Henties Bay, Namibia – more than just fishingSeptember 3, 2012
Nature Notes – Flying boats of the coastal lagoonsSeptember 3, 2012
Walvis Bay is Namibia’s biggest port and the pride of the country. Since the days when the Dutch East India Company traded fresh water and meat from the Topnaars and the captain of the Meermin proclaimed Dutch sovereignty over the bay in 1793, the harbour town has been of strategic and economic importance to Namibia. This continued through British rule and German colonisation, followed by South African administration and eventually the re-integration of the enclave into an independent Namibia ten years ago. More recently it became an important facilitator for transport to landlocked countries in the SADC region.
Over the past decade, however, Walvis Bay also started playing an active role in another important sector – tourism. One of the best-known tourist areas that has abundant potential, namely the stretch of coastline between Walvis and Swakopmund, falls under the jurisdiction of the Municipality of Walvis Bay. In an interview with Travel News Namibia, former Mayor Mandume Muatunga stressed the fact that although tourism has never been the most important sector in the economy of the town, members of the town council have realised that it plays an important role in the economy of the country. The impact of industrial development on tourism and the environment will always be taken into account when decisions are made concerning further development.
The harbour basin with its depth of 12.8 m can handle container vessels with a capacity of 3 000 TEUs, which makes it possible for big ocean liners to use the port. The large numbers of passengers who visit Walvis Bay on these liners increased the total annual visitor figures to almost 250 000. From September this year, the RMS St Helena will stop at Walvis Bay on its 20-day round trip between St Helena and Ascension Island, Cape Town and Lüderitz.
Muatunga said Walvis Bay does not compete with neighbouring Swakopmund on the tourism front, but rather complements what is already there. The upgrading of the Walvis Bay Airport is almost completed and will further enhance tourism traffic to the coast.
Augustinus Katiti, former CEO of the Municipality, estimated that there are about 1 500 beds in the harbour town in facilities ranging from the up-market Pelican Bay Hotel on the lagoon to B&Bs and units for self-caterers. The Municipality put the three tourist facilities that belong to the Municipality into a separate corporate entity, the Walvis Bay Resorts Company, which will manage them on a commercial basis in future. According to Katiti, the WBRC is a new chapter in how the Council approaches tourism.
The Municipality plays a supportive role in providing the infrastucture for tourism development (see report on Long Beach). Great care is taken to ensure that proper environmental impact assessments are done before any coastal developments are allowed. As regards the availability of water to support development in the desert, Katiti said the Municipality is aware of the potential problem and that upgraded reservoirs and advance planning will ensure that water availability does not become a problem.
For the time being there will be no more development allowed on the lagoon itself, according to Katiti. The only envisaged development in that area is a possible marina. Negotiations between Namport, to whom the land belongs, and other stakeholders, among others the existing Yacht Club, are still ongoing. This development will do much to enhance the tourism structure of the town.
Walvis Bay has jurisdiction over the stretch of coastline to the southern bank of the Swakop River. This includes Long Beach with its two resorts, and private housing development. Further tourism development along the coast between Swakopmund and Walvis Bay is envisaged for the immediate future, he says, but against the background of what is environmentally sound and economically viable.
This article appeared in the July/Aug ‘04 edition of Travel News Namibia.