It’s another early start for us as we have a full day ahead exploring as much of Lüderitz as we can in just one day. We devour the bacon, eggs and sausages provided by our hosts at the Zum Sperrgebiet and head down to the harbour for our 8am trip to Halifax Island on board the good ship, or rather catamaran, Zeepard.
Halifax Island and Heaviside Dolphins
It’s chilly out on the water, but well worth it to see the historic sites of Lüderitz from this angle before our walking tour this afternoon. We drift past Shark Island, Angra Point, the Old Whaling Station, Diaz Point and the lighthouse, and despite my high hopes we don’t get to see any whales along the way. However, my disappointment is soon eased by the sight of the hundreds of jackass penguins on Halifax Island and the antics of the Heaviside dolphins as we return to port.
We just have time to sip on a cup of coffee at the Lüderitz Waterfront before our 11am tour to the ghost town of Kolmanskop, just 16km away.
Glory days long gone
Once we have cut through the red tape of signing in and presenting our passports, this tour is a highlight of our trip – a wistful journey into what was once one of the highest income per capita towns in the world, which now stands at the mercy of the desert elements. The relentless dry winds continue to conquer the once manicured gardens and carve chunks out of the elaborate mansions that lined these streets a long time ago, creating a sense of desolation everywhere you look.
Our guide fills us in on the history of Kolmanskop which is a typical diamond rush tale of excess and expense spanning just 40 years. After that the fortune-seekers simply upped and moved south to seek out the next best thing. The last families left Kolmanskop in 1956 and no one has lived here since.
Kolmanskop is about as far into the Sperrgebiet as you can go without lengthy arrangements being made – despite the area’s National Park Status. The Sperrgebiet houses 2 439 plants endemic to the Karroo biome and is one of the world’s top biodiversity hotspots. Fortunately, plans are underway to open up more of this sensitive area to the public while still protecting this valuable heritage – and any diamonds that may still be lurking in the area.
We spoil ourselves with Lüderitz’s famous crayfish and oysters at the Crayfish Bar and Lounge, overlooking glorious views of the bay, and prepare to pay for our dining excess with a walking tour of the historic sights of this seaside town.
Getting to know Lüderitz
Lüderitz is filled with so many old German buildings that I have lost track of all them before we are halfway through, but our tour did include the Goerke Haus the Deutsche Afrika bank building, the Old Post Office, the Old Whaling Station and the small Felsenkirche with its beautiful stained glass windows, amongst other unpronounceable (to me) German names. Exploring done, we just have time for a quick nap back at our hotel before heading for a night on the town – so to speak.
While Lüderitz remains a sleepy isolated place, the locals are extremely friendly and welcoming as we discover during the course of our evening out. Barrels Restaurant and Pub proves to be a fine place to indulge in some hearty German fare, live music and an excess of Windhoek Lager, which is apparently the purest beer in southern Africa.
To cut a long story short – good times were had and we returned to our hotel at a totally unrespectable hour, with new found admiration for the staying power of the Lüderitz locals.