Luderitz Namibia Adventure, Diamonds and Culture

Introduction to Luderitz Namibia

We spent three full days exploring Luderitz town and the surrounding area. The Luderitz things to do list includes wildlife viewing, Luderitz ghost town, agate beach and shark island. Additionally, the rich Luderitz history includes local African culture mixed with the arrival of German colonialist.

But the most spectacular aspect surrounding Luderitz town is the natural wonders of Namibia. Luderitz and the surrounding area has many attractions that are well worth a visit. Follow along and I will provide you with all you need to know about Luderitz Namibia.

Luderitz History, Diamonds and Culture

Namibia Culture

The History of Culture in Namibia.

Namibia has a rich cultural history based on the nomadic African tribes that migrated here. However, the cultural balance was rudely interrupted with the late arrival of the German colonialists in 1883.

The Germans were interested in exploiting the natural environment. As a result, they were focused on whaling, seal hunting, fishing and guano harvesting. But things got really exciting in 1909 when diamonds were discovered here. Luderitz Namibia entered boom times and the diamond trade expanded rapidly.

SW Namibia Luderitz history is focused primarily on the rich diamond deposits. In fact, it is estimated that over 80 million carats have been discovered there over the last century. However, the diamonds themselves actually originate in central South Africa. 

Where is Shark Island in Luderitz Namibia?

The Luderitz Peninsula is also referred to as Shark Island. I am calling it a peninsula because that is now what it is today. However prior to 1906 it was a small island. It only became a peninsula after the creation of a land connection that doubled its natural size.

Luderitz Namibia Map

Luderitz Namibia Map showing Agate beach and “Shark Island”.

Shark Island Concentration Camp

During 1905-1907 the German authorities established a concentration camp on Shark Island. The camp held the Herero and Nama resistance fighters captured during the Herero Wars. The slave labor was used mainly for the expansion of Luderitz town, railway, port and colonial farms.

Between 1000 and 3000 are estimated to have died due to the harsh living conditions.

Water Source for Luderitz Namibia

During the diamond boom years there was no local fresh water source. Therefore, water had to be brought in by ox cart or ship. After construction of the railway transportation became more economical.

Fortunately, an underground fresh water reservoir source was eventually discovered. The location is 65 kilometers outside Luderitz town and a pipeline was constructed for transport. As a result, the Luderitz railroad has became obsolete. However, the railroad tracks can still be found running past the Luderitz ghost town.

Decomissioned Railroad Luderitz Things to do

Photo of the now decommissioned railroad tracks that run past the Luderitz ghost town.

Why are Diamonds found in Luderitz Namibia?

Diamond formation requires extreme heat and pressure that only exists very deep within the earth. The diamonds must then be transported to the earth’s surface through volcanic pipes called kimberlites. After the diamonds have been transported closer to the surface, the kimberlites are slowly eroded and the diamonds are exposed.

However, none of these conditions exist in Namibia. This is because the wealth of diamonds that are in Namibia are secondary deposits. The primary deposit from which the diamonds originate is in South Africa.  

Visit the Diamond Museum in Cape Town, South Africa

In South Africa, the Orange River just happens to flow through the kimberlite region. It picks up the diamonds in its current, it then carries them to the Atlantic coastline.  Some are deposited at the mouth of the Orange River but many others continue their journey north riding on the Benguela current.

As a result of the long migration, the quality of the diamonds found in Luderitz Namibia is very high. The transport erosion removes impurities and this results in a high ratio of gem quality diamonds. In Namibia, 85-90% of the diamonds found are of gem quality.

Unfortunately, in South Africa, only 15% of the diamonds located there are gem quality. No wonder South Africans have always had a very keen interest in Luderitz Namibia!

Best Luderitz Things to Do

Luderitz Ghost Town “Kolmanskop”

The chances of you finding a diamond on the side of the road in the Luderitz ghost town are pretty rare. However, one of the most compelling Luderitz things to do is to explore the local ghost town called “Kolmanskop”. 

It is possible to take tours of Kolmanskop, just hook up with a local tour agency in Luderitz town. However, the more independently minded tourist can just drive out there in the evening. Its a great spot for some “gem quality” photos in the evening light and the area is easily accessible.

Kolmanskop Photo - Luderitz things to do

The Luderitz ghost town is located a few kilometers east of Luderitz town.

Barchan Sand Dunes Luderitz Things To Do

Star Sand Dunes Sossusvlei

See the reddish color of the “star” sand dunes at Sossusvlei, Namibia.

Similar to the diamond deposits, the sand surrounding Luderitz town is also sourced in central South Africa. Contrast this with the native sand dunes found at Sossusvlei, Namibia.

The sand was transported to the coast of South Africa by Orange River and traveled north on the Benguela current. After being deposited in SW Namibia, it is blown northwards up the coast by the prevailing south west winds.

This process results in the formation of the mobile “barchan” sand dune. Additionally, the barchan sand dunes are of much smaller size compared to the much larger and stationary “star” dunes at Sossusvlei.

Furthermore, the sand in SW Namibia is white in contrast to the reddish sand at Sossusvlei. This is because there is no iron oxide found in the sand around Luderitz town.

Oryx Desert Photo Luderitz things to do

A small group of oryx wander into the desert landscape outside of Luderitz town. Notice the much smaller mobile barchan sand dunes in the background fleeing over the horizon.

Ostrich Racing Luderitz Things To Do

Due to their mobility, the barchan sand dunes commonly form on the Aus-Luderitz road. In fact, there are many signs in the area warning of the drifting sands. However, barchan sand dunes were not the only thing we found trying to cross the Aus-Luderitz road.

Ostrich racing Luderitz Things to do

Ostrich crossing the Aus-Luderitz Road outside of Luderitz town.

Explore Shark Island Geology Luderitz Things to Do

The Luderitz Peninsula is in itself a splendor of natural wonders. It will intrigue the geologist and also the nature bird enthusiasts. Discover the oldest rock formations in Namibia on Shark Island. Prehistoric rock formations such as gneiss outcroppings are easy to find while you are exploring.

To enjoy the best Luderitz things to do, visitors should be well prepared with 4×4 safari vehicle. If so, the best adventures of Luderitz town await you on “Shark Island”.

4x4 on the luderitz peninsula

4X4 safari is adventurous and it can be quite challenging. The 4X4 trails are well marked although visitors are well advised to expect a few surprises.

Whaling Stations Luderitz Things To Do

Discover the whaling stations and lighthouses that are still standing on the Luderitz peninsula. These are the long lost remnants of the European colonists.

Luderitz Things to do

Discover the lighthouses and whaling station on Shark Island Namibia.

Luderitz Things to do

Flamingos take flight over an abandoned whaling station on Shark Island.

Coastal Views Luderits Things To Do

Enjoy the coastal views on Shark Island

Shark Island Flamingos Luderitz Things To Do

In addition to novel geologic formations, there is a large flock of resident flamingos on Shark island. Their habitat is the shallow salt marsh on the peninsula. We were able to get some fantastic photos of them in flight which is quite rare.

Best Luderitz things to do

The resident flamingos on Shark island provide adventure and photographic opportunity.

Flamingo in flight over Luderitz Peninsula (Shark Island)

Flamingos in flight Shark Island Best Luderitz Things to do.

Photo Flamingos in the salt marsh - Luderitz Peninsula (Shark Island)

Photo of flamingos feeding in the salt water marsh.. The whole area was very scenic and the stationary flamingos also created some great photo opportunities.

Agate Beach Luderitz Things To Do

You should definitely explore Agate Beach. Agate Beach is located a few kilometers north of Luderitz town and it is a great place to catch the sunset. It also has surfing potential if you are so inclined. However, the water here is absolutely freezing due to the cold water Benguela current.

Visitors can dig for sandroses if they are in the company of a conservation officer. A permit from the Ministry of Environment and Tourism would be necessary. They have an office in Luderitz town. Additionally, it is possible to find agates with a bit of luck.

Photo Agate Beach Namibia

The “sand” grains at Agate Beach are very colorful indeed.

Luderitz Namibia Accommodation

Unfortunately, Luderitz Namibia accommodation options are not so great. Although if I were to return, I think the bed and breakfast might be worth a try. Additionally, the restaurants in town are pretty bare bones, fish and chips is probably your best bet. However, Luderitz is not a luxury destination and visitors should not expect too much.

The sparse choice of Luderitz hotels notwithstanding, Luderitz town is an excellent adventure destination The desert flora and fauna is amazing. Plus, the flamingos were like a desert mirage and they created some excitement and great photo opportunities.

Recommended Namibia Travel Posts

Visit Fish River Canyon, Namibia
Discover the Astounding Geology of Namibia
Don’t Miss Cape Cross Seal Reserve


Article Sources:

Namibia – Fascination of Geology
A Travel Handbook
Nicole Grunert