When Pungi and I realized that the Easter weekend affords us 4 full days to travel someplace new and fantastical, we jumped at the opportunity to visit his family that live in Swakopmund, Namibia. For him, it was a surprise bonding weekend with beloved family that he hadn’t seen in a while, but for me, it was a first visit to the country (unless you count taking a skinny dip swim across a shallow section of the Orange river during my school days…). Four days is right amount of time to justify flying to a neighboring country for a quick family visit; but four days is not nearly enough time for all that Swakopmund, Namibia has to offer.
Sundowners at Tigers Reef
One way to get straight into Swakop living and to bond with the locals, is to spend the evening at Tiger Reef Beach Bar and Grill. And what a place! Being the Easter weekend, it was apparently busier than ever, but such a great atmosphere. No one could be upset there- not a child, awkward teenager, dog, parent, grand-parent or seagull. Drinks are cold, the sea is close and the calamari rings are well battered but tender. We were lucky enough to have been there on an evening when a local pole dance studio did a marvelously acrobatic showcase, and the fire dancers put on a dazzling display. What a treat to see such talent without expecting such a show! It’s no wonder this group of performers travels the world, partaking in international competitions. I’d go back to Tiger reef for their reasonable sundowners, relaxed atmosphere and beautiful setting.
Two Beards and a Saint
First thing on Good Friday morning, was family breakfast at Two Beards and a Saint. The coffee is truly amazing! What an amazing selection of different coffees and drinks. The food is delicious too. According to the owner’s wife (some might say, the “original boss” haha), the roastery started when her husband Royden (Beard 1), began these early retirement activities at their garage in Swakopmund. Then their son, Mark (Beard 2), came on board and the roaster moved to a larger space nearby to their current position in Unit 6 Eastern Concepts, 5 Einstein Street.
The “Saint”, Radley, wanted to open a deli where he could put his cheffing and foodie skills to good use, so he joined forces with Royden and Mark where they opened this trendy but relaxed bistro and gourmet coffee bar, Two Beards and a Saint.
Breakie buns are always a win, but theirs are particularly delicious as they use Brötchen, German for bread roll, but they are freshly baked everyday so particularly good for breakfast. Pungi inhaled this! I had a freshly baked hot cross bun, coz, well, Easter! So yummy with a thicker layer of German butter.
The settling is also beautiful. Really pretty gardens, koi ponds, fountains, and statues surround Balinese style huts, which is where we sat to enjoy a relaxing brunch. This is a must visit when visiting Swakopmund.
Namib Dunes Brewery
From the bistro, we spotted the Beer brand that we had enjoyed so much the night before at Tiger Reef – Namib Dunes Brewery. The Brewery in the Eastern Concepts, Kornblum Complex is a small but neat and well-kitted establishment. We popped in for a quick squiz, but after Pungi showed more interest in the processes and activities of the brewery than most, the owner gave us a tasting of their Weiss beers, and spoke to us about how they make their beer, where they get their tanks and the general factory set up (right up Pungi’s engineering alley). Such a friendly environment and so great to speak to someone so passionate (but the least bit pretentious) about their products.
Stillhouse Atlantic Distillery
After beer tasting and mini tour, we headed next door to the gin distillery… Lala’s turn for asking all of the questions! Sandy le Roux, the owner and founder of Stillhouse Atlantic, was so welcoming and friendly. We loved chatting to her about how she started and the whole distillation process.
Her gin, an Artisanal Namibian Spirit, is infused with Nara melon, lemon verbena (from her garden), fresh orange peel, wild hibiscus, baobab fruit and seaweed.
For me, it was very interesting to hear how, after the simple spirit is made, she infuses it with the seaweed (and distils again), before infusing with the typical juniper-coriander-angelica root combination, and chosen botanicals. The reason for this is that the seaweed apparently acts as a flavour enhancer for the other botanicals in the gin.
The !Nara melon is typical of Namibia and is sourced locally. The !Nara melon is known as a local superfood and is mainly harvested for its essential oils. Because oils are unwanted in a gin, or other spirit, as it gives it a cloudy appearance, the !Nara melon seeds with most of its oils extracted, is exactly what Sandy needs for flavouring her gin (here it’s true that “one man’s trash is another man’s treasure”).
The each bottle of gin is carefully and lovingly handmade by Sandy, from the fermentation and distillation of a simple spirit, all the way through to the label artwork and bottle decoration – the entire process taking up to 6 weeks. And, wow, you can feel this. We had a tasting of her special gin, first straight (which is a kick for early in the morning), followed by the addition of ice and lemon zest, and then finally with tonic water. Yum! A bottle was very quickly purchased to find its new home in our belly’s later that day!
Now this is not something that you find in most small southern African towns – a crystal gallery, but is well worth the visit. Not many can say that they have stood next to the World’s largest Quartz Crystal Cluster. Well, if you are in Swakopmund and you end up paying the 20 bucks to go to the Gallery, you will be able to take a cheesy photo like this….
You’ll see semi-precious stones and gems, from near and far, both small and big (and gigantic), and all more beautiful and shiny than the next. A great spot to kill an hour or so and do something a bit different or learn something new.
Ice creams on the promenade
No beach holiday is complete without a soft serve cone from beneath the lighthouse on the beach, while watching the waves. Nothing more to say- it just needs to be done!
Drive through the Desert
Wow!! What a place to visit! Unlike anything I have ever seen in my life! So much of nothing in one place. This national park was about a 45minute drive outside of Swakopmund. From what I remember, you take the B2 toward Usakos and turn left, after about 10km, onto the D1991 which has a wooden sign at the junction.
The roads in the area are fairly well sign-boarded, so finding the Welwetschias and the Moon Landscape is fairly easy. Just make sure to get a permit before you enter the park area, as there are marshals driving around, checking that all people there are accounted for and there ‘legally’.
First we went on a drive down Welwetschia Drive, which took us along to see the oldest Welwetschia plant, with many smaller ones along the way to admire. A Welwetschia mirabilis is this crazy, pre-historic-looking plant that grows low to the dry ground, existing only in this arid part of Namibia and a small bit of Angola. The oldest Welwetschia is 1500 years old and carefully enclosed to ensure its longer survival.
Next we drive along to a lookout point over an area that looks like the moon, hence Moon Landscape. It’s an unreal feeling to know that you are standing on Earth but feel like you are on an entirely different planet! A must see – just look at these pictures…
All this staring at nothing can really work up an appetite, so a picnic lunch at Goanikontes Oasis is a necessity. For us, it was a Family Easter Potluck, so it was delicious and so festive. Next time, we’ll definitely make the effort to stay over here for the night – it was too magical to stay only for lunch. And the alpacas are fun to visit too!
Run along the beachfront
Swakopmund is flat!… like a pancake!… so is a dream to run in. And beach runs are the epitome of holiday. We ran from Myll 4 towards the mall, and then from the mall, along the beachfront and back. It was beautiful and easy. A beach run, or walk, is a much in this wonderful seaside town.
Slowtown Coffee Roasters
Apparently no visit to Swakopmund is complete without a Cappuccino (or few) at Slowtown. The cutest, vibest, hip place to sit and people watch on the busiest corner of town. I think the best spot to sit (considering it was drizzling when we were there), is at the bar near the front door that looks out of the large front window, and watch the town go by. The actual bar was more like a flat cabinet filled with different notes and coins from countries of all corners of the planet. Pungi and I loved looking at all of the currencies and reminiscing about past adventures over scrumptious cappuccinos.
One simply cannot leave without buying a bag of their beans to take home to our own kitchen to keep the spirit of Namibia going for a little while longer.
It’s this mammoth sand dune in the middle of a flat desert. We ran up to the top while we were on the way out to the airport. It was a worthwhile stop. It’s ‘somewhat’ tiring to trudge up to the top, but the view is stunning and the gallop down the soft dune is such a thrill.
We never got to…
Quad bike in the dunes
We fully intended to do a quad bike tour in the dunes. We were really excited for it, but simply ran out of time! R550 for a 90 minute tour sounds great! But I guess we need to leave something for next time!…
Namibia Desert Explorers also do camel rides and tours, and dune tours on fat-bikes (AKA mountain bikes with thick wheels that can get you through sand). Namibia Desert Explorers is a true adventurer and thrill-seekers delight.
Golf at Rossmund
The golf course is a real unexpected oasis in the middle of the desert. it is such a relief to see so much green after driving out from Swakopmund in surroundings of only brown sand. We stopped off for a quick look over the course from the heights of the clubhouse.
The lush course is amazing to see set in such arid surroundings, and is complete with lots of ponds, palm trees, springbok and ostriches. We simply did not have the time or opportunity to play a quick 9 holes, but will definitely dust off our putters for next time.
Have Eisbein and biere at Swakopmund Brauhaus
Besides all of the wonderful natural sights, this town has an interesting and refreshing German influence. Many of the buildings in town were built in traditional German architectural styles, giving it a cosy, quaint feel.
The last item on my proposed Swakopmund bucketlist, was a meal at the local German restaurant, or Brauhaus. In the one free hour we had while in town, the Brauhaus was closed as it was late in the afternoon on Easter, so we just had to admire it from the outside. We’ll be back soon for an ice cold Weißbier
Thank you Namibia! we will be back very very soon to take in more of all the wonderful things you have to offer!