Weekend Trip to Swakopmund, Namibia

Authored by:
Ciara L.

Hi everyone! This post is one that I am so excited to write, because after returning from Namibia last week, I can't wait to share all of the fun things we did! On Friday morning, we left Kanye, where we had spent the week, and loaded up into a combi to head for Namibia. When we are in Gaborone, we have a friend named Bethel, who is a close friend of our program director. He owns a combi and multiple taxis, and he is very helpful in giving us rides whenever we need to get around! So, when he heard we were planning a trip for the long weekend, he offered to drive us and be our guide in Namibia, because he has been taking students there for almost ten years! So, we packed our bags into the combi and we were on our way. The drive to Namibia was ridiculously long - more than 15 hours! But, Bethel recommended that we only drive 10-12 hours on the first day, and stop for the night and then continue in the morning. So, we drove 12 hours from Kanye to Windhoek, which is the capital city of Namibia. When we arrived it was very late and quite dark, but we were surprised to see how urban and developed the city was. There were skyscrapers and city buses, much like a city you'd find in the US and very different from Gaborone, which is the capital city of Botswana.

We arrived at our hostel in Windhoek around 11pm, and we were all so happy to be out of the car and to have warm beds to rest in. During our time in Kanye leading up to our long weekend, there was no wifi in any of our homestays, so we were also very happy to be able to have internet connection to reconnect with out families once we arrived! After having nice showers, complete with running water (which we also did not have in Kanye), we headed for bed in preparation of the next day's drive.

Saturday morning we left our hostel after a nice breakfast, and started the four hour journey to Swakopmund, a coastal town on the Atlantic ocean. By the time we arrived, we had driven directly through the country of Namibia, and we were so glad to be there! Swakopmund is the perfect balance of a town that is accessible for tourists, while also being authentic and showing us Namibian culture. Namibia was formerly a Dutch colony, so while most people there speak English, a majority of people also speak German! We spent our first day wandering around the town, where we found loads of cute antique shops, art stores, and coffee shops. It was such an amazing blend of an African town, while feeling like we were in Europe and also being lucky enough to be right on the water! Our hostel was only a two minute walk to the beach, and we spent each evening on the sand, watching the sunset and looking for rocks and seashells.

Sunday, we woke up and we were ready for a day of adventure!! We had previously found a company called Desert Xplorers, who provide a variety of excursions in the Namibian Desert. That's the other beautiful thing about Swakopmund - it was an adorable town that had the beautiful ocean on one side, and the most picturesque desert on the other! It was truly the best of both worlds. So, first thing Sunday morning the 11 of us headed out on a tour of the desert, and we were riding ATVs! I'm not gonna lie, I was really nervous at first, because I had no clue how to drive this huge piece of machinery and I was nervous that I'd flip over and hurt myself. However, once we got going, I became comfortable really quickly and realized how much fun it was! Some of us even began to stand up while we were driving, which just made it even more exciting (sorry mom!). We zoomed through the desert for about an hour, stopping once to take photos. I can honestly say that it was one of the most fun and exhilarating experiences I have ever had; I felt like I was flying! After riding for about an hour, we arrived at the top of a huge sand dune. We parked our ATVs and spent a few minutes just taking in our surroundings. It was like we were in a painting! The sand dunes honestly did not seem real, and it was crazy to think that we were just a short drive away from civilization. Then, it was time for the highlight of the day - sandboarding! Now this is something that I originally didn't think I wanted to do, because as much as I love the beach, I'm really not a fan of having sand in every nook and crevice of my body. But, I'm so glad I did it because it was so much fun! We hiked to the top of a monstrous sand dune, where our guides were waiting for us, Then, one at a time, we laid on our stomachs on little mats and began to slide down the dune. It was very similar to sledding, but definitely better to be in the sun than in the snow! Once we got to the bottom, it was a ridiculous climb back to the top. This, coupled with the heat, mean that most of us only went down the hill two or three times, and by the end we were completely wiped. But, that didn't stop us from enjoying our ride back on our ATVs! By the time we got back to Desert Xplorers, I was tired, but I was really sad that our tour had ended.

But, the fun wasn't over yet, because our next activity of the day was a camel ride!! We even had Bethel, and his friend Nature who had come along with us, join us on the ride, and they were so thrilled and had such a good time! My camel's name was Wet Thunder, and he was very vocal and scared the crap out of me many times, but overall was well behaved and didn't throw me off of him, so I'd call it a success. We we led by guides back out into the desert, where we stopped for pictures before heading back. I had head before that some people don't find camel rides enjoyable because they're incredible uncomfortable. While I had so much fun on the ride, I do have to agree that it wasn't the most comfortable - I walked away after our 30 minute ride with some bruises on my legs from the saddle! It was definitely an awesome experience though, and very fun to see the different personalities of the camels and to see how much fun everyone was having!

After the camel ride we headed back to the hostel for some much-needed showers, and then we all decided to get a little dressed up and go for dinner to a local restaurant. We had an amazing meal, and then headed home to get a good night's sleep to prepare for another exciting day!

Monday morning we woke up and I couldn't wait for the day to get started. We had been looking forward to this day for weeks - we were going skydiving!! I'm a huge wimp when it comes to heights, but I had decided that this was a once in a life time kind of trip, and I knew I'd regret it if I didn't do it. Our skydiving appointment was at 2pm, so in the morning we set off on a boat cruise in the Atlantic Ocean to look for dolphins, whales, and seals! We didn't have to look far, because once we boarded the boat, we saw that a seal had climbed aboard and was waiting for us on the ship! He was so cute and friendly, and was slipping and sliding all over the deck. As we headed out from the harbor, he slid off of the boat and into the water, but he followed us around for most of the ride! We were able to go to the front of the boat and lay out in the sun as we watched for dolphins and whales. We did spot one whale, but it was pretty far away, however we had some more friends join us onboard the boat - a group of pelicans! They were very friendly and were trying to sneak our food from us, and were obviously not big fans of the seagulls that kept trying to hover around us. They stayed in the ship for most of our ride, just hanging out and interacting with everyone! The highlight of the ride was reaching a long stretch of the beach where there was hundreds, if not thousands, of seals!! It was the most beautiful landscape, with a lighthouse and beautiful white sand, and there were seals basking in the sun and even some who were frolicking in the water - they were so fun to watch and they even swam up to our boat to splash and play! I wish we could've gotten out and swam with them, but since it's winter here, we would've been very cold in the 50 degree water :)

When we returned from the boat, we were greeted with some bad news from Desert Xplorers - they had been in contact with the pilot of our skydiving plane and they thought that it was going to be too windy for us to skydive. But, we still had about an hour to go until 2pm, so we hung around hoping for the weather to clear up so we could jump! Sadly, it didn't, and our skydiving trip was cancelled :( So, we joined the rest of our group who wasn't skydiving, grabbed some lunch, and set off exploring the town again. We did a lot of shopping, wandering, and eventually found ourselves back at the beach in time for the sunset. We had an early morning the next day, so we headed to bed early. The next morning, we all packed into the combi at 5am, and headed towards Gaborone. Our drive ended up being 18 hours, but even though it was long we kept each other entertained, and it ended up being not-terrible. We arrived late at night, and I was so excited to go to sleep, because between Kanye and Namibia, we had been traveling for over a week!!

It was a really great weekend to end our first month here in Gaborone, and with all of the things going on in the next few weeks, it'll be August, and the end of our program, before I know it!

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