Swakopmund is: a) a quaint coastal town in Namibia, b) the adrenaline capital of Namibia, c) a tribal word meaning “excrement opening” or d) all of the above?
The correct answer is d) all of the above.
Swakop, as it’s called by the locals, is a charming little town set on the northwest coast of Namibia. This one-time German protectorate still retains a strong German character; many of its 42,000 residents speak German, and the streets are lined with fine examples of German architecture. It’s a lovely place to spend a day visiting the shops, bartering with the sellers at the local craft market and enjoying the town’s quirky bars and restaurants. But if you love extreme sports, you’ll want to spend a lot longer than a day.
You could easily spend a week in Swakop and nearby Walvis Bay testing your adventure limits. On the water, you can kitesurf through the frigid waves, sea-kayak with hundreds of Cape fur seals or venture into the Atlantic Ocean for some deep-sea fishing. From the air, how about sky-diving over the desert, parasailing/paragliding along the dunes, or a scenic flight aboard a hot air balloon, helicopter or microlight plane. On land, speed through the dunes and along the rugged coastline on a quad-bike, take the easy way down Rossing Mountain on the zip-line or try your hand at sand-boarding or skiing down Namibia’s famous sand dunes—just remember there’s no chairlift!
When it comes to the origin of the town’s name, I assumed my Namibian guide was pulling one over on me when he told me that Swakopmund is derived from a tribal word meaning “excrement opening”. I have double and triple-checked this fact and incredibly it’s true. Apparently, the name was chosen long ago when the Swakop River would flood and carry the bodies of animals that had drowned along to the Atlantic Ocean. Rest assured, I didn’t see any “floaters” in the water during my visit last month.
Despite the town’s unusual name, it’s a great place to spend a couple of days while in Namibia. And if you don’t believe me, just remember that Brad and Angelina chose Swakop as the birthplace of their daughter, Shiloh in 2006—I have it on good authority that Brangelina know their sh*t.
For all your African trip planning needs (or if you just want to learn all the dirty words in cool tribal languages), Lori’s the woman to call.