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Cape Cross was the first landing site of European explorers visiting Namibia. In 1486 the Portuguese explorer Diego Cao erected a stone cross about 2m high and 360kg to mark and commemorate the first European to ever set foot on Namibian soil and also as a tribute to Portuguese King Joao 11. He was searching for a sea route via cape to the east.
Situated on the coast of the Atlantic Ocean, about 120 km north of Swakopmund, Cape Cross’s main attraction is one of the largest colonies of Cape Fur Seals in the world. Cape cross was proclaimed a reserve in 1968 to protect the most well known of the 23 Cape Fur Seal colonies that breed along the coast of southern Namibia. Here they breed, fish and fight and sometimes more that 210,000 cape fur seals congregate. Breeding season is from November to December and before you catch the glimpse of the seals you’ll hear the bleats and barks from afar. The reserve has become the best breeding spot for the cape fur seals and the population growth is a result of the rich concentrations of fish in the Benguella current. Bulls come on shore around October to defend their territory and they weigh up to 360kg at the beginning of the breeding season but lose fat due to fighting and can weigh about 190kg at the end of the season. Females are much smaller and weigh about 75kg. One thing you can never escape from when visiting the cape cross reserve is the smell from decaying bodies of seals especially the young ones that die from stampede and natural causes. The cape fur seals’ main predator on the reserve is the jackals and brown hyenas.
In 1895 guano, the waste left by fish eating sea birds which is used as fertilizer was discovered at Cape Cross. Guano is believed to have more fertilization value than the normal fertilizer and it is an Inca word for a mixture of eggshell, feathers, decayed corpses of birds and bird excrement that became so valuable and was called “white gold”.To this very day it is still harvested from the platforms off Namibia’s coast. Its demand necessitated the construction of the first railway line in Namibia about 21km that was used to transport guano as well as seal skins to ships. Cape cross became an economic hub and many people settled here for work and business but this was short-lived due to poor working conditions and most Europeans could not endure the Cape Cross Project for too long.
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