Birding Namibia's central coastal region - Some background

I have noticed a lot of new visitors on my blog. I thought I will just give a brief background to birding in this area, Namibia's central coast.

First, why am I a bird guide in Namibia's central coastal area. Well, for me it's just getting going. I have lived in Namibia for over 10 years (grew up in Kenya and studied in South Africa.) I lived here in Swakopmund for a number of years, before moving to Sossusvlei where I spend around 7 years. The whole time I was guiding and the whole time I had a passion for birds, birding, and sharing birds and nature in general with guests.

I have found with time, as I have learned more, that I enjoy specialist tours more, simply because there is a focus. I have been birding the area for all these years and now my family live here and I have two boys who need school. I was offered a deal by Safari Wise to do their coastal birding and regular day tours. I was also trying to start up Frantic Naturalist Tours and Safaris, my own company. It will still get going in the long run, but for now, with a downturn in the economy and with kids needing dad around a little more, it's great to have the chance to do birding here. It's just getting going, but I am confident that it should be a good arrangement.

So that's me, Safari Wise and birding in this area.

The area: Swakopmund and Walvis Bay sit near each other and hold a few wetland areas that are great birding spots. These towns sit on a coastline, the Skeleton Coast, a vast desert area with few town, few people and few wetlands.

Why come birding in Swakopmund and Walvis Bay?

  1. Walvis Bay Lagoon and salt works

    Description: Walvis Bay Lagoon is situated just north of the massive Namib Sand Sea, the huge region of sand that includes Sossusvlei. South-east of the Lagoon, the bigger dunes can be seen, and dunes pose a realistic threat to Walvis Bay itself.

    The Lagoon is created by a 14 kilometre sandbar stretching northwards. On the northern side the water is deep, creating Walvis Bay's main economy, the harbor.

    Further south it get more shallow and creates an area of tidal mudflats. Some of these mudflats are vast.

    South of the mudflats are commercial Salt Works. Here large pans are flooded with sea water and evaporation is used to get the salt. This area is important for birds like Lesser Flamingo because in these warmer pans (being shallower than the ocean, and not influenced as much by the tide) are good for Algae that the flamingos feed on.

    Walvis Bay is good for terns, both greater and Lesser Flamingos, a great population of Black Necked Grebe, as well as loads of migrant waders. The Chestnut Banded Plover population is up and down.
    Peregrines Birding Blog did a post on Walvis Bay. I have also posted some stuff on Walvis Bay, here's one.
    The Coastal Environmental Trust of Namibia (CETN) has a useful website with information about the Walvis Bay Lagoon. They were instrumental in getting the Lagoon registered as a Ramsar Site and they oversee the bi-annual wetland counts for the Lagoon.

  2. Swakopmund Salt Works
    Description: The Swakopmund Salt works is not situated in a lagoon like Walvis Bay. The site is also restricted and so most birders can only do the outside of it. One can, though, drive right round the whole periphery of the area. This area has a guano platform (a large wooden platform to collect bird poo) which means there are huge numbers of Cape Cormorants around. Rare birds frequently show up here. It can be good for Terns.
    Links: This is my regular spot, and so I post frequently about it on this blog about the area.

  3. Swakop Sewage Works
    Description: A small area, but packed full of birds. It is in the middle of town. It's a great area to see ducks and things like that, not often seen on the more open lagoon and wetlands. It is, though, a sewage works area, and may not appeal to everyone. The area is closed after working hours and on weekends.
    Links: I also visit this area somewhat regularly, and so it will also feature in this blog.

  4. Swakop River Mouth
    Description: A small wetland at the mouth of the Swakop River just separated by the Atlantic by a short stretch of beach. The wetland is small, but can be a rewarding birding site. We do monthly counts of the area, and recently had an American Golden Plover as a fun rarity for twitchers.
    Link: I also regularly count this spot, and participate when I can in the monthly counts. A recent bit of excitement has been the river flooding.
    I found a site that has a short video of the Swakop River Mouth. Nothing fancy but it gives you an idea. They were not super birders and I left a little comment you can check out at the bottom of the post. Check it out here

  5. The Gravel Plains
    Description: The Gravel Plains are fast areas of desert devoid of Dunes for the most part, and often covered by small gravelly rocks or with a gypsum crust. Nearby Swakopmund the main reason to visit the gravel plains is to see Lichens, but for birders, one of Namibia's near endemic birds is only found on these plains, the Grey's Lark.

  6. The Kuiseb River
    Description: The Kuiseb river makes a fascinating desert outing and for birders it gives a chance to see some of the typical Namibian birds that one doesn't often see at the coast. The Kuiseb river blocks the northward march of the Namib Sand Sea, Namibia's largest dune field, and the vegetated dunes on the river's south bank is a great place to find Namibia's only totally endemic bird, the Dune Lark.
    Links: Some info can be found at the Gobabeb Training and Research Center's website.

  7. Further out
    Description: If you stay in Walvis Bay you could do a trip out for a day or a couple days. This may be an ideal way to do a good bit of local birding, and may suit South Africans very nicely. Perhaps a night in Omaruru or the Erongo mountains and then a night up to Damaraland and back to Swakopmund. There are many options for this kind of arrangement. If you would like to do this kind of birding trip, get hold of me or contact Safari Wise.

There is more useful information in NACOMA'S website.

Email me for recommendations on accommodation if you like.

If you plan to visit the area, you may find there books useful. Get them from Amazon: Birding in Namibia and Sasol Birds of Southern Africa.

Namibia is one of the safest and logistically simple countries in Africa to visit. It is rewarding for birders and nature lovers. The central coastal area's wetlands are especially special for birding as it holds a few wet areas along a huge desert coast, where rain seldom falls at all. It's interesting, rewarding, beautiful, perhaps a little strange, and well worth a visit. For more information about Namibia, please contact me. If you enjoyed this post please share it with others who may be interested or bookmark it on social media sites. You are most welcome to leave a comment.
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