Kolmanskop is Namibia's most well-known ghost town, situated in the Spergebiet or “forbidden territory”, just a few kilometers inland from Luderitz.
In 1908, the railway worker Zacharias Lewala found a sparkling stone amongst the sand while he was working in a railway maintenance team near Kolmanskop. His supervisor, August Stauch, was convinced it was a diamond, and when this was confirmed, the news spread like wildfire, sparking a “Diamond Rush” which caused fortune hunters to converge on the town in droves.
Kolmanskop soon became a bustling centre providing workers with shelter from the harsh environment of the Namib Desert. Large, elegant houses were built and it soon resembled a German town, complete with an impressive array of amenities including a hospital, ballroom, power station, school, 2-lane skittle alley, theatre, sports hall, casino, ice factory, butchery, bakery and the first x-ray station in the southern hemisphere.
The development of Kolmanskop reached its peak in the 1920s, with approximately 300 German adults, 40 children and 800 Ovambo contract workers living in the town. The drop in diamond sales after World War I, as well as the discovery of richer deposits further south at Oranjemund, resulted in the decline of Kolmanskop. Within a span of 40 years, the town lived, flourished and died.
Today the ghost town's crumbling ruins bear little resemblance to its former glory. The stately homes have been nearly demolished by the wind and are gradually becoming enveloped by encroaching sand dunes.
The area creates the perfect backdrop for good photographic opportunities, and film enthusiasts may be interested to know, that in 2000, the film The King Is Alive was filmed in Kolmanskop, with the town being utilized as the film's main setting. The town was also used as one of the locations in the 1993 film, Dust Devil.
During your tour, you will be given a short introduction covering the history of the town as well as the diamond industry today, and you’ll also visit some of the town’s more important buildings including the old hospital, post office and school. There will also be time to explore on your own.
Sandwich Harbour is a part of the Namib-Naukluft Park that many have heard of but very few have ever visited. Giant sand dunes run straight into the ocean, creating breathtaking sceneries and a unique off-road driving experience. Land Rovers take you to beautiful lookouts where you can feel the isolation for which Namibia and the Skeleton Coast are so famous.
The Sandwich Harbour Lagoon is a highlight of the Sandwich Harbour area with its large natural tidal lagoon. The lagoon is completely surrounded by large sand dunes and is only accessible by 4x4s - even this relies largely on the tides. The lagoon area is fed with fresh water seeping through the sand dunes, and contributes to the beauty and natural diversity of the area. The water plays a fundamental role, as it feeds the plants on the shores of the lagoon, which in turn stabilize the dunes, preventing them from silting up the area.
If the lagoon is not accessible, you will get a chance to see the lagoon area from one of the lookout spots. Depending on the tides and the swell, we will try to reach the Sandwich Harbour Lagoon along the beach. Alternatively, you will take an exciting dune ride to the lookout dune to get an aerial view.
Stop along the way to enjoy refreshments and, depending on weather conditions (wind), this will either be on top of a high dune overlooking the Atlantic Ocean, on the beach, or amongst the dunes. The route homewards will test the power of the vehicles on the dunes, the highlight being the 65m high roaring dune and its amazing views, giving you exceptional viewpoints on the return to Walvis Bay.
Your destination is the Namib Naukluft National Park that encompasses part of the Namib desert (considered the world’s oldest) and the Naukluft mountain range. The park covers over 19,000 square miles and is the largest game reserve in Africa. On the way you’ll pass by endless waves of sand dunes, and when you think of Africa and the desert, this is the scene that comes to mind.
As you enter the Namib Naukluft National Park, you’ll turn onto the Welwitschia Drive where the landscape becomes dotted with the extraordinary Welwitschia Mirablis plant. Unique to Namibia, these prehistoric plants have adapted to their harsh habitat. Resembling a large wilted lettuce, Welwitschias only produce two leaves in their lifetime and can live for over 500 years. The locals in this area have dubbed the plant “two-leaf can’t die”. After stopping to view and discuss these amazing and resilient desert plants in their dramatic landscape, this tour continues to the ‘lunar landscape’. In this vast area of eroded valleys you can almost imagine you’re on the moon. Different species of lichen grow here, thanks to the sea fog, which rolls up to 20 miles inland and provides moisture for these desert-dwelling plants.
Take in the breathtaking views of the “moon” landscape before arrival in Swakopmund. Known as Swakop in Namibia, Swakopmund is the country's biggest coastal town and a mecca for Namibians on holiday. The city's German origins are quite pronounced in the beautiful old German Colonial buildings throughout the city, making an even starker contrast for this town sitting at the edge of the Namib Desert. One artefact of the German colonisation includes an old museum/store, selling genuine artefacts from the 19th century. Enjoy an orientation tour of the town, with its many beautiful historical buildings dating back to the turn of the century and built in the Art Nouveau style.
You will also have the opportunity to browse through the “Brauhaus” Gallery, which is a small shopping arcade in the centre of town. Return to Walvis Bay via the coastal road, passing sand dunes on one side and the sea on the other
Take a short drive from the harbour to the jetty, where you board an open ski boat for a three-hour cruise on the Walvis Bay Lagoon. The water here is usually very calm and abundant with bird and marine life.
The boats depart the jetty and cruise around the harbour area, from here they cut across the lagoon to the moored Russian trawlers, where “inquisitive” seals will swim up to the boats hoping for something to eat. For the more adventurous passenger, there is the opportunity to feed fish to these playful animals.
Continue to Pelican Point, where a large seal colony and schools of dolphins, which swim alongside the boats, provide entertainment. Dolphins sighted are the Heavy Side and Bottlenose.
For bird lovers, apart from seeing many pelicans and cormorants, there are also common sightings of the White Chinned Petrel, Wilson’s Storm Petrel, Cape Gannet, Black Oystercatcher and more. Back at the jetty, re-board the coaches, and head back to the quayside.
Please note: this optional excursion can be booked using the signup sheet and paid for on-board the ship (all prices for purchases on-board Aegean Odyssey are listed in US dollars).