The Dorob National Park in Namibia is the first protected area in the country where you can find both natural areas, where animal and plant species live that need to be protected, and commercial and man-inhabited areas.
It is a recently established as protected area, in fact it was declared a national park in 2010, and it was inevitable that, at that time, in some places there were human settlements; but it was still important to define this new area because in this way the entire coast of Namibia, 1,570 km long, is a single protected area.
The Dorob National Park is located North of the town of Swakopmund, the C34 road crosses the park from South to North and ends at the Ugab gate, that allows access to the Skeleton Coast Park; along this track you will encounter some localities and places of interest such as salt ponds, Wlotzkasbaken, Hanties Bay, Omaruru River, Gemstones, wrecks, Cape Cross and the Cape Cross Game Reserve.
Leaving Swakopmund behind and heading North, after about 7 km, there is an area where there are several natural sea pondsfrom where the Salt Company extracts salt, some of these ponds are instead used to raise the oysters.
Sometimes some ponds are colored in red or green, thanks to a temporary presence of algae, or their surface is pink, when there are large flocks of pink flamingos.
This is not an inhabited area, those who work here live in Swakopmund, that is also the main market for both salt and oysters.
Proceeding along the C34, 31 km North of Swakopmund, we come across Wlotzkasbaken, a small settlement where it seems almost to be on the moon; isolated from the world, without electric light and water supply, the necessary water is collected and stored in a cistern.
It takes its name from Paul Wlotzke, a fisherman from Swakopmund who, in the 30s of the last century, built here a shed where he led the fishermen; even today it is a popular place, especially during the summer, by those who love fishing.
Wlotzkasbaken overlooks the Atlantic Ocean, the thick and humid fog, typical of the Namibian coast, is essential for the delicate microclimate of the area.
This settlement is not part of the Dorob National Park, while its surroundings, where there are large stretches of lichens, are part of the protected area and are defended with great care.
To the East there are hills that, unlike the plain, collect more humidity from the fog with the result that here some shrubs and bushes can grow and some animals survive, such as land snails, beetles and other small invertebrates.
Here lives also a species of lizard, the Heliobolus lugubris, also known as the bushveld lizard; it is the only lizard in the world that mimics the movements of an invertebrate in order to protect itself.
The juvenile of this species of lizard have the same color and the same movements of the bettle, known locally as the "oogpister"; this arthropod has a very effective defense system similar to that of the skunks: when it feels threatened it expels a foul-smelling liquid.
Continuing North, halfway between Wlotzkasbaken and Henties Bay, a road of a few hundred meters turns towards the beach and the ocean and leads to the wreck of Zeila, a fishing trawler that, early in the morning of August 25 2008, stranded here, near Die Walle, a popular fishing spot.
All the crew members fortunately managed to save themselves, but the fishing boat remained stranded in these waters; now, a few years later, it has become one of the favorite places for water birds to nest, as if it were a sort of artificial island.
Although it is a recent wreck it still has a certain charm, it is also the easiest to reach from the C34.
76 km North of Swakopmund is the town of Hanties Bay, or Hentiesbaai.
This town is located not far from the shore, near the delta of the Omaruru river that, for most of the year, is dry.
In recent years Hanties Bay has developed since it is a favorite destination for the holidays of both Namibians and South Africans, who come here to escape the high temperatures of the hinterland and to fish; other activities that can be practiced here are hiking and birdwatching.
For lovers of hiking and trekking there are several itineraries, such as the Omaruru River Walking Trail, 20 km long, that runs for a stretch along the coast, and then enters the hinterland; you can also opt for the longest route, about 70 km, that leads to the Omdel Dam located along the Omaruru river, here are several species of birds when there is water, the dam can also be reached by car; another route is the Jakkalsputz Walking Trail, 18 km long, that runs along the Jakkalsputz Campsite and heads inland, and then returns to Hanties Bay along a Northern path.
It is also possible to make excursions by quad, but the areas that can be covered are limited, this to preserve the environment; it is possible to go up the course of the Omaruru river, usually dry, or head South on the C34, in direction of Swakopmund.
The small cottages and colorful bungalows of Hanties Bay are usually barely visible in the morning mist, while along the river bank there is a surreal bright green area, it is the golf course that strides a bit with the surrounding desert.
Two streets from Hanties Bay head inland: the D1918 heading to the Spitzkoppeand the C35, one of Namibia's most desolate streets, leading to Uis, Brandberg and Khorixas.
North of Hanties Bay there is a vegetated depression that indicates the presence of a stream, it is the delta of the Omaruru river, that leads to the Atlantic Ocean the abundant rains that precipitate on the inland reliefs in the vicinity of Omaruru.
The sandy bed of the river has lush vegetation thanks to its abundant rainfall.
Here are both local plants typical of the desert, and exotic plants such as wild tobacco or Nicotiana glauca, jimson weed or Datura stramonium and castor oil plant or Ricinus communis; these plants are found here and in the bed of other rivers further North, always along the coast of Namibia.
In this area, as its name already reveals, there are several stones and crystals; even an inexperienced eye can notice that, above all after a rain, objects can be seen on the ground; they are rough stones that are waiting for nothing but to be discovered.
Here you can venture out to look for some crystal like a gem hunter.
In 1972 Sid Peters, mineralogist and founder of the Windhoek's House of Gems, found several aquamarines and a blue crystal that he was unable to identify; the Smithsonian Institute in Washington confirmed that it was jeremejevite, or jeremejebite, a very rare hard stone that contains boron and that was discovered 80 years earlier in Siberia, but instead of being blue it was white.
The Portuguese captain Diego Cao landed here in 1485, he was the first European to reach the coast of Namibia; to mark the point of his landing he had a stone cross erected.
Many years passed before other Europeans, Germans in this case, reached these lands.
At Cape Crosstoday there is still a stone cross in the place of the landing of the Portuguese, but it is a copy, the original cross is in Germany.
Cape Cross Game Reserve
In the Cape Cross Game Reserve there is one of the numerous colonies in the world of Cape fur seals; along the coasts of Southern Africa there are several colonies of fur seals, but this is the most easily accessible and visited.
After the second half of October the seal males return to the colony beach; this is the period of the births of the puppies, immediately after the females are ready to mate again.
After paying the entrance you can drive to the parking lot where a gangway leaves, allowing you to get close to the fur seals, in complete safety, and observe them while resting on the beach or while swimming in the frozen waters of the Atlantic Ocean.
Near the colony you can see jackals and hyenas that are always lurking waiting for a meal, often in fact they capture the fur seals puppies that are left unattended by their mothers.
Technically the Cape Cross Reserve is not part of the Dorob National Park, but it borders its territory.
The wreck of Winston, a fishing boat that ran aground here in 1970, is 12 km South of the Ugab gate, that allows access to the Skeleton Coast Park; usually the wreck is only visited by fur seals, Cape gulls and sterns.
Gradually the sand is, on one side, burying it, while on the other it is moving it more and more away from the water's edge; now in fact it is about 2 km from the ocean.
It is better not to venture by car to the wreck, the terrain here is salty and slippery and, at times, sandy, it could be risky if you are not able to drive on these types of terrain.