The Sperrgebiet


Kolmanskop: where people once lived = Clive Cowley Kolmanskop was the first mining town built in the Namib after diamonds were discovered nearby in 1908 at a railway siding called Grasplatz. With fresh water in short supply, sand everywhere and high winds day in and day out, conditions were initially arduous, but in time the little town flourished out in the desert, about 10 km from Lüderitzbucht.

The town had its own school, hospital, post office, police station, general dealer, bakery, butchery and soft-drink factory. Sea water piped from Elisabethbucht was desalinated to supplement fresh water brought in barrels from a borehole at Garub some 100 km away. A free block of ice was supplied daily to all households.

For social life Kolmanskop had a clubhouse, called the Kasino, with a restaurant, bars, gambling saloons, a skittle alley and a hall for concerts, plays, balls and gymnastics.

Originally known as Kolmanskuppe, the town survived World War 1, the Great Depression and the greater part of World War 2 -- albeit in fits and starts -- but its luck finally ran out when the mining company moved its operational headquarters south to Oranjemund in 1943. Seven years later the Kolmanskop mine was closed.

Abandoned to the elements and vandalised, Kolmanskop soon became a ghost town. A museum is housed in a restored building.

The Ghost Town Tavern at Kolmanskop occupies what was once the Champagne Bar in the Kasino. Furnished in a style that is reminiscent of the diamond town in its heyday, the restaurant serves breakfasts, lunches and light refreshments. Freshly baked cakes and pastries are a speciality of the house.
Open daily, Monday to Saturday, 09:00-14:00.
Call +264-(0)63-20 4033 or +264-(0)81 128 4336 for information and reservations.

A ghost-town room with a view = Clive CowleyThe Diamond Room
Once the gentlemen's smoking room, the Diamond Room in the Kasino is more than a retail outlet for fine diamonds, cut and polished in Namibia. Illustrated storyboards on the walls follow the progression of diamonds from their valuation in rough form to their manufacture into finished stones for jewellery.

For the benefit of customers, the so-called "four Cs" are illustrated -- cut, colour, clarity and carat weight -- that determine the quality and value of a diamond. The diamonds on sale at Kolmanskop, known as round brilliants and manufactured in Namibia, fully conform to De Beers standards. They are priced from N$500 upwards.

Guided tours
Only guided tours with the authorised operator are allowed. Tours are on foot and last about an hour. Visitors are expected to make their own way to Kolmanskop. Tours twice daily, 09:30 and 11:00, Monday to Saturday; one tour at 10:00 on Sundays and public holidays; advance bookings required.

Group tours for a minimum of 10 persons and private visits for photography can be specially arranged outside standard times.

Ghost Town Tours,
P O Box 305, Lüderitz, Namibia
Tel & fax +264 (0)63 20 4031
Cell +264 (0)81 128 4336


Diamond mine
An open-cast diamond mine is located on the Sperrgebiet coast at Elizabeth Bay, once known as Elisabethbucht, just south of the Lüderitz Peninsula and near a ghost town of the same name. The 15 km² orebody consists of grits washed onto the shore of the bay and blown into the desert.

The town was built to house mineworkers and their families. Inhabited from 1926 to 1935, it is fast returning to the desert, a windswept place of fragile ruins.

Diamonds were mined off and on at Elizabeth Bay from 1911 to 1948 with major interruptions due to world wars and economic recessions. The mine was reopened in 1991 with modern infrastructure. The workforce now lives in Lüderitz.

Guided tours
Only guided tours with the authorised operator are allowed. Reservations are required at least one week in advance as all visits to a diamond mine are subject to police clearance under Namibian law. Tours may be cancelled if demand is insufficient.

Elizabeth Bay excursion: 08:30-13:00 daily, Monday to Friday; no children under the age of 14; transport provided.

Elizabeth Bay combined with Kolmanskop, historic Lüderitz and Diaz Point: 08:00-15:00 daily, Monday to Friday; transport and refreshments provided.

Same as Kolmanskop


Tourist information
Lüderitzbucht Foundation, museum building,
Diaz Street; P O Box 233, Lüderitz, Namibia
Tel & fax +264 (0)63 20 2532.

Lüderitz is located on the southern coast of Namibia, 836 km from Windhoek on tarred roads (routes B1 and B4 via Keetmanshoop). Gravel routes down the Gamsberg or Spreetshoogte passes and into the desert are about 200km shorter and scenically superior. The distance from Walvis Bay to Lüderitz is nearly 800km on desert roads.

Transport to Lüderitz
By air from Windhoek (via Walvis Bay) and South Africa (Cape Town).
By rail and/or bus from Windhoek.
Motor-vehicles are available for hire.

The recognised beaches (Agate Beach, Shark Island and Grosse Bucht) are sandy and safe for bathing. Beaches on the western shore of the peninsula are potentially dangerous. Water temperatures average 14-15°C in summer and 13-14°C in winter.

The windiest town in Namibia, Lüderitz is calm only 8% of the time, equal to 29 days a year. For much of the year southerly winds blow off the sea with an average strength of above 30km/h. They are strongest in summer when the average strength in the afternoon rises above 40km/h. Early winter from April to July is the least windy, apart from occasional hot winds from the east.

A little rain falls every month of the year, most of it from March to August, with a meagre average of 17mm per year. Some fog or low cloud forms overnight one day out of three all year round. Commonest from January to May, with a peak of 135 hours in March, it usually clears later in the day.

Temperatures are generally moderate. The average, as measured from daily averages over a year, is just below 16°C. The average maximum in the hottest month is around 20°C and the average minimum in the coolest month around 10°C.

Rock lobster and hake are caught out of Lüderitz, with catches processed in local factories for export. Diamonds are mined on land and at sea. Seals are culled seasonally for pelts and oil. Oysters are cultured in the sheltered waters of the bay, while seaweed is harvested for agar, a jelly-like substance used in beverages and processed foods. The estimated population is some 25 000.

Swakopmund ......

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