Walvis Bay, Namibia

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Sitting between the Namib Desert and the Atlantic Ocean, Namibia's Walvis Bay sparkles in colors both vivid and varied, from its golden beaches, blue waters and deep-pink flamingos on the coast to the red-and-tan dunes of the nearby desert and the brightly painted colonial buildings of Swakopmund, just over 40 kilometers, or 24 miles, to the north. Its unique biological diversity includes abundant marine life, particularly seals, sea turtles, dolphins and whales—in fact, the bay's name comes from the Afrikaans word for whale. To take in the scope of this paradise for birders and photographers, the area around Walvis Bay is best explored on the move: on a sightseeing flight above the massive Sossusvlei clay and salt pan, in an off-road vehicle across the shifting desert landscape, or aboard a catamaran or kayak to meet the curious wildlife. As one of the few deepwater ports on the southwest African coast, the bay has been coveted by Britain, Germany and South Africa, and it has changed hands many times. Most visitors, however, come for its timeless and natural sights: the desert sands and tranquil wildlife-filled lagoons.