South Africa


Dolphins of the Namib Desert
April 2014

This trip is to look for the Heaviside's Dolphin endemic to the south-west coast of Africa. The name Heaviside's Dolphin was originally named after Captain Haviside, who brought a specimen from Namibia to the United Kingdom early in the 19th century. However, its name was once misspelled Heaviside, after a prominent surgeon, Captain Heaviside who collected cetacean and other animal species. The latter name though not quite correct, is the most common in the literature. Hence, there are two versions for the name of this dolphin. We chose to view this specially-patterned dolphin at Walvis Bay of Namibia.

Heaviside's dolphin is the second smallest dolphin in the world. But to see them clearly , you'll need luck and patience, as they are only in the mood to play around or get close to the boat occasionally. It is said that, if you get lucky, they can be rather playful.

This time, we had arranged ten days at sea with some chartered trips specially to look for this dolphin. Things started sluggish, with some sightings on the first day which was misty and just one or two Heaviside's Dolphin for quite a few days. But there were good days. It seemed one of them was picking up a playful mood and had a bowride at out catamaran for a few minutes to let everybody on board have a good look at him / her. And on the very last day, we chartered another trip before we got on the flight to have a last attempt. That day, three of them were quite friendly and played around our boat briefly for quite a few times. Three others even appeared near to the harbour with severe algal bloom, a place they seldom occur, to say goodbye to us.

Apart from this beautiful little dolphin, Atlantic Bottlenose Dolphins can also be found there. Sometimes, they will get into the lagoon area where you can view them from shore (including our hotel room). This group of Bottlenose Dolphins are relatively large and can grow up to 4 meters long. We were lucky enough to see a large group of them passing by while we were on land and met two of them at sea. They also played around our boats for quite some time.

Oceanic dolphins can also be found if you venture out to deeper waters. We were lucky enough to have two encounters with some rarely seen Dusky Dolphins (a subspecies that is different from the usual Dusky Dolphins around New Zealand and Argentina) travelling pass the area while we were looking for the Heaviside's Dolphins. The second time we met them, they were jumpy and came to our boat to play for some time. The boat company said they usually see Dusky Dolphin only a few times in a year. What a lovely surprise from my beloved dolphin friends!

What else to see

Other wildlife and scenery on the boat tour

Walvis Bay Lagoon Area – a Ramsar Site

Greater Flamingos, Lesser Flamingos, sandpippers, various seagulls, cormorants, Great White Pelicans, Ruddy Turnstones, Plovers, Common Whimbrels, Terns, etc. can be found in the lagoon area. It is relaxing to spend some time walking along the promenade of the lagoon watching birds.

Sandwich Harbour

If you are up for some fun and adrenalin rush, take a 4x4 land rover tour to the Sandwich Harbour, a lagoon area 80km to the south of Walvis Bay accessible only during low tide. You'll find yourself going up and down sand dunes feeling a bit like roller coaster, slide down steep sand dunes, as well as riding on a vehicle right between the desert and the ocean. It is a very special experience you will remember for life. But be prepared for a really bumpy ride!


This place is often referred as the “German Town” as the place was ruled by Germans for some time in the past. It is roughly half an hours' scenic drive to the north of Walvis Bay. On the way, you can see the view of the Skeleton Coast with desert on one side and the Atlantic Ocean on the other side. Inside the town, you can find historical buildings and cafes of German menu.

Dune 7 and Quad Bike

Some people even go sandboarding at the Dune 7 for more fun. Have a try if you like surfing down the desert. Some people also take quad bike to drive on deserts. But be prepared for the hot baking sun.

Tour Companies:

Mola-Mola Boat Cruise – this is the one we took. They can help book the tour to Sandwich Harbour. There are a couple of other boats available too.

Point to Note:

When we were there, we encountered youngsters asking us for money on the street for twice (one during the day by three youngsters, once in the dark followed by one youngster). We refused to give them any and they asked for a few coins. We still refused and they went away. It was lucky that they had not taken further action. If they were poor kids or elderly, I would happily give them some money. The fact that they are strong young men and should find a job if they need money, there is no point to give them any. Apart from this, people with jobs are all very nice.

For more photos of this trip, you are most welcome to visit my online album: