From Sossusvlei, we ventured North until we reached Swakopmund, which is where we experienced the first hurdle in our Namibian adventure. We arrived at our backpackers in the afternoon and quickly settled in for dinner and an early night, after all, it had been a pretty enormous day of driving.
We got up the next morning with plans to drive up to Cape Cross, but those plans were very quickly thwarted by a rather nasty surprise – one of our front tyres was completely flat.
Now, this would not normally be a big deal, these 4wd vehicles come with spares for a reason! Our hire car also came with all the tools required to actually change a tyre, at least, that’s what we thought.
The flat tyre in question had one locking nut or bolt (car related terminology isn’t exactly my thang – you’ve been warned) and apparently, it wasn’t meant to. We had the right sized tools to remove all of the other nuts, but not the right size to remove this locking bolt, and despite a huge effort on Dan’s part, it just wouldn’t budge.
We got in contact with our rental car company who were pretty surprised to hear that we were having this problem and they agreed to reimburse us for any new tools we needed to purchase in order to solve the problem.
However, by some small miracle, Dan asked one of the guys working at our hostel if he had any tyre changing tools and his exact words were ‘I just have this one old thing man’… and guess what?
It was the exact size we needed!
Totally crazy to think that the single tool this guy owned was the exact thing we needed, I mean, what are the chances?
We soon got the tyre fixed and set out for Cape Cross.
Cape Cross is located around 120km north of Swakopmund and in some ways, the drive is a little less exciting than other parts of Namibia. All the roads were straight and sealed; there were certainly no 4×4 tracks for Dan to play with, which did leave him a little bored.
However, the spookiness of the scenery in this region cannot be denied. This is one of the many shipwrecks that litter this coastline, which gives it the name – ‘the Skeleton Coast’.
The geography of Cape Cross isn’t all that spectacular, it is the wildlife that call it home which makes this Cape worthy of the journey from Swakopmund.
In peak season, up to 200,000 Cape Fur Seals congregate here to mate, birth and rear their pups. The internet told me that these pups were born in November/December each year, but we visited in September and saw thousands of them – and I just about died from the cuteness!
This was far from the first time I’d seen seals. I have spotted and/or swum with them in various spots in South Africa, Australia, Antarctica, Greenland, Iceland and Argentina – but by golly, I’d definitely never seen anywhere near this many!
There is a gated walkway which allows visitors to walk right through the throngs of the seals without disturbing them, but the seals haven’t got the memo about only hanging around within these specific areas. They were overflowing into the carpark on the day we visited, which meant that we were able to get seriously close to some of the cutest pups ever!
We came across one particular pup who definitely could have a career in modelling – what a gorgeous little poser!
I really had to suppress the urge to pat (and pick up, and put in my backpack, and take home with me) this little pup, but Dan eventually managed to coax me away and off we went to explore more of the enormous colony.
Normally when shooting wildlife, I find myself feeling quite limited by my 12-40mm every day lens, I usually feel like it just can’t get close enough to capture the personality of the creature, but in Cape Cross, I ended up using my wide angle 7-14mm lens almost exclusively!
I mean honestly, how often does wildlife photography call for a super wide angle lens?
It certainly isn’t often!
Everywhere we turned there were pups!
Sometimes they were alone…
Sometimes there were a few of them clustered in a kind of seal pup nursery…
Sometimes they could be spotted suckling at their mama…
Sometimes they could even be seen carelessly trampling other seals in an effort to move through the colony!
Watching these seals was really an unforgettable experience. It was so special to witness them interact, play and argue with each other, and it was really magical to see such a distinct variation in their individual personalities.
At one point we saw a black-backed jackal dash into the colony, seemingly in search of a meal! Luckily, this guy didn’t find any unattended pups and was quickly run off by some of the more aggressive seals.
I love these next few pictures because they really give a sense of how many seals call this place home!
Visiting Cape Cross is a super cheap and easy trip from Swakopmund. The drive takes less than 90 minutes and the entrance fee is only $50 Namibian Dollars ($5 AUD) per person. The reserve is open from 10am to 5pm. We arrived as it opened and only shared the reserve with a handful of other cars, though it had definitely gotten busier by the time we left at around 11.30. You won’t see a colony quite like this anywhere else in the world, so if you are in Namibia, it is a trip that is not to be missed.
Getting to Cape Cross: Driving from Swakopmund takes around 90 minutes and is a very easy drive
Skeleton Beach Backpackers: This backpackers is cheap as chips and has a great communal kitchen – click here to learn more!
4×4 Vehicle Hire: Fully equipped 4×4 vehicles are available to rent from many companies in RSA and Namibia – we rented a Toyota Hilux from South Africa 4×4 for around $155 AUD per day, which is quite common pricing during peak season
Camera: Images captured with an Olympus OM-D E-M1 in conjunction with M.Zuiko 7-14mm f/2.8 and M.Zuiko 12-40mm f/2.8 lenses
Remember: Do not touch the wildlife! These seals have teeth, and they aren’t afraid to use them!
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