Sunday, 30 August 2009

Namibia, Swakopmund, Cape Cross Seals & Quadbiking in the dunes.

We headed North from Swakopmund on a Salt Road, A road in better condition than many of Britain's main roads. Our intention today was to explore the Skeleton Coast.
The Skeleton Coast in the norther part of the Atlantic Ocean coast of Namibia. The coast is named due to the treacherous nature of this coastline, many shipwrecks can be seen, they have run aground on rocks in the thick fogs the area is known for. We were not going all the way up to the Skeleton Coast Park, but just to Cape Cross to see the Cape Fur seals.
Cape Cross is called so due to the fact that the Portuguese explorer Diego Cao (1486). The first European who landed on Namibian soil, erected the first stone cross in honour of King Johannes of Portugal. It was the tradition of the Portuguese to build a cross where ever they landed. These crosses had various functions: symbol of Christianity, documentation of the rights of possession and landmark for passing ships. However, in 1893 a German sailor, Captain Becker, removed the cross and took it back to Germany, where it eventually ended in the Berlin Museum of Transport and Technic. In place of Diego Cao's cross Becker built a 5 m high wooden cross, which was replaced with reformation of the original cross in 1895. The cross in the photo was erected in 1980. As well as the cross, Cape Cross is a Seal Reserve. The seal colony at Cape Cross is the breeding place of the Cape fur seals, which are actually a species of sea lion. Along the Namibian and South African coast there are 24 colonies with a seal population of about 650 000 animals. At Cape Cross live about 80 000 to 100 000 seals. According to NamibWeb.com the cows are a lot smaller than bulls, they only weigh up to 75 kg. A few weeks after the bulls have arrived the pregnant cows come to the colony to have one youngster. The pregnancy lasts for about 8 months. One bull has about 5 to 25 cows in his territory and only 7 days after giving a birth the next rutting season starts.
The pups fur is pitch black and they start sucking on their mother immediately. We saw loads suckling. A few days after giving a birth the mother has to return to the sea to feed. During this time the youngsters are very vulnerable and are hunted by jackals and hyenas. We did see lots of jackals taking the youngsters who were left on their own. We did not see hyena, but saw their footprints in the sand. On the drive back we saw loads of these stalls, I think it is sand crystal, with honesty boxes.
Once back in Swakopmund we decided to have a go at one of the many activities on offer. Swakopmund is one of the top destinations in Southern Africa for extreme sports enthusiasts. We did not try any thing to strenuous, but went quadbicking in the sand dunes.
After a hectic day, all that was left was to eat, tonight we went to the Lighthouse Pub & Restaurant, it was a very busy place, full of local people and no wonder, it was good food at a good price, recommended.