A big welcome
by Ron Swilling
At the end of Union Street, bordering the desert and tourist area, the Walvis Bay Tourism Centre comes into view. This attractive and friendly centre, built with Oregon pine, is a sparkling new and welcoming ‘one-stop shop’ in a town that is changing and growing in tourist facilities and charm, offering a quieter, more intimate experience of the Atlantic Coast and all it has to offer.
The Tourism Centre is a novel idea where accommodation, information, activities, gifts and tasty meals are all located in the same building. The info desk provides information on Walvis Bay and all the activities available in the area, from dolphin and seal cruises to quad-biking and Sandwich Harbour tours.
The team of three came together when Herman Neethling contacted Tim Theron about developing a piece of land situated in a prime position on the main road leading into town and to the renowned Walvis Bay Lagoon. Francois Visser from Levo Tours later joined the team as a partner in the Centre; the Levo Tours office is positioned alongside Photo Ventures and the Information Desk. All three combine creative forces and experience to offer a selection of exciting and interesting tours. The Tourism Centre has four attractive bungalows with more planned for the future and a small to medium (40–50 delegates) conference facility, making it an ideal venue for group incentives and team-building weekends, especially now that Air Namibia offers flights directly to Walvis Bay.
INFO CENTRE & CHALETS
Focus on photography
With an emphasis on photography, information and family, Tim and Herman’s Photo Venture activities work actively to offer something more than the usual tours. Herman takes quad-biking excursions into the dune area adjacent to the centre, stopping at a Topnaar community where the visitor has the chance to taste the prickly !nara plants that grow in the desert, and see old burial grounds and sites of semi-fossilised animal tracks. As Herman says, “The tours are for ouma (grandmother), oupa (grandfather) and baby,” with more playing in the dunes for the young at heart. He also takes Sandwich Harbour tours into the awe-inspiring landscapes of the Namib-Naukluft Park and guided self-drive 4×4 excursions into the dunes, while Tim Theron concentrates on tailor-made overland tours and sunset trips into the sensuous dune sea on the outskirts of Walvis Bay.
Tim Theron has 16 years of experience under his belt, running his own safari company. He changed the name of the company from Scorpion (after the winter constellation) to Photo Ventures to mirror his interest in photography, although his tours are not necessarily photographic trips as such, unless specifically requested. He caters for small groups, often tourists who are visiting the country for the second or third time and want to travel off the beaten track into the more remote areas of Namibia.
Areas he favours are Damaraland, Kaokoland, Bushmanland and the Khaudum area, and he visits Bushman and Himba groups along the way. He prefers the ‘places made by God’, and travelling to these areas of tranquillity and space is his forte. In the Walvis Bay vicinity, he offers a four-hour late-afternoon trip to the sand-dune sea of Rooibank, 30 km outside Walvis on the rim of the Namib-Naukluft Park, either in his Land Rover or as guided self-drive trips for those wanting to experience driving in the dunes. The visitor finds himself in an untouched world of curves, swirls and co-lour, away from towns and traffic. The sand turns golden and shines as the sun dips, humbly offering sublime moments of magic. As Tim says, “We’re the only people on planet Earth.”
Seal and dolphin cruises
Levo Tours’ seal and dolphin cruises were initially started by Francois’s father-in-law, who was the first operator in the 90s and the animal lover who befriended a seal that had a fishing net wound around its neck. As the two slowly became accustomed to each other, Otmar was able to remove the line, the two remaining firm friends.
Francois laughs and says that the seal started the tours and became the star attraction as it jumped onto the boat. Other seals followed suit and now, many years later, it is still one of the highlights of the boat cruises.
A stop at the Walvis Bay Tourism Centre is recommended for its appealing bungalows, information, Internet facilities, pro-golf shop, restaurant and range of activities.
Instead of speeding through Walvis in time for a cruise, an excursion into the park or a flight, take the time to linger.
This article appeared in the April/May ‘10 edition of Travel News Namibia.