Swakopmund, Namibia
22° 40' S 14° 31' E
Aug 09, 2008 22:46
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A visit to the Snake Park, Museum & Aquarium

We had breakfast at 0845hrs in the Hansa Hotel dining room. We knew what to expect and everyone went for his or her respective favourites. Ailsa of course had three bowls of Coco Pops and very little else. I started with German bread, cheese, and salami with pickled herring on the side. The limited fried breakfast came afterwards. Ruth and Erin were more restrained. It was nice to relax over a reasonable cup of tea. The Hansa provided pewter pots of hot water and I took care of the rest. English breakfast tea was the best on offer.

At 0945hrs we walked to the Living Desert Snake Park located at the Otavi Bahnhof on Sam Nujoma Avenue. Their leaflet states that snake feeding occurs at 1000hrs on Saturday, however there was no snake feeding today. Instead we had a cursory look at two rooms of snake cabinets and then went outside so that Erin & Ailsa could have their picture taken with a python. They also have a large lizard at the ‘Park’, which wandered about outside the building in the sun.

We walked to Woermann House. You cannot exactly miss it with its very distinctive tower. The building now serves as a public library and art gallery but it has an interesting past connected of course with the development of the German colony.

"The house of Damara and Namaqua Trading Company was designed by architect Mr. Friedrich Hoft.
The building was completed in 1905. The tower was named ''Damara Tower'' from where observers used to look for ships in the ocean and ox wagons in the desert.

In April 1909 the Damara and Namaqua Trading Company sold all its shares to the company C. Woermann and to their shareholders and was renamed to ''Woermann Brock & Co. which is the present day name. Mr. Carl Woermann (1813-1880) was a founder of the company which also owned Woermann Line.

In April 1907 Prince Albrecht of Prussia stayed in the Woermann House when he attended annual gathering in Fabersaal where 150 people were invited. During this time he named the three front rooms ''Vorstekamers''. The Woermann House was most of the time fully occupied by workers and students who attended schools in Swakopmund. Boers who travelled with ox wagons to Swakopmund to buy their groceries and other supplies also stayed in the House.

On the 18th of June 1924 Woermann Brock Co. sold the erf with the Woermann House to the Administrator of South West Africa and on the 10th of December the building was declared a historic monument. On the 1st of July 1975 the building was given to Swakopmund administration. In 1976 Woermann House was restored at the final costs of R230 000."

After this we made our way to the Mole area and the children’s playground. We passed the Lighthouse and the Government buildings surrounding it. It turns out that these were not lighthouse keeper accommodation but the Kaiserliches Bezirksgericht (Magistrate’s Court), which dates from 1901. Since 1990 it has served as the summer residence of the President of Namibia. No wonder I got chased yesterday!

I decided to go and look at the Swakopmund Museum whilst the children (with Ruth) opted to paddle in the sea.

"The Swakopmund Museum is the largest privately run museum in Namibia. It was founded in 1951 by the dentist Dr. Alfons Weber."

Without the children and having spent the princely sum of N$20 I made time to carefully examine of the exhibits associated with the German colony. As you enter there is a large collection of stuffed animals but I was mostly interested in colonial history. Some examples are called for:

In April 1894 a postrunner service commenced between Swakopmund and Windhoek via Otjimbingwe. The native runners went on foot and by changing runners at Otjimbingwe, post could be delivered in eight days. This service was discontinued in 1897 with the completion of the railway.

Lieutenant Edmund Troost arrived in Walvis Bay in 1896 with a steam tractor (traction engine) bound for Swakopmund. It took him three months to get there on account of the engine constantly getting bogged down in sand. The distance between the two settlements is less than 25 miles. Once he got there the ‘road locomotive’ started hauling supplies to Nonidas and Heigamchab as intended. Unfortunately in 1897 the engine broke down for good due to poor servicing and lack of spares. It stands about two miles from the centre of Swakopmund at the side of the main road to Windhoek. Today the traction engine is called the Martin Luther, after a quote from the famous German Theologian, who stated, "Here I stand, I cannot do otherwise."

In 1914 boats were moved by rail from Swakopmund to Omaruru to stop them falling into the hands of South African Union forces.

The Museum also has a large exhibit on the Rossing open cast mine, which removes Uranium ore from the ground. This is then turned into Uranium Oxide for use in nuclear power stations. The exhibit states that one drum of Uranium Oxide is equal to 25,000 drums of crude oil with no harmful omissions. Having remembered the fallout from Chernobyl I am not convinced of the green credentials of nuclear power.

The Museum also has a section dedicated to the Namibian people, which was opened by the Namibian Prime Minister Hage Geingob in 2001. I learned that the Caprivi Strip touched Zimbabwe where the Chobe flows into the Zambezi River. I also saw a guitar made out of a Diesel oil can. A most educational museum.

We returned to the Hansa Hotel after the children had an opportunity to swim at the beach and play in the paddling pool. I was concerned because the sun was quite hot and we had no sun cream for the children. They had not bathing costumes but were keen to swim in their underwear. I suppose this was what I did back home at their age (such a long time ago). I believe that the world was in black and white then!

In the afternoon we headed out again to the Aquarium, located at the junction of Swakop and Strand. The National Marine Aquarium of Namibia is nothing to write home about. I recall the Aquarium in Monterey, California. You can easily spend half a day there, whereas the Swakopmund Aquarium takes less than an hour. In reality the most interesting part is the hand feeding of fish and turtles by divers at 1500hrs. The Aquarium has one main tank and all the tourists were crammed round for the spectacle. There is also a tunnel along the bottom of the tank. It was interesting to see the fish pass over your head. Once this was done (the feeding) the Aquarium quickly reverted to a ghost town. The children did enjoy watching the feeding session. They were fascinated by the sharks and large fish.

"One of the new attractions is the Aquarium of Swakopmund which opened in 1995. It shows examples of the marine life along the Namibian coast in a couple of seawater basins, the biggest having a volume of 350 cubic metres. Among many other fish species, stingrays and sharks can be seen. Daily at 3 o'clock pm the fishes are being hand-fed by divers. Very impressive!"

We walked along the beach in the direction of The Tug Restaurant. The children tried to make sandcastles in the face of an incoming tide. I noted in the distance a ship I had seen yesterday. It appeared to be in the same position and being pounded by waves. It lay in the direction of Walvis Bay. I wondered if it had gone aground and was a wreck? We continued back to our hotel.

In the evening we had dinner in the hotel restaurant. I didn’t relish the thought of eating out and walking across town in the dark again. I asked the General Manager, Mr Stephan Wacker, about the history of the artillery shell cartridge cases located throughout the hotel. He stated that they were South African army surplus left over from the fighting in Angola. I took the opportunity to inspect one and measure the diameter. These 155mm (6.5 inch) cartridge cases had their percussion caps removed and were filled with sand. I presume they were designed for use with heavy artillery. The South Africans used to produce some excellent field guns.

We had an excellent meal at the Hansa Hotel. I am glad we booked because every table was full. I had tomato and orange soup followed by Oryx fillet stuffed with duck liver pate. Ruth had octopus as a starter followed by a game main course. Erin had Warthog and Ailsa had soup followed by Spaghetti.

Photos / videos of "A visit to the Snake Park, Museum & Aquarium":

Erin & Ailsa Burnett on the beach at Swakopmund, Namibia. Erin & Ailsa Burnett on the veranda of our suite at the Hansa Hotel, Swakopmund, Namibia. A lizard outside the Living Desert Snake Park, Swakopmund, Namibia. Erin Burnett looking at the lizard outside the Living Desert Snake Park, Swakopmund, Namibia. Erin Burnett holding a python outside the Living Desert Snake Park, Swakopmund, Namibia. Erin & Ailsa Burnett holding a python outside the Living Desert Snake Park, Swakopmund, Namibia. Erin & Ailsa Burnett holding a python outside the Living Desert Snake Park, Swakopmund, Namibia. Erin Burnett holding a python outside the Living Desert Snake Park, Swakopmund, Namibia. Ailsa Burnett at the National Marine Aquarium of Namibia. Erin Burnett at the National Marine Aquarium of Namibia. Ruth, Erin & Ailsa Burnett at the National Marine Aquarium of Namibia. Ailsa Burnett at the National Marine Aquarium of Namibia. Erin Burnett at the National Marine Aquarium of Namibia. National Marine Aquarium of Namibia, Swakopmund. Woermann House, Swakopmund, Namibia. Woermann House, Swakopmund, Namibia. Woermann House, Swakopmund, Namibia.