Lüderitz & Surroundings
The highest quality of diamonds in the world are found in our ocean.
We recommend a visit, to the small harbour town of Lüderitz in the southwest of Namibia, after a hot journey through the south of Namibia.
Franz Adolf Eduard Lüderitz, a merchant from Bremen in Germany founded the town of Lüderitz, named after himself, in May 1883. The town lies next to an open, natural ocean bay, one of very few along the so-called Diamond Coast. The first European to land in the ‘Big Bay’ in 1487 was the Portuguese sailor Bartholomeus Diaz. Following tradition a stone cross with the coat of arms was erected at the so-called Diaz Point; Diaz named the bay Angra Pequena.
Touristic highlights are some of the well-maintained old houses and historic buildings from the German colonial times, built in Wilhelminian Art Deco style. Some of these include the Deutsche Afrika Bank, the Railway Station, the Old Post Office, and the ‘church on the rocks’ otherwise known as Felsenkirche. The Goerke Haus is another remarkable feature not to be missed; it was built from the proceeds of the Diamond Industry.
Visit Shark Island situated on the Shark Peninsula in the coastal town of Lüderitz. From Shark Island, you have wonderful views onto the rough and cold Atlantic Ocean and in fact, the whole area is rather inhospitable with its barren, rugged rock surfaces and the Namib Desert that surrounds it. The island was site of Shark Island concentration camp. It was Namibia’s first large-scale concentration camp. Today, the harrowing peninsula is the site of a small memorial and plenty of open space for history buffs to go camping.
Also remarkable is the amount of appealing coastal beaches, especially Big Bay and many sandy bays and lagoons. Enjoy a luxurious catamaran cruise to the Halifax Island. Get to see dolphins, seals, cormorants, the Jackass penguin, flamingos and many more.
In the close vicinity of Lüderitz, there are more points of interest such as the Sperrgebiet National Park; the prominent Bogenfels rock arch, Kolmanskoppe, and ‘Märchental’ or ‘Fairytale Valley’. These mystic places are hard to visit and permits are required for entry. Coastways Tours from Lüderitz own a concession and the relevant vehicles allowing them to offer an interesting and unique day tour into the Sperrgebiet.
Sperrgebiet National Park
The Sperrgebiet National Park is one of Namibia’s newest National Parks. Due to its diamond wealth, has been off limits to the public for close to a century, the habitat is largely untouched and pristine, making a visit to the park a truly unique wilderness experience. Visitors should prepare themselves for savage gales, flying grit, fluctuating temperatures, and constant winds. A permit issued by the Namibian Police is required to enter this area. Tour operators who take visitors into the Sperrgebiet arrange permits.
Now the area is of global significance as it forms part of the Succulent Karoo biome that extends down the southern border of the Namib Naukluft Park to the Orange River, the border of Namibia and South Africa.
A wide variety of birds and animals frequent the Orange River mouth. There is a host of succulents, some that grow as tall as trees, producing a stunning floral display after the winter rainfall. This profusion of succulent species in terms of endemism and number, are unrivalled anywhere else on the planet. Conservation scientists have classified this area as one of the world’s top 34 Biodiversity Hotspots!
Another worthwhile excursion for visitors is climbing to the summit of the Aurusberg Mountain on its botanical hiking trail, to view the Rotor Kamm meteorite crater, the fourth largest of its kind in the world.
The Bogenfels rock arch is a 55 m high lime rock formed like a bridge with one leg in the ocean and the other in the desert, situated at the south Atlantic coast in the middle of the Restricted Diamond Area about 100 km south of Lüderitz. As the name, Restricted Diamond Area already implies the region is not easily accessible. However, there is a tour operator based in Lüderitz who holds the concession for the area and who offers different tours to the Bogenfels. Normally one cannot drive directly to the site, but a short walk takes the expectant visitors to the Bogenfels, carved out by wind and weather.
Kolmanskop – The famous ‘Ghost Town’
Kolmanskop situated only 15 km inland from Lüderitz. It used to be a small railway station in 1908 when the railway between Lüderitz and Keetmanshoop was built. Allegedly, the station derived its name from a Nama man named Johnny Coleman, who was stuck at the site with his ox wagon and consequently died of thirst. The name means ‘Coleman’s hill’ in Afrikaans.
In 1908 Zacherias Lewala, a railway employee found an interesting stone. It was instructed by the railway inspector, August Stauch, a hobby mineralogist to bring to him any unusual stones they might find. Mr Stauch, also a former employee of De Beers in South Africa, took the stones to Lüderitz for an expert opinion from his friend and future partner, Sonke Nissan who confirmed what Stauch already assumed, the stone was a diamond. Stauch and Nissan did not make it public, but rather quit their jobs and secured claims of 75 km² at Kolmanskop and successfully continued their search for diamonds.
The occurrence of this precious stone did not stay a secret. Diamond seekers quickly pegged out, claimed, and soon occupied all the available ground around the vicinity of Lüderitz. Kolmanskop soon became the richest town in Africa and one of the richest worldwide. In 1912, the area produced one million carats or 11.7% of the world’s total diamond production. In 1980 whilst Lüderitz underwent an economic boom, the touristic potential of the ghost town was rediscovered and some houses were dug out of the sands again and were restored, which are open for visitors.
Today Kolmanskop and its unique history and infrastructure attract hundreds of visitors. Today a very informative guided tour in English, German, and Afrikaans is available to visitors. The tour starts at 09:30 and 11:00 from Monday to Saturday. On Sundays and public holidays there is only one tour which starts at 10:00.
‘Fairytale Valley’ and the diamond mine of Pomona
Behind the dune belt, is a desolate valley called the ‘Märchental’ or ‘Fairytale Valley’. Here the richest diamond deposit ever was discovered. The ground was said to twinkle like stars, the diamonds littering the surface and sparkling in the moonlight. Legend has it that August Stauch, who discovered the first diamond, picked up a 52-carat diamond. Today diamonds of that size are worth about 9 million US$. During the day, miners crawled on their bellies with tweezers and glass jars, filling them up. In just twenty months of mining, the total diamond haul was one million carats.
The riches of Fairytale Valley proved to be part of a series of diamond deposits along Namibia’s southern coast. Mining operations sprang up at Bogenfels, Meob and Conception Bay and a few years later at Elizabeth’s Bay and Pomona. The village at Pomona Diamond Mine proclaimed in 1912. At that time approximately 500 people lived here and constructed not only the mining buildings for the systematic mining of diamonds, but also villas, bowling alleys, a doctor’s house, a school and a cemetery.
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