Cape Cross Seals
Cape Cross is open daily from 10:00 to 17:00. Permits are obtainable from the office at Cape Cross. Admission fees are payable, which include a fee per vehicle and a fee per person. No accommodation is available, only drinking water and toilets. Pets and motorcycles are not allowed inside the reserve.
The Cape fur seal is the biggest of the nine fur seal species in the world and breeds only on the west coast of southern Africa.
Cape Cross is home to a breeding colony of between 200 000 and 250 000 Cape fur seals. Decreases in fish resources caused by fluctuations in the upwelling system, from time to time results in mass mortalities although their numbers normally recover quickly. It seems that nature has its own way of keeping the seal populations in check.
The cows give birth in late November and early December after a nine-month gestation period. The bulls, eating an equivalent of eight percent of their body weight each day, weigh approximately 360 kilos when they return in October to establish a harem of 5 to 25 cows each, which they protect fiercely. Within days of giving birth in November/December the cows mate again. Although the period of pregnancy is less than 12 months, pupping takes place exactly a year later as the cow has the ability of delaying implantation of the embryo in the uterus.
Due to all the activity from fighting and mating, many pups are squashed to death by careless movements of the great bulls. The pups also fall prey to scavengers, such as black-backed jackal and brown hyena.
Cape Cross seals have been exploited for their skins and other products since 1895. Today the seal population is controlled by culling and seals are culled at Cape Cross on a controlled and regular basis. Quotas are given every year by the Government for the harvesting of seals, depending on their numbers.
Thinking of the Namib Desert huge sand dunes immediately spring to mind, but different to the massive sand sea of the southern desert the central and northern Namib Desert are characterized by the Namib plains with inselbergs and rocky outcrops.
The wonder plant, Welwitschia mirabilis is endemic to the Namib Desert and some of them are believed to be 1 000 to 1 500 years old. Although it appears otherwise, the plant has only two leaves, which grow continually from the base, even in the absence of rain. The leaves are apparently able to take up fog-water, although the root, which extends three meters into the ground, is well adapted to find any available moisture in the gravel where the plant lives. Though the annual growth of a leaf in a dry year can be 10 to 20 cm, it can be up to10cm a month during a wet year.
Lichens, plants that may even be older than Welwitschia mirabilis, occur in great numbers in the fog zone along the coast and are also extremely sensitive to damage. There are several hundred species of lichen and some species are believed to live for thousands of years. Lichens are the result of a symbiotic relationship between algae and fungi. The fungus portion of a plant provides the physical support, while the algae carries out the photosynthesis that provides food and energy. Lichens are able to use moisture from humid air as well as from fog.
Saltpans and lagoons in different stages of evolution occur all along the coastline while the soil inland in the fog-belt consists mainly of gypsum. Gypsum soil are extremely sensitive to damage from off-road driving, and tracks on these surfaces persist for decades.
About 44 km from Henties Bay you will come across the Lagunen Hills on the eastern side of the road across from the salt pond. Here black rocks are covered with crustose lichens and present a spectacular view of green, orange, grey and black, especially early in the morning when the fog is still present. The westward facing hills intercept a great amount of fog, which sustain the growth of the lichens.
You will notice the interesting forms of the eroded rocks. Erosion is mainly due to salt that crystallizes in the rock pores. Many plants and insects can be found on these hills. Desert plants such as dollar bush and bushmen’s candle grow amongst the eroded rocks.
Look out for a small blackish gecko with white spots and stripes. This gecko is diurnal (active during the day) and is known as Peter’s gecko. By lifting the rocks carefully many other insects and beetles may be spotted. Please take care to put every stone back in its original place.
Rocks must not be removed from these hills.
Lichens are the result of a symbiotic relationship between algae and fungi. The fungus portion of a plant provides the physical support, while the algae carries out the photosynthesis that provides food and energy. Lichens are able to use moisture from humid air as well as from fog.
When looking closely at lichens you will notice that the colour and form vary considerably. Some are crustose, lying flat upon rocks or on gypsum soil crust. Others are foliose with aerial parts standing up off the soil surface. they may range from orange to green, grey, black or brown.
Lichens often grow where gypsum is near the surface, being one reason why it is so easily destroyed. Along the Messum Crater Route you will find one of the richest lichen stretches in the Namib Desert, characterized by mostly green foliose lichen.
When viewing green lichen it is good to do it early in the morning when it is still moist from fog or pour a little water on it to experience their vivid colours when the leaves curl open during photosynthesis.
The Damara Tern, one of the rarest seabirds in southern Africa, make their nests in shallow scrapes on the ground amongst the lichens, which provide an excellent camouflage for eggs and chicks. Their nesting grounds are always between the coastal road and the sea; therefore their habitat is threatened by thoughtless and reckless off-road driving.
PLEASE TAKE CARE NOT TO LEAVE THE EXISTING ROADS.
The Omaruru River offers the opportunity for various activities such as walking, 4×4 driving as well as excellent picnic sites. The “old fig tree” is a well-known and popular picnic site not far from Henties Bay.
Overnight camping in the Dorob Park south of the Omdel Dam is not allowed.
One can also drive up the sandy river bed past the Omdel Dam to the Skoenklip and exit the river at Lêwater to follow the route to the Spitzkoppe – or vice versa.
Overnight camping north of the Omdel dam is allowed, but make sure you do not attempt that during the rainy season.
GPS coordinates are available from the Tourist Office.
Omdel (Omaruru Delta) Dam
The Omaruru River has large paleo (very old) deltas filled with sand and gravel to form large underground freshwater reservoirs (aquifer).
The purpose of the Omdel dam is to temporarily store ephemeral floodwaters in a large reservoir upstream of the aquifer. This storage would allow the settling of the fine suspended sediment so that clean water can be released in a controlled manner to infiltration areas over the Omdel Aquifer to feed 16 boreholes further down the river.
The aim is to transfer the contents of the reservoir to the aquifer during the dry season so that if there were a consecutive good rainy season, there would be storage space available in the reservoir.
The area offers picnic sites, various bird species, especially when there is water in the dam, and interesting desert adapted plants as well as riverine vegetation.
To reach the Omdel Dam take the C35 to Uis for ±27 km then turn right and follow the small track for 14 km to the Omdel Dam wall. Alternatively the Omaruru River course can be followed with a 4×4 to reach the dam – only during the dry season.
The Spitzkoppe is situated about 100 km from Henties Bay on the D1918 to Usakos. It is probably the best-known and most famous landmark in Namibia, known as the Matterhorn of Africa. It offers fascinating rock formations, rock paintings, picnic and camping sites. Remember that mountaineering equipment is needed for any attempt to get to the top.
An entrance fee is payable at the office where semi-precious stones are for sale at the kiosk.
Camping at Spitzkoppe is world famous. A mountain oasis in the Namib desert, with unique oversized boulders and secret caves, allows the visitor to camp in complete peace and tranquility. With the majestic Namibian “Matterhorn” as backdrop, and with the next camping site kilometers away, each visitor “owns” the mountain during his time with us.
Please visit http://www.spitzkoppe.com/index.php/site/index for more info.
The Brandberg is the highest mountain in Namibia and literally means “burning mountain”. It is situated about 158 km from Henties Bay and can be reached by the C35 via Uis to Kamanjab.
Local guides from the Brandberg Community Project will accompany visitors to the famous painting of the White Lady, situated in the Tsisab Gorge as well as to Maack’s Shelter and “The Girl’s School”. This requires a strenuous climb of about 1½ hour into the mountain. They also offer guided tours to the Ga-aseb Gorge, Amis Gorge and the Koningstein summit.
Permission should be requested in writing from the National Heritage Council Namibia (NHC) in order to undertake hiking up the Brandberg Mountain.