Oysters in Walvis Bay
In addition to a drive up the Skeleton Coast, Walvis Bay makes for another great day trip from Swakopmund. More precisely, driving the 40ish minutes south to devour the famous oysters in Walvis Bay makes for a great trip!
Driving to Walvis Bay - Between the Dunes and the Ocean
Less than an hour south of Swakopmund, the city of Walvis Bay sits on, you guessed it, Walvis Bay. While Luderitz has a somewhat-shielded harbor, Walvis Bay has the only naturally protected, deep-water port on Namibia’s coastline.
This geography has turned the second-largest city in Namibia into an industrial hub, facilitating import/export activities for the country - and a lot of southern Africa. Compared to the Disney-esque, resort feel of Swakopmund, Walvis Bay has the more chaotic atmosphere of port towns throughout the world. Towering container cranes dot the harbor, and huge warehouses house the goods coming in and out of the country.
Walvis Bay also sits at the far northern tip of the Namib Desert, providing for some stunning coastal scenery on the trip from Swakopmund. Driving south, wide beaches and the Atlantic Ocean unfold to the right, and staggeringly high dunes ascend to the left. Taking advantage of this beauty, multiple resorts and little beach-cottage enclaves have sprung up along this stretch.
What Makes Walvis Bay Oysters Special?
We’ve tried to adopt a travel rule: if an area has a food or drink named after it, try it! We’re certainly not oyster connoisseurs (or marine biologists, for that matter), but we love eating them. And, from what little mollusk-related knowledge we did have, we understood that, so close to the area, we had to drive down for some Walvis Bay oysters.
Doing a little research, we learned that the Benguela current flows off Namibia’s coast, bringing with it the Atlantic’s densest supplies of phytoplankton and oxygen. Once again, not marine biologists, we looked for a layman’s translation: Walvis Bay oysters are some of the best fed in the world, growing to maturity in less than a year (as opposed to the more typical three-ish year cycle).
Committed to an afternoon drive, we dug into some restaurant recommendations, hopped into the car, and drove south to Walvis Bay. We ended up at Dockside, an aptly named spot on the water just outside of the port complex. The sprawling back deck made for an ideal spot to post up, open a bottle of wine, and dive into some local oysters.
Served with lemon wedges and a bottle of Tabasco, the Walvis Bay oysters lived up to the hype. We won’t pretend to be eloquent enough to provide a Bon Appetit-esque description of this culinary experience, but the little guys were delicious. Nice and chilled, the Walvis Bay oysters had the perfect balance of salty and sweet without being too “fish-y.”
Driving from Walvis Bay - the Dune 7 and Mad Max Route
The sand dunes rising over us on the coastal route down to Walvis Bay comprise a relatively narrow band - not the full width of the Namib Desert. So, travelers can follow an alternate route between the two coastal cities, taking a road inland of this strip of enormous dunes.
On the return to Swakopmund, we opted for this far more barren, no-ocean-in-sight route, partly because it passed by Dune 7, the tallest sand dune in Namibia. With fresh memories of burning lungs and exhausted leg muscles after our Big Daddy adventure, we had no interest in climbing Dune 7. But, we did want to swing by to see it.
Sand dune doesn’t do this behemoth justice - sand mountain far more accurately describes Dune 7’s scale. And, this description better aligns with common activities, as adventure-seeking tourists sandboard (i.e. use a snowboard on sand) down the dune’s steep eastern face.
Content to take some pictures and just absorb the scale, we strolled along the dune’s base before continuing the drive north. Unlike the beautiful coastal drive, this inland route just feels desolate. Didn’t see a single car, and we were surrounded by miles of monochromatic desert.
Naturally, we made reference to the post-apocalyptic classic, Mad Max - seemed like we’d been transported into the film’s set. This was more fitting than we realized. Turns out, the second movie, Mad Max: Fury Road, was filmed in that very stretch of desert - something we hadn’t known at the time.
The Australian outback - the originally-planned location - received heavy rains before filming. When the normally brown desert turned far too green for the movie’s needs, the desert stretch between Swakopmund and Walvis Bay became a logical alternative.
Sundowners and More “Oysters” to End the Night
Back in Swakopmund, we headed out for a sundowner. At Bar Zonder Naam, our new “local,” we wrapped up the night in fitting fashion.
By now quite familiar with the waiter, he told us that the bartender had a shot special that night. Normally, shots are a little too aggressive a nightcap for either of us, but we relented when we heard the name - oysters.
Take a cold shot of tequila, sprinkle some black pepper and Tabasco on top, and you’ve got yourself an “oyster.” It’d be silly not to have a couple after a day exploring the culinary delights of Walvis Bay!