Today was a day of rest. As such, I slept in until 07h00, washed, dressed and headed off for breakfast. Whilst there were some other tourists in the room, I was the only one from our group. Taking coffee, bacon and eggs, I dined slowly ensuring that I finished at 08h00, the time at which my free day would start.
Pieter arrived exactly on schedule. We shook hands and he let me to his car. Five minutes later, we were at another hotel where he collected six Germans. It appeared that I was going to spend my entire time in Southern Africa having to speak anything but English!
Swakopmund was cold when we set off across the desert road to Walvis Bay. The entire journey was shrouded in mist, which is not uncommon in an area where the desert literally meets the sea. Go inland by 100 yards and you'll find a clear blue sky, but on most days of the year, there will be a sea mist for most of the morning. Indeed, Swakopmund boats some 330 misty days per year!
We arrived in Walvis Bay at 08h45 and were instructed to wait on the jetty until
Pieter had gone out to his boat, prepared it and brought it to the jetty. A little after 09h00, I found myself on a glistening white catamaran, with six Germans and a South African, heading out into the Atlantic to search for dolphins and whales.
We'd not gone very far when a big black head appeared over the stern. A fur seal, looking for food, clambered aboard and sat on one of the chairs, waiting. Pieter came down from the pilot's chair and spoke about the fur seal, showing us just how waterproof the fur was by lifting it and indicating the depth of water penetration, which was virtually nothing!
After feeding the seal, we were joined by a squadron of Great White Pelican who swam along side the boat in unison, swimming backwards and forwards, turning together as though it was all choreographed.
The sea was completely flat and, by this time, the mist had disappeared and the sky was a deep blue. Even at sea, it was hot. We headed towards some oyster beds with Pieter explaining that the warm water and quantity of plankton enabled the oysters to grow four times faster than in
other parts of the world. 80% of the harvest was bought by China, with the remainder for the home market.
Heading for the lighthouse on the headland, we ran parallel with the shore when we received a report of dolphins in the area. We joined our sister-ship as she headed at speed for open sea. In her wake, two dolphins were enjoying the turbulent water and were swimming alongside. Pieter positioned the boat such that we were able to take photographs away from the sun.
Later, we encountered our own dolphins and watch as they played in our wake and in the wash from our bows, passing between the pontoons forming the catamaran and under the boat. It was a remarkable experience watching as the dolphins played. Indeed, our pilot later told me that in seven years of piloting the catamaran, he had only had such an experience twice before. This trip was honestly turning out to be animal magic!
Fast approaching lunchtime, we were served sherry whilst watching the birds, (Pelican, Cormorant and Gull) followed by a superb champagne lunch on deck. Chicken, samosa, meatballs, prawns, calamari, salad all went down (with the Champagne) very well
- it's not often one gets the chance to have a Champagne lunch on a catamaran in the heat off the Namibian Desert.
Back on land, I discovered that I'd been the only one to enjoy a day off as the others had simply looked around town
. What a day!!!
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