Lüderitz

Travel Guide Africa Namibia Lüderitz

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Introduction

Building

Building

© mohn

Lüderitz is a long drive from anywhere in Namibia but is a very rewarding place to pay a visit, in part because of its German colonial history. En route to Lüderitz, watch for wild horses on the plains several dozens of kilometres before the town. Although Lüderitz itself is just a small place, it has its charms.

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History

Portuguese Bartolomeu Dias landed in the Bay in 1487 and erected a cross on the peninsula, a replica of which still stands. The richness of marine life was discovered in the early 19th century, and Lüderitz became a trading post for guano from the penguin colonies on the islands nearby.

Being the only natural deep-see harbour at the time—Walvis Bay was under British control—merchant Adolf Lüderitz obtained the Bay and the land around it in 1883. The deal was not quite fair as the contract stated geographical miles (7.4 kilometres (4.6 mi)) as the measurement while the only locally known unit was the English mile (1.6 km). The Frederiks clan thus lost most of its land to the Germans, making way for the establishment of German South-West Africa.

In 1909 diamonds were discovered on the railway track through the desert, and a diamond rush began. It lasted until 1920 when the new South African-run government declared all of the land around the town a forbidden zone, terminating almost all private mining activities. Business activities ceased, and the town fell into decline. The Sperrgebiet still is in place today; when travelling to Lüderitz, no matter the direction, you may not leave the road.

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Sights and Activities

There are many historic German colonial buildings including the Deutsche Afrika bank building, the Station building, the Old Post Office, and the small Felsenkirche (the church on the rocks), a Lutheran church. One of the most notable buildings is the Goerke Haus at the end of Zeppelin Street. This is one of Lüderitz's best preserved buildings, considered one of the "diamond palaces". Other buildings of note are Troost House, Kreplin House, Krappenhoft and Lampe building, Woermann House and Turnhalle.

Located south-west of town, Lüderitz Peninsula is criss-crossed by 4x4 tracks and small roads. The major attraction, the replica of the cross erected by Bartholomew Dias in 1487, is reachable via District Roads but many of the tracks to minor destinations are not passable with a sedan, including the majority of the bays, and the "Kleine Bogenfels" (Rock Arch Minor) rock formation. Visit the breeding ground of the endemic Damara Tern, several bays teeming with birds, and (with good binoculars) the penguins on Halifax Island.

The Penguin and Zeepard (sea horse) catamarans drive daily to Halifax Island, home to one of the few colonies of African penguins. Flamingos and seals can be spotted on tour, and a few dolphins usually chase the boat. Wear a windbreaker, even in summer, as the mornings out on sea can be very chilly. The catamarans depart from the Waterfront jetty at 8AM, adults N$450, one child free for every paying adult, otherwise half price (Jan 2018). This must normally be paid one day in advance at the information office (Lüderitz Tours & Safaris in Bismarck Street, Tel 202719) downtown. However, if the catamarans have space - they usually do - you can just come to the jetty and pay cash.

Shark Island is situated in the Lüderitz Bay circa 2 km from the city centre. It is used as a camp site but you may walk around without being a patron. The Germans used it as a concentration camp during their colonial expansion in the late 19th century. Until today, few Namibians know how to swim, and the sea is quite rough here. All that had to be guarded was therefore a small sand bank connecting the island to the town. The small monument pointing out this dark spot of history has been removed but there are a number of plaques and shrines memorializing major and minor events of the island and of the town. There is a grave stone of the Frederiks clan which lost over 100 members to the Germans in this camp, and there is also a plaque for Brazilian navigator Amyr Klink who in 1984 rowed 7,000 km over the Atlantic, starting off here.

The tour to Bogenfels arch passes the diamond ghost towns of Elisabeth Bay and Pomona. Apply well in advance, as the necessary permits to visit the restricted diamond area take 4-5 days to process. The tour operator provides the 4x4 as own vehicles are not allowed on this track.

Kolmanskop

Do visit the nearby ghost town of Kolmanskop. It is no longer signposted (January 2018) but easy to find. Drive out of town for about 8 km on the B4 and for the settlement on your right, just by the airport. Founded in 1908, it was a major settlement for diamond miners until richer ore and alluvial deposits were found near Oranjemund. The town boasted unbelievable wealth during the heydays of the diamond rush. Tabs in the Casino were occasionally paid in uncut diamonds, or diamond mining company shares. Kolmanskop had a tram, the only one in Africa, transporting passengers and delivering free ice blocks to re-stock private fridges. The clinic has an X-ray machine, likewise a first in Africa, but the reason was less charitable: workers were X-rayed for swallowed diamonds, and the clinical advantage of the device was only of secondary importance.

The last settler left in 1956, giving the town over to the sand dunes that have crept in and started to take over the town. It is one of Namibia's premier ghost towns. There are one-hour guided tours daily in the mornings at 9h30 and 10h45. Photographers can book special tours during sunrise when the scenery is particularly spectacular. Permits are required and available at Lüderitz Tours & Safaris in Bismarck Street, Tel 202719, as well as at the gate to Kolmanskop.

When you do the German-language tour, the guide will tell you that the Namibian government has struggled for over a decade to rebuild the railway from Keetmanshoop to Lüderitz, and as yet without success, while the Germans more than 100 years ago had done it in ten months. What they are not telling you is that the four thousand workers were inmates of various concentration camps, and in Lüderitz alone (on Shark Island) at least a thousand of them died. However, don't discuss that with strangers, or you might end up in a fist fight.

The souvenir shop in the old Casino hall stocks Namibian diamonds, reportedly for a very good price. There is also a bistro. The original skittle alley can be booked for special occasions, it is still fully functional.

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Weather

Lüderitz has a very pleasant climate with generally warm and dry weather and relatively small fluctuations throughout the year. The summer months from November to March are somewhat warmer though compared to winter from June to September. Precipitation is extremely low, mainly because of the cold Benguela current flowing along the coast. Lüderitz, like many places along the Namibian coast though experiences quite a few days with fog.

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Getting There

By Plane

Air Namibia flies to Cape Town, Oranjemund and Walvis Bay.

By Car

It's a straight 4-hour drive from Keetmanshoop. En route to Lüderitz, watch for wild horses on the plains several dozens of kilometres before the town.

By Bus

Minibuses from Windhoek depart from the Rhino motorpark a bit north of the centre, and from Keetmanshoop from the Caltex station, however most of them originate in Windhoek, so are unlikely to reach Keetmanshoop before mid-morning. As such, you may be better off hitching (either from the Caltex station or on the road heading towards Lüderitz). Whichever option you choose, it should cost about N$180 and local drivers take just over 3 hours for the trip.

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Getting Around

Lüderitz is small enough to walk around on foot.

There are several tour operators in Luderitz which will also take you to some of the areas attractions. There are several standard car rental agencies in town which will enable the tourist to see the Luderitz Peninsula, including Diaz Point, Agate Beach and some of the bays teeming with flamingos.

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Eat

Lüderitz is a centre for rock lobster. Seafood is a specialty of the area.

  • Essenzeit, Waterfront, Hafen Street (upstairs). Food is not bad but not stellar, either. Try the snails for starter, they're delicious. Starters 60 N$, Main courses 130 N$.
  • Nicky's Bistro, Waterfront, Hafen Street (downstairs). Simple eatery, the fish is fresh, and the staff is friendly. Try the fish fingers, they're home-made. 40-70 N$.
  • Captain Makarena, Waterfront, Hafen Street (one of the small shops in the mall). Actually just a food stall with a single bench in front. You'll have to eat from the paper packaging and without cutlery but compared to the restaurants in the vicinity, the fish here seems to be the freshest and tastiest. Invest a few N$ and order kingklip instead of the ordinary hake. 40-80 N$.

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Drink

Windhoek Lager Beer, brewed in Windhoek. Brewed according to the German Beer Purity Law, it's the best beer you'll find in southern Africa.

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Sleep

There are several hotels plus several guesthouses and a backpackers hostel.

  • Lüderitz Backpackers, information at namibweb website, is a cheap option in the town. A private room with shared facilities costs N$210. They can also book seats on a minibus heading back to Keetmanshoop, leaving at about 9:15am.

Bay View Hotel, Diaz Str, ☎ +264 63 20-2288, fax: +264 63 20-2402, e-mail: bayview@namibnet.com.

  • Hotel Diamond Reef City, ☎ +264 63 20-3850, fax: +264 63 20-3853.
  • Kapps Hotel, ☎ +264 63 20-2345, fax: +264 63 20-3555, e-mail: pmk@mweb.com.na.
  • Lüderitz Nest Hotel, ☎ +264 63 20-4000, fax: +264 63 20-4001, e-mail: reservations@nesthotel.com.
  • Protea Hotel Sea-View Zum Sperrgebiet, ☎ +264 63 20 -3411, fax: +264 63 20-3414, e-mail: sperrgebiet@proteahotels.com.na.
  • Shark Island camp site (follow the signs from the city centre). Shark Island is idyllic but two features potentially spoil the camping experience: First, it is a former German concentration camp (specifically, a death by slave labour camp) - spending the night alone at this place might be spooky for many people. Second, the peninsula is completely exposed to the wind. Pitching a tent at a place where you could not hold an umbrella due to wind speed, is a formidable challenge. N$100.

You can use the form below to search for availability (Travellerspoint receives a commission for bookings made through the form)

Booking.com

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Keep Connected

Internet

There are Internet cafes in Windhoek, Swakopmund and Opuwo, and hostels often have access as well. Wifi is on the rise, but still not on the level of neighbouring South Africa.

Phone

See also: International Telephone Calls

Namibia's country code is 264. Each city or region has a two-digit area code. When calling long distance within Namibia, prefix the area code with a '0'. Mobile phones are very common and run on the GSM network, using the same frequency as Europe and the rest of Africa. Be aware that when you get off the beaten track signal can be erratic.

To avoid high costs, switch off data roaming and/or buy a local SIM card instead. Internet rates especially are extremely high still, but you will also save money on calling costs.

Post

Nampost is the national postal service of Namibia. It has post offices in most major cities and towns or postal services are incorporated within small shops in the smallest settlements. As for many countries in Southern Africa, services are actually fairly reliable but not very fast. Count on 2 weeks or more for postcards or letters to be send to countries in Europe or North America. Most post offices are open from 8:00 or 9:00am to around 4:30pm, with shorter hours (mornings) on Saturdays. Note that local variations may apply. For parcels, you might choose more expensive but faster companies like DHL, UPS, FedEx or TNT.

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Accommodation in Lüderitz

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This is version 11. Last edited at 9:39 on Jul 30, 19 by Utrecht. 4 articles link to this page.

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