Cape Cross Seal Res.
Open: daily 10.00–1700 every day. No motorcycles.
Costs: N$20 per adult, N$2 per child, plus N$20 per car.
Here, in 1485, the Portuguese captain and navigator Diego Cão landed. He was the first European of his time to reach this far south down the coast of Africa, and to mark the achievement he erected a stone cross on the bleak headland, inscribed in Latin and Portuguese with:Since the creation of the world 6684 years have passed and since the birth of Christ 1484 years and so the illustrious Don John has ordered this pillar to be erected here by Diego Cão, his knight.
Diego Cão died for his daring, and was buried on a rock outcrop nearby, which they called Serra Parda. His cross remained in place until the 1890s, when it was taken to the oceanographical Museum in Berlin, and in 1974 the whole area was landscaped and a replica cross erected, which stands there today.
David Coulson, in his book Namib
(see Further Reading
), relates that an old slate was found half-buried in the sand around here, with a message dated 1860 reading:I am proceeding to a river sixty miles north, and should anyone find this and follow me, God will help him.
It is not known who wrote the message, or what became of them.
All along the Namibian coast there are seal colonies, though the one at Cape Cross is one of the easiest to access. It is a colony of the Cape fur seal, Arctocephalus pusillus pusillus
, numbers up to 100,000 animals, and is occupied all year round.
At any time of year, the amazing sight of tens of thousands of heads bobbing on land and in the water is only matched by the overpowering stench of the colony that greets you. The noise, too, is unexpected – a positive cacophony of sound that resembles an entire farmyard of animals at full volume.
Where to stayCape Cross Lodge
(14 rooms) PO Box 259, Henties Bay; tel: 064 694012; fax: 064 694013; email: firstname.lastname@example.org; central reservations tel: 061 255488; fax: 061 251400; email: email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org
Opened in 2001, just 4km from the seal colony, this brand new lodge is a beacon for visitors to this area, with accommodation that puts Cape Cross firmly on the map. This is where the desert meets the sea, and the large, airy rooms of this well-appointed lodge reflect the vast open spaces all around.
En-suite rooms are modern and spacious, with rooms at the front having panoramic views out to sea from individual balconies. There is a real sense of taste here, with solid, limed-wood furniture, stone floors and soft blue-and-white décor that compliment the nautical setting. Two of the rooms are linked by an adjoining door, making a family suite possible.
Downstairs is a huge lounge and dining area with a central barbecue and a bar at one end. The restaurant is open to day visitors as well as residents, with both snacks and main meals available. Plans are in hand to increase privacy for residents by opening a cellar bar in mid 2002, and introducing a more private dining area. In the evenings, though, the place is open only to residents, with occasional candlelit dinners on the beach, and a good selection of wines on offer. Lunch for residents is N$65 per person, and dinner N$110.
Aside from the seal colony itself, visitors here are attracted by the sheer beauty of the setting. Just to sit on the outside terrace and watch baby seals cavorting in the waves can occupy half the afternoon, though for the more energetic there are plenty of walks and opportunities for birdwatching. There are as yet no formal facilities for watersports, so those planning to kayak, or to discover 'some of the best surfing in Namibia', should bring their own equipment and discuss plans with the staff, some of whom are enthusiasts themselves. A word of warning: don't even think of swimming without taking local advice; the water is cold, currents are very strong and rip-tides can be extremely dangerous. Traditionally, fishing has been the main attraction for visitors to the area, and tours can be arranged. It is also possible to organise a visit to Messum Crater. Mile 108
Book via the NWR in Windhoek.
Could this be even more desolate than Mile 72? Again, in season Mile 108 has a useful fuel station and a small kiosk. Water costs 10c per litre (bring your own container), and hot showers N$1 each.