About Sandwich Harbour
Seals, scenery, shipwrecks, and seabirds galore
Sandwich Harbour, also known as Sandwich Bay, is a birder’s paradise located in the Erongo area of Namibia within the Namib-Naukluft National Park. It’s a RAMSAR site (“a wetland site designated to be of international importance”) and an amazing wetland wilderness devoid of human habitation.
Sandwich Harbour is an important ecological area and home to eight endangered species. It’s an extremely arid place, where you’ll see vast sand dunes running directly into the sea as well as archaeological sites, pink salt lakes, a lagoon, and a bird sanctuary.
Sandwich Harbour nestles on the shores of the Atlantic Ocean, about 60 km from Walvis Bay. It also makes for an interesting day trip from Swakopmund about 200 km distant.
Human habitation of the Sandwich Bay area dates back thousands of years. Early inhabitants included hunter-gatherers, surviving off hunting and scavenging along the shores.
Archaeological evidence suggests that seafood became increasingly important to these early people from around 2 000 years ago. Around 1 000 years ago, nomadic pastoralists moved into the Sandwich Bay area, but it’s largely abandoned today.
In 1486, Diego Cão sailed into this natural harbour, and named it Port d’Ilheo, meaning Point of the Island.
By the 19th century, Sandwich Bay had evolved into an important commercial fishing and trading port, supporting whaling, guano collecting, fish processing, and beef canning. It was an important supply harbour when Germany occupied South West Africa in 1884.
In 1890 the sand spit protecting the natural harbour broke off. This made the bay too shallow for ships to enter and they shifted their focus to Swakopmund, abandoning Sandwich Harbour to the whims of the desert.
In 1930, sand was pumped into the lagoon in order to establish a guano island, but the local marauding jackals soon put paid to that idea by scaring the birds away.
Finally, in 1941, with no glimmer of a commercially oriented future, it was incorporated into the Namib-Naukluft National Park.
Most accommodation options for visitors to Sandwich Harbour are in Walvis Bay, where you’ll find the usual array of campsites, guest houses and hotels to choose from.
Most people choose to visit Sandwich Harbour on 4×4 guided tours from Walvis Bay. These excursions include the following options:
- Sundowner Photography Outings
The Kuiseb river delta sets the scene for a blazing sunset punctuated by appearances of local fauna. Participants might get to see jackal, oryx and springbok during this occasion. Weather permitting, the tour includes a drive along the beach to see one of Namibia’s five RAMSAR sites.
- Visiting the Shawnee Shipwreck
The Shawnee met its fate in 1976 near Conception Bay. Today, it lies high on the beach, exposed to the ravages of the wind and sand. This tour includes a chance to walk in the desert and view some of the wetlands from concealed hides along the way.
- Dramatic Fashion Photoshoots
This indulgent photo shoot offers unique opportunities to commemorate a special occasion or create promotional material. It includes oysters, champagne, delicious snacks, a professional photographer, and a makeup artist.
- Scenic Excursions
These half-day tours include a chance to see and photograph some of the area’s abundant birds amid dramatic desert and coastal scenes.
- Catamaran Rides
Catamaran rides along these wild shores present opportunities to see a host of birds close up as well as whales and dolphins at play.
- Cultural Excursions
A four-hour trip from Walvis Bay to the Kuiseb Delta Concession reveals fascinating insights into the Topnaar people’s traditional way of life.
- Other activities
These include bird watching and exploring the archaeological sites of the area, including ancient Khoi settlements and fossilized animal footprints.
Fauna and Flora
Birdwatching is a major activity at Sandwich Bay, thanks to over 100 species of birds recorded in and around this ‘Wetland of International Importance’’.
Here you’ll get to see vast flocks of flamingos, as well as rare chestnut-banded plovers, and turnstones. Around 170 000 avocets, pelicans, and other waders visit the area during November, and you might see Dune larks and Damara terns among the desert sands.
Over 40 000 birds thrive in the lagoon environment of Sandwich Harbour, and you might even spot a colony of seals during a walk along the beach.
You can only access Sandwich Harbour from Walvis Bay and you’ll need a 4×4 to navigate the ever-shifting sands. Most people choose guided tours, but self-drive excursions are allowed, provided you take a guide with you.
Discover More of Namibia’s Mysteries
Namibia is filled with some of the world’s most unique sites. From the depths of the Fish River Canyon to the vast expanses of the Etosha Salt Pan.
Explore these destinations and more by browsing through our travel blog and start planning your trip to one of the world’s most fascinating destinations.
Remember, Windhoek is your gateway to the Land of Sand, so book your accommodation at Arebbusch Travel Lodge and get your trip off to the best possible start.
Please Note: The details shared herein were correct at the time of publishing. However, with time some of this information may change. We recommend confirming information with suppliers prior to making final travel arrangements. If you do happen to find an issue with any information we’ve shared here, please feel free to contact us so that we can make the relevant changes.