There is a small town on the Atlantic seaboard within the Erongo region of Namibia. It is called Henties Bay. Some sixty kilometres north of this charming little fishing and retirement hamlet lies a headland known as Cape Cross.
The region is barren…the coastline bleak and forbidding. Shipwrecks are to be seen sporadically up and down this aptly named shoreline…The Skeleton Coast. En route to Cape Cross one passes through several rock salt mining concessions and the occasional turn off to the interior…to remote and desolate places like Uis and Twyfelfontein.
Cape Cross is named for two Padrao…stone crosses that marked salient points of interest and navigation placed in the 1400’s by the exploring Portuguese. One such navigator…Diogo Cao…placed the first Padrao at what was then called Cabo da Cruz. Two replicas of the original Padrao stand there now.
This remote headland juts out from the stark and bleak looking western seaboard of Southern Africa into…paradoxically…one of the world’s most fertile ocean currents. The Benguela. This prominent little peninsula has another defining feature…it hosts the world’s largest colony of Cape Fur Seal.
To stand at the Cape and gaze over the honking, braying, belching multitude is an assault to the senses. The all-pervading guano smell is a reek that some take a while to get used to. It is the noise…the overwhelming cacophony however…that holds one’s attention. There are literally thousands of seals. There are over protective cow seals with their whining calves jostling for position…there are bulky and intimidating looking bull seals fighting and haranguing one another for territory and breeding dominance and there are hundreds of seals in the crashing surf…lithe and magnificent when in the water…hunting for sustenance in an ocean current brimming with abundance.
One often sees Black backed Jackal here too and occasionally Brown Hyena…forever gliding along the edges of the great conflagration looking for an opportunity to scavenge. It is a place of overwhelming abundance on a coastline that at first glance seems utterly devoid of life.