The shouted warning — "Duck!" — came in the nick of time. A moment later and I would have had a face full of webbed foot. As it was, the trailing leg of the pelican (not a duck) brushed my ear. Not everyone was so lucky. When the bird finally came to rest, it was with one foot on a railing, the other planted firmly on a Dutch tourist’s head. The pelican’s stance was as lopsided as the victim’s grin. I was in Walvis Bay, on the first leg of a day-long trip with a local adventure company. The small tourist craft was heading out to view seals, dolphins and whatever other creatures decided to show themselves. There were plenty. Dolphins swam and leapt alongside us as we headed out to sea. Thousands of residents of a seal colony swayed, brayed and fought mock battles on their sandbar as we passed by slowly — too slowly for some passengers, given the accompanying stench. A humpback whale surfaced a few metres away. And a gigantic mola mola — the pale-skinned ocean sunfish that can weigh u...

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