I like contrasts. In nature, in photography and in my life in general. One of the most extreme examples in my home country of Namibia is Walvis Bay, where you have the contrast between the dry Namib Desert just outside Walvis Bay and the pink brilliance of over 50,000 flamingos in the lagoon just a few hundred yards away.
The two tourist towns of Walvis Bay and Swakopmund on the West Coast are very important sanctuaries for hundreds of thousands of resident and migrating waterbirds. The Walvis Bay lagoon and salt pans are regarded as the most important coastal wetland in southern Africa, as over 150,000 migrant birds spend the summer months here, with non-breeding Palearctic and intra-African species dominating. The famous Mile 4 Saltworks just north of Swakopmund supports similar species.
Over 150 different bird species have been recorded in this area. The usual suspects are Greater and Lesser flamingos, South African Shelduck, African Black Oystercatcher, Hartlaub’s Gull, Damara Tern, Chestnut-banded Plover, Black-necked Grebe, Cape Gannet, Crowned Cormorant, Black-tailed Godwit and Red-necked Phalarope. The more rare vagrants include Broad-billed, Pectoral and Terek Sandpipers.
Although there are many rare and special species, it’s the sheer number and diversity of birds that is the major attraction of visiting the Walvis Bay/Swakopmund area. The best time for birders is between October and April when the visiting migrants are around.
For general naturalists like myself, there are also other attractions. 11 types of chameleons, lizards and geckos, and 13 species of mammal (including Pygmy Rock Mouse, Littledale’s Whistling Rat and Setzer’s Hairy-footed Gerbil) reside in the area.
I have never had birding friends or clients visit this area and leave disappointed. This area is a must stop both as a destination on its own or as part of a longer Namibia birding itinerary.
With training in guiding and veterinary science, Nick Buys’ work in the field and passion for birds resulted in him setting up Nature Travel Namibia, through which he guides specialist trips around the country as well as the rest of Africa. www.naturetravelnamibia.com