The Diamonds of the Luderitz Namibia

The Drive To Luderitz Namibia

We drove from Sesriem to Luderitz Namibia by taking C27 south. Stay on C27 until it meets up with C13, then to B4. From B4, it was a straight run on the tarmac into town and then we easily found our Luderitz accommodation. The drive down was fantastic. There was the lots of wildlife spotted along the way and also the striking Namibian landscape.

Luderitz Namibia Map

Luderitz Namibia Map

History of Luderitz Namibia

Namibia Culture

The History of Culture in Namibia.

The area has a very rich history. German colonization occurred in 1883. At that time, trade in Luderitz Namibia had been mainly comprised of whaling, seal hunting, fishing and guano harvesting. Then things got really exciting in 1909 when diamonds were discovered there. The town entered boom times and the diamond trade expanded rapidly.

SW Namibia is very rich in diamond mineral wealth. In fact, it is estimated that over 80 million carats have been discovered there over the last century. The diamonds themselves actually come from central South Africa, transported by the benguela current.

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

Shark Island Concentration Camp

During 1905-1907 the German authorities established a concentration camp on Shark Island. It was used to hold the Herero and Nama prisoners that were captured during the Herero Wars. The prisoners were used for hard labor in the area. Between 1000 and 3000 are estimated to have died due to the harsh conditions on the island.  Their labor had been used mainly for the expansion of the city,  the railway, the port and expansion of the colonial farms.

Water Source for Luderitz Namibia

During the boom years water was brought in by ox cart or ship, until the completion of the railway. It was only several years later that a local fresh water source was discovered about 65 kilometers outside Luderitz which will serve the needs of Luderitz for the immediate future. 

Photo of Decomissioned Luderitz Railroad

Photo of the now decommissioned railroad tracks that run past Kolmanskop into Luderitz.

Why Are There Diamonds in Luderitz Namibia?

The formation of diamonds is complex. The necessary conditions for their formation only exists under extreme heat and extreme pressure. This can only be found very deep within the earth.

The diamonds reach the earth’s surface through volcanic pipes called kimberlites. After the diamonds have been transported closer to the surface, the kimberlites are eroded. When the diamonds are exposed on the earths surface, they can be deposited in another place.

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 and others continue north up the coast to Luderitz Namibia. They are carried along by the Belguela current into Namibia. Thus, all of the diamond deposits in Namibia are secondary.  Their source is the primary deposit located in the Kimberly region of South Africa.

This migration actually raises the quality level of the diamonds found in Namibia. The transport erosion that occurs when the diamonds are moving removes impurities. They shed most of their impurities and this results in a very high ratio of diamonds that are of gem quality. In Namibia, 85-90% of the diamonds found are of gem quality. As compared to only 15% gem quality ratio of diamonds found in South Africa closer to the source.

My Luderitz Things to Do List

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, you should definitely explore the adjacent ghost town of Kolmanskop Luderitz.  It is possible to take tours of the town, just hook up with a local tour agency in Luderitz Namibia. Or for the more independently minded you can just drive out there in the evening. Its a great spot for photos in the evening light and the area was not gated. So if you don’t mind a bit of desert hiking, it is possible to have a closer look.

Kolmanskop Photo - Near Luderitz Namibia

Kolmanskop Luderitz is located a few kilometers east of Luderitz Namibia on the Auz-Luderitz road.

Explore The Barchan Sand Dunes of Luderitz Namibia

Star Sand Dunes Sossusvlei

See the star sand dunes at Sossusvlei.

The sand deposits in this region of Namibia are also courtesy of central South Africa. Unlike the more centrally located Sossusvlei sands which are sourced locally.  The sand dunes in this area are sourced from central South Africa. The sand is transported to the coastline by the Orange River. Then it travels north on the strong flowing Benguela current. It eventually is deposited on the shoreline of SW Namibia. It is then blown northwards up the coast by the prevailing south west winds.

This process results in the much more mobile barchan sand dune. In addition to mobility, it also possesses much smaller size compared to it’s larger cousin the star dune. These much larger star dunes are found in the Sossusvlei area. The sand in SW Namibia is not characterized by the distinct reddish tint at Sossusvlei. This is because there is no iron oxide in the sands around Luderitz.

oryx desert photo

A small group of oryx wander into the desert landscape surrounding Luderitz Namibia. This photo was taken on the road to Agate Beach which is a few kilometers north of Luderitz. Notice the much smaller mobile barchan sand dunes in the background fleeing over the horizon.

Strange Traffic on the Aus-Luderitz Road

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. Barchan sand dunes were not the only thing we found trying to cross the Aus-Luderitz road. There were a lot of ostrich in the area on the drive in and they were quite aggressive. They would race along side the vehicle and then dart in front of us.

Ostrich on the road near Luderitz, Namibia

Ostrich crossing the Aus-Luderitz Road on the way to Luderitz and Kolmanskop.

Natural Wonders of Luderitz Namibia

The Luderitz Peninsula is in itself a splendor of natural wonders. It will intrigue the geologist and also the bird enthusiast alike. The geology of the Luderitz Namibia contains the oldest rock formations in Namibia. Gneiss outcroppings are easy to find and we stumbled upon a couple of them. The 4×4  challenges on the peninsula are also quite an adventure.

4x4 on the luderitz peninsula

Driving on the Luderitz Peninsula can be quite challenging if you decide to venture off of the main gravel road. The trails are well marked although we did encounter some surprises on a few occasions.

Visit The Flamingos Near Luderitz Namibia

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.

Photo Flamingos in flight Luderitz Peninsula (Shark Island)

This is a photo of flamingos in flight taken near Luderitz Namibia. Of note in the background are two abandoned buildings. We were able to drive over and explore these buildings. The one on the right appeared to be the former location of a whaling station.

Flamingo in flight over Luderitz Peninsula (Shark Island)

After the flamingos flew out over the bay, they then circled back and flew directly over head on their way back to the salt water marsh. I could not believe my luck and I was able to snap a few photos closer in. – Luderitz Peninsula

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.

Go To Agate Beach

While visiting Luderitz Namibia you should definitely explore Agate Beach. It is located a few kilometers north of town and is a great place to catch the sunset or catch some waves if you are so inclined. However, the water here is absolutely freezing due to the Benguela current. See the Luderitz Namibia map posted above to see the location of Agate Beach.

Sandroses can be found at Agate beach but you must be in the company of a conservation officer. A permit from the Ministry of Environment and Tourism is necessary before digging for them. You can get your sandrose permit in town at their office. You can also still find agates in the area if you are bit lucky.

Photo Agate Beach Namibia

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

Luderitz Hotels & Luderitz Accommodation

Luderitz Namibia was an amazing adventure. This is because of the amazing wildlife and the geological phenomenon on Shark Island and Agate Beach. However, finding good Luderitz hotels and restaurants is challenging. Unfortunately, we didn’t make the best choice. Although if I were to return I think a bed and breakfast might be worth a try. The restaurants in town are pretty bare bones, fish and chips is probably your best bet. The Luderitz accommodation notwithstanding, my Luderitz things to do list made our visit very worthwhile. The desert flora and fauna is amazing. The flamingos were like a desert mirage and they made for some excellent photos.


Article Sources:

Namibia – Fascination of Geology
A Travel Handbook
Nicole Grunert