Cape Cross has both historic and biological significance and is a popular tourist attraction. The Portuguese navigator, Diego Cão, landed here in 1486 on his second expedition south of the equator and planted a stone cross (padrão) to mark his journey. A replica is visible here today. Inclusive of a second replica, the area has been listed as a National Heritage Site. In the late 1800s, thousands of tons of guano (dried e x c r e m e n t of fish-eating birds used as fertiliser) were collected and exported to Europe. South African (Cape) fur seals were also harvested. About 100 workers lived at Cape Cross and a police station, customs and post office were established at the settlement, while a railway
The first in the country was built to cross the salt pan and transport workers. Many men lost their lives due to the harsh conditions on the Skeleton Coast.
This reserve is a sanctuary for the world’s largest breeding colony of South African fur seals, with up to 210 000 seals present during the breeding season in November and December. Sustainable seal harvesting takes place in the reserve annually under the auspices of the Ministry of Fisheries and Marine Resources, which also sets the quota of animals to be harvested.
Proclamation: Cape Cross Seal Reserve in 1968
Park size 60 km2
Natural features: Rocky bay, sandy beaches, salt pan
Vegetation: the Central Desert in the Namib Desert Biome.
Vegetation types: Sparsely vegetated, with the dollar (Zygophyllum stapfii) and pencil bushes (Arthraerua leubnitziae) dominating. A variety of lichens.
Wildlife: Brown hyaena, South African fur seal, black-backed jackal. At the guano platforms, Greater and Lesser Flamingo, Grey Phalarope, Damara Tern, Cape Teal, Caspian Tern, Black-necked Grebe and African Black Oystercatcher.
Tourism: One of Namibia’s most visited parks. New facilities include a walkway enhancing viewing of the seals, information signs along the walkway, renovated picnic areas, five campsites with fireplaces, and timber-plastic windshields. Accommodation is available at a private lodge bordering the park; camping is available at Mile 72 and Mile 108. Gateway to the Messum Crater and the Brandberg Mountain to the east and Skeleton Coast Park to the north. Bird platforms in the south of the park are closed to the public. No angling is allowed.
Key management issues: Management discourages visitors from leaving the walkway or wandering beyond the wall between the seals, as the animals take fright and can trample pups during the breeding season. Lichens found on the brittle gypsum crust are easily destroyed by off-road drivers, whose tracks leave long-lasting scars. Visitors are not permitted to enter the reserve from Mile 72 – only the entrance gate from the C34 may be used.
Future plans: Several partnerships with Namibian associations are envisaged to further upgrade facilities. An updated information display is planned for the office. The historic graveyard will be renovated and signage is to be replaced.