Ron Swilling strolls through an “alcove of charm” – the Walvis Bay Waterfront in Namibia
No longer is Walvis Bay to be bypassed, driven through or merely visited for the activities in the bay and the Namib-Naukluft Park further south or anywhere else in Namibia. It has become a destination in its own right.
Besides the major attraction of pink-tinged flamingos lining the shallows in hundreds during the winter months, Walvis Bay’s Waterfront – which was recently extended – is an exciting and attractive venue. Once a few structures along the water’s edge consisting of one or two shops and places to eat, it now includes a sparkling new section featuring restaurants, a bar, art gallery and coffee shop.
Thankfully the character of the original Waterfront with its Anchors Restaurant, smattering of pelicans waddling along the paths, and boats bobbing in the water, still remains. The larger venue now provides the visitor with a wider selection of delights, putting the Waterfront on the map as the place to visit in Walvis Bay and giving the harbour town a new face and character as a tourist destination.
Hidden behind the Walvis Bay Yacht Club, it is an unexpected laid-back gem.
Bamboo wind chimes clink in the breeze, water ripples below wooden decks, and woven cane chairs offer places to sit, sip on state-of-the-art coffee and stare out into the bay in gleeful reverie as a happy beat wafts over from the bar.
It’s that atmosphere of relaxation and the call to put your feet up that can’t be ignored and is so appealing here in this little alcove of charm.
Several flamingos welcome you, searching for food in the shallows; the sea glimmers in the afternoon light; at times a few dolphins appear as they cruise along; and the most taxing problem of the day might be choosing the seat with the best view.
The recently extended Walvis Bay Waterfront makes an attractive stop for lunch, dinner, drinks or simply a quick coffee and cake
Anchors Restaurant is still a favourite that attracts locals (and that says a lot) and tourists alike.
It is jam-packed on Sundays, offering its quaint, rustic atmosphere and affordable prices. Painted blue and orange, the restaurant is one of the more peaceful places to while away the time. Anchors Oysters is planned for next door, to provide a waiting area for the restaurant and a place to sample fresh Walvis oysters while sipping on a glass of champagne.
The Jetty Shoppe next door (with conference facilities above) has ample hearts and trinkets to absorb shoppers looking for gifts – or wanting to treat themselves.
The pelican rehabilitation centre cares for the baby chicks that tend to fall off the guano platform, also known as Bird Island, during the breeding season at the end of the year. Often seen waddling about, they leave when they can fend for themselves. Adult pelicans gather at the water’s edge in the late afternoons for tasty titbits.
Next time you’re driving in the vicinity, don’t give Walvis Bay and its Waterfront development a miss!
Several dolphin and seal trips begin here and this older section houses the offices for Mola Mola and Catamaran Charters and for Sandwich Harbour 4×4.
Tours into the Kuisebmond township for a taste of local Namibian culture are offered by Fried Fredericks (and no, it’s not a spelling mistake). Oceans Restaurant is the last of this row of small, colourful wooden shops, fronted by jetties jutting out into the bay and connected by a walkway decorated with an old anchor and weathered whale bones, where old, upturned wooden boats serve as restaurant tables and flowerpots.
Views with capital letters are offered at the French restaurant, Lyon des Sables, which has moved from the centre of town into the spacious and bright location on the upper floor of the Waterfront’s new section.
Orange and yellow tablecloths are accentuated against a rich blue sea. Although still serving French favourites, Lyon des Sables has become a more relaxed restaurant with ample local flavour, catering for everyone and offering Namibian favourites – meat cooked on the grill (the diner can choose cut and sauce) – as well as calamari, burgers and fish.
David Thomas of Lyon des Sables won the noteworthy Namibian Chef of the Year award for 2010 and 2011, and he and his partner, Virgile Meiller, still believe in well-prepared food and personal service. The restaurant has an attractive bar area on one side and an outside deck to enjoy those perfect Walvis days.
Below them the Musselcracker Tapas Bar, furnished with cane and mekoros (dug-out canoes), offers a selection of interesting tapas with names like ‘à la seaside’, ‘à la oink-oink’, ‘à la crunch-crunch’ for the vegetarians – a combination of salad, samoosas, potato wedges and vegetable springrolls – and ‘à la kids’ – aka fish fingers.
The cosy and clean restaurant also houses ‘Cuppa’ and a variety of hot and flavoured ‘cuppas’ can be sampled inside or on the deck in the rounded hanging cane chairs. Most of the restaurants at the Waterfront are open from Tuesday to Sundays and Musselcracker’s kitchen closes at 21:00 when, as the menu informs guests, the chef is ‘à la kaput!’
Across from them, the Sarah se Gat bar and cocktail bar have sea-view seats. Constructed with ancient, recovered wooden jetty beams that have been sanded and varnished to a high gloss, and pieces of shipwrecked wood gathered from the shore, the bars offer a lively atmosphere.
Named after Sarah se Gat, a fishermen’s hole near Henties Bay (and not anyone you know – don’t worry), the facility offers a drinking hole for fishermen and others who enjoy a bit of a beat, and, needless to say, a beer. Sarah de Jager, after whom the fishing hole was named, was a legendary figure and an accomplished fisherwoman, who was said to be able to equal the men in fishing (and drinking).
With a Namcrafts shop arranged in colours of the rainbow, a hairdresser, a choice of art, crafts and striking photographic pieces, and an outlet for Naukluft Spring Water, the Waterfront is evolving and growing as the final coats of paint are applied and the last tenants set up shop.
Worth a drive from Swakopmund for a totally different atmosphere and experience, and worthy of a turn as you drive up from Sossusvlei and round the circle on your way back into civilisation, the Waterfront makes an attractive stop for lunch, dinner, drinks or a quick coffee and cake.
So next time you’re driving in those parts, don’t give Walvis Bay and its Waterfront development a miss. Indeed, it’s a place to be included on itineraries for a peaceful day next to the azure water as flamingos fly by and the water laps lazily against the shore.
For those not familiar with Walvis Bay, the Waterfront can be reached by driving straight into town along Union Street until it passes the Walvis Bay Tourism Centre and becomes 5th Road. Continue until you turn into Atlantic Road to avoid the harbour gates, and proceed into the Walvis Bay Yacht Club. It couldn’t be easier!
Ron Swilling’s article first appeared in the Travel News Summer 2012/13 edition.
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