellent picnic sites. The Old Fig Tree is a well-known and popular picnic site not far from Henties Bay. You can also drive up the sandy riverbed past the Omdel Dam to Skoenklip and exit the river at Lêwater to follow the route to the Spitzkoppe. The Omdel Dam – mostly dry – offers picnic sites, a variety of bird species, especially when there is water in the dam, and interesting desert-adapted plants.
To reach Omdel Dam, take the C35 to Uis for ±27 km, then turn right and follow the narrow track for 14 km to the Omdel Dam wall. Alternatively, the course of the Omaruru River can be followed in a 4×4 to reach the dam.
Where to eat
Henties Bay offers the Winston Restaurant, Fishy Corner Seafood Restaurant & Take-away, Legends Pub & Grill, Desert Sands lapa bar & braai, De Duine Hotel, Pirate’s Cove sports bar and pizzeria, and the Skubbe Bar. Good options for coffee and cake are the Coffee House, Misty Bay Café & Coffee Shop, and NamPie coffee shop.