4-12-2013 DAY 97 WALVIS BAY, NAMIBIA, AFRICA

This morning I took a HAL (ship) tour which Doug decided he didn’t want to do, so he just had a relaxing day, taking the shuttle into the town to explore.  My tour was called Dolphin and Seal Safari.  It was all on water, so it wasn’t your typical safari!  The local company the ship used was Mola Mola.

After a quick, five minute bus ride to the dock, we boarded an open skiP1160549 boat for a three hour cruise on Walvis Bay.  The water is typically calm here and abounds with bird and marine life. P1160553We had a better perspective of this harbor as a true working harbor when we were out in the boat.  You can see how our ship is all nestled in with the real working fishing boats.  Fishing is big business in Walvis Bay.   

Soon after we pulled away from the pier, Nick (our boat driver/guide)P1160562 took out some fish to feed the birds.  They would just fly in, take it out of his hand and fly on.  A large pelican took P1160566one of the fish and then settled down on top of the water to enjoy it.  In this picture, you can see the sharp point of the fish still in his large throat.  I also thought this pelican had an attractive face with the yellow and blue coloring on his head. 

The action continued when a seal climbed on board by way of the backP1160575 ladder to get his fish.  You can’t really say he is a “tame” seal since he lives in the wild, but he is one of the “named” seals who does this often for visitors – with fish being his P1160592reward.  Nick told us a lot about the seals here and how they live.  We were able to pat him gently and give his front flippers the “high five.”  I never realized that these seals had rather large toe nails on their back flippers.  Our guide explained that he believes the seals evolved from bears and used to walk upright on P1160603their back flippers which were more like feet with nails – – – a long time ago.  When he left our boat the same way he had entered, he went straight to the other boat that was part of our group tour and entertained them!

As we sped out into the bay, I noticed the color of the wake water.  It has a golden color to it.  This is because of the sane dunes that comeP1160606 right down to the water.  The water, especially closer to shore, has a lot of sand at the bottom and as it gets churned up, it gives the water this sand color.  I had never seen this before and thought it was worthy of a picture.

The next thing we saw were all these bright blue buoys in the water.  Actually, these carefully laid out rows are oyster farms.  Because the waterP1160626 is so cold here, oysters can not grow/live at the bottom of the bay, so oyster farmers put them in these cages that float closer to the top of the water where it is warmer and they can grow.  Like the fishing, oysters are a big business here.

We saw lots of dolphins swimming and jumping in this area as well.  I P1160638couldn’t get a very good picture of them because they were moving pretty quickly, but they were right next to our boat as well as swimming in the wake.  This is the best I could do!  It’s always fun to see these delightful animals playing in the water.  I never get tired of seeing them.   A little bit later, Nick slowed the boat down as we approached the smallest dolphins in the world.  They are skittish and go under the water quickly so we had toP1160679 approach slowly.  We only saw them for a minute as they jumped out of the water and then went under.  This is a picture of what they look like (I can’t remember the type they are – another Google when I get home!)

Next we approached Pelican Point, home to a large seal colony.  There P1160697were thousands of them lying on the sand, playing in the water, and out a bit further looking for food.  They lined P1160728this long sandy beach area which ended at the point.  From here we could also see the lighthouse which has solar panels next to it.  I actually took more video clips of these seals as they played in and out of the water.  It was fun to see the mother seals ushering the babies into the water all at once while the bull seal sat back on the sand resting and looking out over his large family group.  And they made a lot of noise with their seal barks.  I was just amazed at the number of them.  Since it is hard for me to take my pictures and listen to all the guide is saying, I will have to Google more info about these seals when I get home.  It was also too hard to take my notebook (where I usually take my notes) out on the water.

We stopped off this shallow sandy point and had a snack.  I was able toP1160743 get a picture of some of the flamingoes – this time the Greater Flamingo (yesterday I mainly saw the Lesser Flamingoes which are smaller and more pink.)  The ones today are larger and more white in color.  Nick opened bottles of P1160748champagne and put out a variety of snacks for us to enjoy.  The favorite was the platter of fresh oysters on the half shell!  Two days in a row for me to enjoy one of my favorite foods!  It was great.

That was the end of the tour, and it had been fun to see so many seals and some dolphins in their natural habitat here.  It was a cool, but great day to be on the water.  And as the day went on, the sun came out P1160775warming everything up.  After we got off the boat and took the van back to the ship, some of us stopped off at the gate to the shipyard to look at the crafts local vendors had laid out on their blankets.  I bought a few last minute African P1160773items and enjoyed meeting some of the local people.  I was also able to get this picture of two children enjoying a snack while Mom was selling her crafts.

I joined up with Doug back on the ship.  He said that there was nothing in the town so he only spent a short time there.  We had a quick lunch and then went to see a special performance that the ship had brought on.  This was not typical of any other performance.  This was a group of children and young teens from the Bernard Nordkamp Center, a non-profit center the ship sponsors.  In fact, the ship had two fundraisers and was able to donate over $6,000 to this group.  It started as a shelter for children whose parents had died, mainly from AIDS, but has grown P1160784into an education center for underprivileged kids because the leaders of this organization realized that the kids could only improve their lives if they were educated.  One of the programs they set up there was a choir made up of 35 children who traveled to get to our ship and perform for the passengers.  They wereP1160799 terrific and I took many video clips of them since they danced and sang.  They were so enthusiastic with big smiles. Before the performance, they had a tour of the ship and had a huge lunch and all the ice cream they could eat.  After the performance, they were loaded up with gifts and snacks to take back with them. They loved it – and so did everyone on the ship!

We went to the sail-away since it was overcast and foggy when weP1160856 sailed in yesterday.  The thing that I find so fascinating is that thesP1160858e huge sand dunes come right down to the ocean in some places along the coast.  And even when they are in the background, they are majestic and magical.

After the sun started going down, it got chilly up on deck, so the six of us (Barb, Charlie, Jack, BJ, Doug and I ) decided to have dinner together in the Canaletto restaurant.  It was the first time all six of us have had dinner together.  We’ve met lots of times for cocktails before and after dinner, but this was a first for dinner and it was such great fun.  Great way to end a very fun day.   

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