Swakopmund is known as Namibia's adventure tourism capital - but in between surfing down sand dunes, kayaking with seals and quad biking across the coastal desert, it's worth taking a day to explore some of the town's more urban pleasures. Here's five of our favourite:
1. National Marine Aquarium of Namibia
Main tank at the aquarium, where sharks swim above your head
The newly-renovated attraction showcases the marine species that thrive in the South Atlantic's chilly Benguela Current. The centrepiece is a large aquarium filled with fish and sharks, and the walk-through tunnel that allows visitors to get scarily close to these fearsome creatures.
Colourful panels give information about Namibia's fishing industry and local species such as Cape fur seals. There is a tank containing rays, and at 3pm each day the fish are fed. Try and visit on a Tuesday, Saturday or Sunday - and you'll see divers in the large aquarium feeding the sharks by hand!
Open: Tuesday - Sunday, 10am - 4pm
Closed: Mondays, Christmas day and New Year's day
Feeding: Daily at 3pm
Feeding by divers: Tuesdays, Saturdays and Sundays
2. Living Desert Snake Park
Though feared by many, snakes are actually surprisingly hard to spot in Namibia. So it'll be a relief for serpent fans to know that many of Namibia's native species can be seen - and photographed - in Swakopmund, at the Living Desert Snake Park. This compact reptile house has aquariums containing numerous venomous and non-venomous snakes, as well as geckos, scorpions, and even a couple of huge monitor lizards. Stuart Hebbard, who founded the Snake Park almost two decades ago, is happy to chat about the various species he cares for, and visitors can see the snakes being fed each Saturday.
Hebbard hopes to move the Snake Park to a new, larger location this year, including a walk-in cage allowing guests to get up close to the safer species! Watch this space for more information.
Western diamond-backed rattlesnake at Swakopmund's Living Desert Snake Park
Open: Daily from 9am-5pm
This museum, founded in 1951, has some of the most in-depth exhibits about Namibia's flora, fauna, geology, archaeology culture and modern history - all under one roof. The wildlife room exhibits stuffed specied which are almost impossible to see on safari - such as the aardvark and golden mole. Fossils and meteorites are on show in the geology department,and Namibia's many diverse ecosystems are explained in the botanical department.
Ancient culture is explored in the archaeology room, with well-preserved pots and centuries-old jewellery. Contrast this with the exhibits exploring Namibia's contemporary culture - with body decorations, weaving and clothing from the Himba, San and other communities.
Himba cosmetic boxes on display at Swakopmund Museum
Open: Daily from 10am-5pm
Entry: Adults: N$ 25, Students N$20, Children (aged 6-15) N$10
Take a trip to this workshop on the outskirts of town to see the wool of the karakul sheep being spun, dyed and woven into intricately patterned wall hangings and rugs. The talent of the weavers is astounding - as they create patterned abstracts resembling Namibia's dunes, African rock art designs or wildlife scenes on the huge hand-operated looms.
The workshop was founded in 1979, and it has now developed an international reputation. The craftspeople can make custom designs to order, and if you don't have space in your suitcase for a full-sezed rug, they will reliably ship your purchase safely to your home.
Karakulia's staff benefit from training, employment and adult education sessions.
A skilled weaver works on a rug design at Karakulia
Address: 2 Rakatoa St (nort-east of the town centre)
A unique way to spend your time in Namibia - at a crystal gallery. With exhibits to please the young and not-so young, Kristall Galerie houses the world's largest crystal cluster, estimated to be 520 million years old! Standing 3 metres tall, it took five years to excavate from the Namibian earth. The gallery also has a scratch pit - where you can sift for semi precious stones - and a replica of a mine.
Those looking for souvenirs will love the Gem Shop - selling rough gemstones as well as unique jewellery and carved artworks. Visit the Craft Area to see these pieces being created.
The replica cave. Image from Kristall Galerie's Flickr page.
Open: Monday-Friday 8am-5pm, Saturday 8am-1pm
Find the perfect place to stay in Swakopmund with our accommodations guide.
Get some ideas about more adventurous exploits in the region - download our Adventure Travel Planning Guide.
Discover other cities and towns in Namibia.