Located at the base of the Namib Desert at the end of the B4 road, Luderitz is a harbour town in Namibia best known for its colonial architecture and its close proximity to the ghost town of Kolmanskop.
Situated in the south-west of Namibia on what is considered one of the most inhospitable coastlines in Africa, Luderitz is a quirky and quaint town with interesting architecture. Founded in 1883 as a trading post for sailors and fishermen on their way up or down the coast, Luderitz experienced a huge growth spurt in the early 1900s when diamonds were discovered in the nearby area known as Kolmanskop.
The region grew rapidly and enjoyed a few years of prosperity before the diamonds ran out and the growth slowed and eventually stopped. The friendly local guide, while on the organised tour of the Ghost Town of Kolmanskop, [link to Kolmanskop article] tells the story of years gone by when locals were able to walk into the desert and pick up diamonds off the ground as if they were daisies.
Needless to say the diamonds soon ran out and people flocked to the next venture, leaving the town to survive and exist at much the same size today as it was then.
The main reason for our visit to Luderitz was to be able to visit Kolmanskop relatively early to avoid having to explore during the heat of the day. We camped on the very tip of the town at the Shark Island campsite. The site is out, away from the town, in the middle of the sea, connected to the mainland only by a bridge.
Once the location of a concentration camp, Shark Island is known to be very windy, but as the campsite was fairly empty, we were able to pick a sheltered location for our stay. Camping on the island was a real experience and I thoroughly enjoyed waking up early before sunrise where I was able to send some time taking photos of the boats in the harbour and the seagulls in the beautiful dawn light.
As testament to its rich history, the town has many beautiful historic buildings that stand out from the rest of the town buildings. We enjoyed a relaxed drive around to visit them. A highlight of our explorations was a visit to the 'Felsenkirche', the evangelical Lutheran church at the top of the hill.
The church has some incredible stained glass windows with some truly interesting pictures. We were told to visit it during the late afternoon when the sun is in line with the windows, as this is then the light is at its most beautiful, and it was definitely worth making the effort for.
While in Luderitz we also spent a few hours exploring the southerly coastline. We drove out of the town down towards Diaz Point and along past Halifax Island and Grusse Bucht (Big Bay).
Bartolomeau Dias ventured to this region in the late 1400s on his way back from the Cape of Storms [link to Cape Town] under the orders of King John II of Portugal. During his travels he erected stone beacons that were fashioned into the shape of a cross. Dias placed these at key locations throughout his journey, including the one outside of Luderitz.
Visitors to Dias Point can sit on the rocks below the cross and take in the rugged, stark beauty of the coastline surrounding them. During this drive we also came across a few flamingos and seals and it was a wonderful way to get a greater perspective on the region and an understanding of why the coastline is considered the least hospitable in the whole of Africa.
by Katie Edge