Cape Cross, Namibia
Cape Cross (German: Kreuzkap) is a small headland that is located in the South Atlantic on the Skeleton Coast in Western Namibia. It is situated approximately 120 km’s from the town of Swakopmund and 60 kilometers north of Henties Bay.
Cape Cross is a popular day trip for tourists from Swakopmund and self-drive travelers to Namibia can easily drive themselves to view Cape Cross. There are a number of well established and professional tour operators in Swakopmund that offer day trips to Cape Cross for those that prefer to relax and sit back and let somebody else do the driving.
Cape Cross was first discovered by the Portuguese explorer and navigator Diogo Cao in 1486. To mark his achievement he erected a ‘padrao’ (a stone cross). The original stone inscription has long since been removed and has since been replaced with a replica. The original Cape Cross ‘padrao’ was removed in 1893 by Captain Gottlieb Becker who was a commander of the SMS Falke of the German Navy. It was taken to Berlin and a simple wooden cross was used to replace it. About two years later this wooden cross was replaced by the stone replica.
Another cross which was more similar to the original one was erected at Cape Cross and there are now two crosses to be found at Cape Cross.
Cape Cross Seal Reserve
One of the largest seal reserves of Cape Fur Seals in the world is to be found at Cape Cross Seal Reserve. Today it is a protected area and is owned by the Namibian Government. Tourists are able to get reasonably close to these seals and view them from a raised wooden walkway. The sheer number of seals is remarkable! It has been estimated that between November and December that there are over 200000 Cape Fur seals. A permit is required to visit the seal reserve and this may be obtained from the office at Cape Cross. Cape Cross is open daily from 10:00 to 17:00
The smell from the seals can be overwhelming but don’t let that put you off. If you spend enough time viewing the seals you will get to witness all kinds of behavior. It is not uncommon for these seals to give birth right next to the raised walkway. You may also see a jackal or two walking right through the seals hoping to find an unattended baby seal to eat!
There are a total of 9 fur seal species in the world and the Cape Fur seal is the biggest of them. It is interesting to note that the Cape Fur Seal only breeds on the west coast of Southern Africa.
The bulls can weigh up to 360 kilograms when they return to Cape Cross usually in October. They then establish a harem of between 5 to 25 cows which they protect fiercely! The cows give birth in late November and early December after a nine-month gestation period.
Take plenty of water/drinks with you as there are no shops to be found in this area. The nearby Cape Cross Lodge & Campsite offers coffee and cake for the day visitor. Day visitors are also able to enjoy lunch at the lodge. This is an ideal lodge to stay at if you plan to explore further up the Skeleton Coast.
Cape Cross Museum
Within the Cape Cross Lodge one can visit the Cape Cross Museum which is open to the public. The museum is home to many remnants of past settlers who braved the relentless harsh elements of the desert. These early settlers mined the rich deposits of fossil guano and harvested the skins from the seals. Not many people are aware that the very first railway line in Namibia was established at Cape Cross and visitors to the museum can find out more detailed information about its historical value. Postcards, souvenirs and the history of Cape Cross in book form can be bought at the museum.
One of the most bizarre sights on the way to Cape Cross is the number of unattended salt mine souvenirs. The nearest salt mines closed quite a few years ago but a number of people still live in the old and decrepit buildings. You probably won’t see them but if you stop at one of their souvenir stands you will notice a glass jar with a note inside of it telling you how much their salt souvenir costs.