The Raft restaurant on the shore of Walvis Bay lagoon, in Namibia, is a welcome break from thousands of miles of sand!
In Namibia you either have a surfeit of sand, or sea – there’s not much else. That’s not to say it isn’t one of the most fascinating countries we’ve ever visited, because it is.
From the massive Fish River Canyon in the south to the tribal lands of Damaraland in the north; the huge dunes of Sossusvlei and parched pans of Dead Vlei, the abandoned ghost town of Kolmanskopp devoid of population, to the plains of Etosha with its big wildlife population; Namibia is one of the last big adventures.
We driven ourselves all around it, flown over it and arrived by ship but it never loses its fascination. That said, you can get tired of the endless sand of the Namib Desert or the fog and damp of the Skeleton Coast; just wanting to relax with a beer and some good wholesome food.
Walvis Bay is the only natural harbour in Namibia, so it tends to attract industry and tourism in equal measure – either involved in mining diamonds and oil – or wearing them!
We’d never recommend Namibia for a gourmet tour but that’s not to say that you can’t find creditable eateries that provide tasty distractions.
We find ourselves in Walvis Bay, walking along the lagoon shore until we find a pile of driftwood stacked at the water’s edge in a random pile that looks like a huge collection of firewood at the end of a pier – it’s The Raft.
At first glance it doesn’t appear to have been designed as much as dumped but after a few seconds we realise that it’s there on purpose – and in fact offers not only a welcome venue as a bar and restaurant but also a splendid viewing platform for local wildlife and sunsets.
We amble across the rickety walkway to the main building, which itself is resting on stilts above the water. We’ve already booked a table by the window, so go straight to it rather than settle into the adjacent bar.
You don’t want to wear stilettos here as the floor is uneven and pitted – being made from the timbers of the old jetty in Walvis Bay.
It’s a charming ambiance created by all the wood, as well as a resonance to every footfall that reminds you that there’s a temporary air to the whole building – that a big storm could reduce it to matchwood.
There seems to be no anticipation of impending doom and the staff exudes a confidence and air of permanence that is reassuring as they bring us our menus.
I make the mistake of ordering a glass of Namibian wine (when in Rome) but discover that I’d rather drink their oil – so I order a bottle of the more conventional South African variety of Merlot.
We order calamari and crab claws for starters, followed by Hake and Fish Pie. Don’t go to The Raft if you want a gourmet extravagnaza but do go there if you want good wholesome ‘pub’ food served in an atmosphere that’s buzzy and fun.
There’s a plethora of fried foods that we try to avoid generally but the Hake and Fish Pie are very good but not wonderful. There’s a big variety of roasted bush meat such as zebra and kudu as well as other fish dishes and steaks, so you should be able to find something you really like.
Don’t go to Namibia with high expectations of outstanding food and you won’t be disappointed – go for the variety of landscapes, wilderness areas and magical wildlife areas – and celebrate the fact that the country hasn’t been sanitized and turned into the polished tourist-centric haven that so many other African countries have.
The added bonus at The Raft, of course, is that you’re kept company by the local wildlife outside the large windows that overlook the lagoon – seals, pelicans, dolphins and occasional windsurfers.
Whales, once hunted here, are now protected visitors to the shores as local signage attests.
We’re cheated of a brilliant sunset by the misty clag created by the Benguela current that has brought many a mariner to a sticky end along the Skeleton Coast – so we settle into our own wooden ‘shipwreck’ for a cozy and enjoyable evening before meandering our way back to the (bland by comparison) Marriott Pelican Hotel, just a few minutes away.
We enjoyed the quirky random nature of the building, the rickety yet reassuring feel of well matured timbers creating a welcoming atmosphere that’s enhanced no end by the warmth of the staff.
When in Walvis Bay, make your way to The Raft – it’s not a mirage but spend too long there and you might leave with blurred vision.
If you’d like to learn more about The Raft, click here but why not ask us to arrange your own tailor-made travel – self-drive, private guide or group tour to immerse yourself in the wonders of Namibia’s wilderness?
Why not download the TLC World guide brochure or give us a call today on 01202 030443, or simply click ‘enquire’ to submit your own personal itinerary request