Swakopmund
Town in Namibia

Historical facts and information about Namibia's premier holiday resort. Less known facts from the Swakopmund's history.

Swakopmund, Namibia, was founded two years later than Windhoek, in 1892, by Captain Curt von Francois as the main harbour of German South West Africa. Increased traffic between Germany and its colony necessitated establishing of own port as Walvis Bay, located 33 kilometres south, was already in British possession. The choice fell on Swakopmund where water could be found and because other sites checked (including Cape Cross)
swakhotel.JPG (11764 bytes) were unsuitable.
Name.
The majority of towns and villages in Namibia have grown out of indigenous settlements and very often were located close to sources of water. Names of places given by original inhabitants were very descriptive and in many cases those names were retained by European settles who sometimes simplified pronunciations of the names. Nama word ''Tsoakhaub'' can be translated as ''excrement opening'' which was offensive but accurate description of the waters of Swakop River at the time of coming down in floods carrying masses of mud, sand, pieces of vegetation and animal corpses. The masses of dirty and muddy water were emptied into the ocean and the indigenous name described it very well.
The Nama name was changed to ''Swachaub'' and with proclamation of Swakopmund as independent district in 1896 the present way of writing came into use.
History.
On 4 of August 1892 the crew of gunboat ''Hyena'' erected two beacons (one at the present location of the Mole and another at the location of lighthouse) to mark the landing site which symbolized the laying of the foundation stone of the town. The first settlers were offloaded from the ''Marie Woermann'' (120 Schutztruppe with equipment and 40 settlers) using 4 landing boats. The settlers had to build a ''caves'' on the beach to protect themselves against hostile weather. Before the Mole was built all offloads were carried with use of special boats which can be handled by Kroo men (from Liberia) only. At the time up to 600 Kroo tribesmen were employed by Woermann Line. The number of vessels offloaded in Swakopmund was increasing rapidly. In 1894 four ships offloaded, 1895 - 5, 1896 - bi-monthly service was introduced by Woermann Line, 1899 - monthly service.
First town building plan was drawn by Dr. Rhode. Because of lack of building materials mainly prefabricated wooden houses were erected.
Sights and buildings.
Marine memorial. Design of Berlin sculptor Wolff, donated to the town by marines from Kiel in 1908.
War memorial. Unveiled on 10 November 1963 in memory of those killed in World War 2. Located near the museum. Woermann House. One of the most beautiful buildings in the town was completed in 1905.
The Mole. An unsuccessful attempt to construct the artificial harbour. 375 metres pier was completed in 1900 but by winter 1906 a sandbank completely blocked it.
Jetty. The first wooden jetty, completed in 1905, was damaged by borer worm Teredo navalis and construction of iron jetty began in 1911. Proposed length of 640 metres was enough to offload vessels without usage of smaller boats but by the beginning of World War 1 only 262 meters were completed. First repairs were done in 1986 and now the second replacement of badly corroded iron structures (the site was closed for pedestrians in 1998) is under way. The Jetty is proposed to be part of new desalination plant which will be built in Swakopmund.
Princess Rupprecht House. Now a private pension the original building was completed in 1901 as a military hospital.church.JPG (8126 bytes)
Kaserne. The original building served as a barracks. The design is similar to Alte Feste in Windhoek and Fort Namutoni in Etosha Park and the building was completed in 1906.
Railway station. (Swakopmund hotel from 1994). Declared a National monument in 1972 the building, designed by C. Schmidt (towerHohenzollern1.JPG (11504 bytes) design by Willy Sander - architect of Windhoek's ''Three Castles''), was completed in 1901.
German school. Completed in October 1913, the building hosted both the government and municipal secondary schools. Design by E. Krause.
Hohenzollern building. Built in 1906 initially served as a hotel. At the present it is sectional title flats.
Deutsche Evangelical church. The building designed by Otto Ertl was consecrated on 7 January 1912. The bells were imported from Germany where they were made by Franz Schilling.
Antonius Gebaude. Designed by Otto Ertl the building (the hospital) was opened in March 1908.
Lighthouse. First 11 metres were erected in July 1902 and further 10 meters added in 1910.
State House (Kaiserliches Bezirksgericht). Built as a magistrate's court in 1902 the building served as a summer residence for top government officials for several decades. Architect C. Schmidt.

Some historical dates.
September 1892. First building is erected in Swakopmund (a barrack for troops).
1894. 19 inhabitants.
1895. First people to be buried in the local cemetery - 5 sailors who drowned in boat accident.
1896. Lieutenant Troost's attempts to solve transport problem by introducing ''Martin Luther''.
1897. First post office in town.
1899. Introduction of cable telegraph service. Water pipeline from Swakop.
1901. First passengers is landed at the Mole. Telephone service established with 40 subscribers.
1903. First wooden pavements.
1905. Jetty opened. The newspaper Deutsche Suedwestafrikanische Zeitung published. 1433 inhabitants.
1909. Swakopmund is an independent municipality.
1911. Shipping connection with New York. First Swakopmunder Zeitung published.
1914. Shelling of the harbour by British naval cruisers. Swakopmund is evacuated inland.
1915. Occupation by SA troops. Shooting of more than 1500 horses and mules outside of the town.
1926. Railway bridge opened over the mouth of Swakop river.
1929. Hansa Brewery is opened.
1930. First guano platform constructed.
1931. Railway bridge is destroyed by flood.
1935. Railway bridge constructed 5 km upstream from Swakop river mouth.
1951. Opening of museum by Dr. A. Weber.
1959. Opening of salt road to Walvis Bay.
1960. 4 701 inhabitants.
1967. Tar road from Windhoek reached Swakopmund.
1970. Tar road to Walvis Bay opened.
1973. First 3 traffic robots.
1982. 5 800 vehicles registered in town.
1994. Swakopmund Hotel is opened.

Swakopmund (German for "Mouth of the Swakop") is a city on the coast of Namibia, 360 km west of Windhoek, Namibia's capital. It is the capital of the Erongo administrative district. The town has 42,000 inhabitants and covers 193 square kilometres (75 sq mi) of land. The city is situated in the Namib desert.
Swakopmund is a beach resort and an example of German colonial architecture. It was founded in 1892 as the main harbour for German South-West Africa, and a sizable part of its population is still German-speaking today.
The city lies on the B2 road and the Trans-Namib Railway from Windhoek to Walvis Bay. It is also home to Swakopmund Airport.
Buildings in the city include the Altes Gefängnis prison, designed by Heinrich Bause in 1909. The Woermann Haus, built in 1906 with a prominent tower, is now a public library.
Attractions in Swakopmund include a Swakopmund Museum, the National Marine Aquarium, a crystal gallery and spectacular sand dunes near Long Beach south of the Swakop River. Outside of the city, the Rossmund Desert Golf Course is one of only 5 all-grass desert golf courses in the world. Nearby lies a camel farm and the Martin Luther steam locomotive, dating from 1896 and abandoned in the desert due to breakdown.

The Herero called the place Otjozondjii. The name of the town is derived from the Nama word Tsoakhaub ("excrement opening") describing the Swakop River in flood carrying items in its riverbed, including dead animals, into the Atlantic Ocean. The German settlers changed it to Swachaub, and when in 1896 the district was officially proclaimed, the version Swakopmund (German: Mouth of the Swakop) was introduced.

History of Swakopmund

Captain Curt von François founded Swakopmund in 1892 as the main harbour for the Imperial German colony. The deep sea harbour at Walvis Bay belonged to the British. The founding date was on August 8 when the crew of gunboat Hyäne ("Hyena") erected two beacons on the shore. Swakopmund was chosen for its availability of fresh water, and because other sites further north such as Cape Cross were found unsuitable. The site did, however, not offer any natural protection to ships lying off the coast, a geographical feature not often found along Namibia's coast.
When the first 120 Schutztruppe soldiers and 40 settlers were offloaded at Swakopmund, they had to dig caves into the sand for shelter. The offloading was done by Kru tribesmen from Liberia who used special boats. Woermann-Linie, the operator of the shipping route to Germany, employed 600 Kru at that time.

Swakopmund Lighthouse

Swakopmund quickly became the main port for imports and exports for the whole territory, and was one of six towns which received municipal status in 1909. Many government offices for German South-West Africa had offices in Swakopmund.
Soon, the harbour created by the Mole silted up, and in 1905 work was started on a wooden jetty, but in the long run this was inadequate. In 1914 construction of a steel jetty was therefore commenced, the remains of which can still be seen today. After World War I it became a pedestrian walkway. It was declared structurally unsound and was closed to the public for seven years, and in 2006 renovations to the portion supported by concrete pillars were completed, with a seafood restaurant and sushi bar being added to the end portion of the steel portion of the jetty soon after. A new timber walkway was also added onto the existing steel structure, and the steel portion of the jetty reopened to the public in late 2010.

Woermann House & Tower
One of the well-known buildings in town.

Trading and shipping companies founded branches in Swakopmund. A number of these buildings still exist today. After German South-West Africa was taken over by the Union of South Africa in 1915, all harbour activities were transferred from Swakopmund to Walvis Bay. Many of the Central Government services ceased. Businesses closed down, the number of inhabitants diminished, and the town became less prosperous. However, the natural potential of Swakopmund as a holiday resort was recognised, and this potential has subsequently been developed. Today tourism-related services form an important part of the town's economy. The Swakopmund Skydiving Club has operated from Swakopmund Airport since its founding in 1972.

Swakopmund Jetty
Landing jetty used to offload goods into harbour.

The discovery of uranium at Rössing, 70 km (43 mi) outside the town, led to the development of the world's largest opencast uranium mine. This had an enormous impact on all facets of life in Swakopmund which necessitated expansion of the infrastructure of the town to make it into one of the most modern in Namibia.
After Namibian independence in 1990 many street names were changed from their original German, or in some cases, Afrikaans names, to honor (mostly black) Namibians. For example in 1991, then-president of Namibia Sam Nujoma renamed the main street (Kaiser-Wilhelm-Straße) Sam Nujoma Avenue in honor of himself.
In October 2000 an agreement was signed between the Namibian and People's Republic of China governments to build a satellite tracking station at Swakopmund. Construction was completed in July 2001 at a site north of Swakopmund to the east of the Henties Bay-Swakopmund road and opposite the Swakopmund Salt Works. The site was chosen as it was on the orbital track of a manned spacecraft during its reentry phase. Costing N$12 million, the complex covers 150m by 85m. It is equipped with five meter and nine meter satellite dishes.
In August 2008 filming commenced in Swakopmund on the AMC television series The Prisoner starring Jim Caviezel and Sir Ian McKellen. Swakopmund was used as the film location for The Village.

Administrative divisions

There are the following districts and suburbs in Swakopmund:
Town Centre
Vineta
Mile 4
Vogelstrand
Waterfront
Mondesa
Tamariskia

Democratic Resettlement Community

The Democratic Resettlement Community is an informal settlement in Swakopmund. It was founded in 2001 as temporary housing for people waiting for subsidized housing in the city.
Most inhabitants of the town live in the suburbs of Vineta, Tamariskia, Mondesa and Vogelstrand. Both black and white people, mostly well-to-do, live in Vineta. Tamariskia was originally a neighbourhood for the coloured people, built in the early 1970s, to replace the shacks the coloureds earlier had between the town centre and Vineta. Mondesa existed already in the 1960s, and it was a neighbourhood for the black people, and it was a considerable distance from the town centre in the early days.

Economy

Tourism

The city has scattered coffee shops, night clubs, bars and hotels. There are balloon rides, skydiving, quad biking tours, as well as marine cruises. Snake Park is one of the major tourism attractions in Swakopmund.

Public health

The main healthcare provider in the city is the Cottage Medi-Clinic, a hospital with 70 beds. Well-known for Angelina Jolie who gave birth there in 2006.

Geography

Climate

Surrounded by the Namib Desert on three sides and the cold Atlantic waters to the west, Swakopmund enjoys a mild desert climate (BWn, according to the Köppen climate classification). The average temperature ranges between 15°C (59°F) to 25°C (77°F). Rainfall is less than 20 mm per year, making gutters and drainpipes on buildings a rarity. The cold Benguela current supplies moisture for the area in the form of fog that can reach as deep as 140 km (87 mi) inland. Fogs that originate offshore from the collision of the cold Benguela Current and warm air from the Hadley Cell create a fog belt that frequently envelopes parts of the Namib desert. Coastal regions can experience more than 180 days of thick fog a year. While this has proved a major hazard to ships—more than a thousand wrecks litter the Skeleton Coast—it is a vital source of moisture for desert life. The fauna and flora of the area have adapted to this phenomenon and now rely upon the fog as a source of moisture.

What to do in Swakopmund

Town tours, fishing trips, tours to Namib Naukluft Park (Welwitschia Mirabilis, Moon Landscape), museum, snake park, sandboarding, parasailing and hot air ballooning.

Related Maps Accommodation in the area Activities in the area
Hotels Pensions B&Bs Lodges Camping & others
Walvis Bay General map Eberwein Hotel Secret Garden Dunedin Star Guest House Beach Lodge Alte Brücke Resort Car rental
Mola-Mola dolphin cruises
Guano  Map Hansa Hotel Taro's Dunes Travel Stop Brigadoon Cottages DeoVilla Accommodation Desert Express
Photo galleries Regions Hotel Europa Hof - Haus Garnison Gut Richthofen Jan Jonker Holiday Apartment Activities at the coast
First railway lines - Hotel Garni Adler - House Veronica Rossmund Lodge Meike's Guest House Living Desert Adventures
Horse graves - Hotel Grüner Kranz - Indongo Guest House Tern Inn Cornerstone Guest House Dune 7 Sandboarding
Desert Express - Beach Hotel - Intermezzo Guest House The Stiltz Orange House Fishing tours
Regimental badges - Pension D'Avignon - Municipal Camp Sea Horse Flats Villa Wiese Hot air balloon trips
Woermann House - Schweitzerhaus - Boutique Hotel Pension A La Mer Strauss Holiday Flats Kayak tours/Sun Sail Charters
Swakopmund Museum - Sam's Giardino - Charlotte's Guest Home Desert Breeze Lodge Vogelstrand Guest House Sandboarding
Swakopmund Aquarium - Seaside Hotel - The Boat House B&B Sandcastle Apartments Goanikontes Oasis Scenic Air/Sky diving
Kristall Galerie - Swakopmund Hotel - Sea Breeze - Gecko Ridge Guest House Quad bike tours

Contact & information:
P.O. Box 3127 Windhoek, Namibia
Fax:  +264 61 244558
E-mail: info@namibweb.com

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Important telephone numbers (Swakopmund code 064):

AMBULANCE 405731
FIRE BRIGADE 402411
FIRE BRIGADE CELLULAR 0811 285613
POLICE 1 0111
STATE HOSPITAL 405731
COTTAGE PRIVATE HOSPITAL 412201
SEA RESCUE 405544
AEROMED 400700
MEDRESCUE 200200
TRAFFIC CELLULAR 0811 242944

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