Kolmanskop is Namibia’s famous ghost town, situated in the Spergebiet or ‘forbidden territory’ and it’s one of our included half-day tour options during our calls to Lüderitz. Its history is unique, it was born of a diamond boom but then left to crumble. It has stood still, completely uninhabited since the mid-1950’s. If you visit with us this winter, this is what you can expect.
In 1908, railway worker Zacharias Lewala was shovelling sand from the tracks when he came across some sparkling stones. He showed his find to August Stauch, his supervisor at the time. Stauch was convinced Lewala had found diamonds and on a visit to Lüderitz this was confirmed. When word got out, the “Diamond Rush” began and those eager to mine the stones descended upon the small town in their hundreds.
Kolmanskop was alive with activity. Elegant homes were built, a hospital, ballroom, school, butchery, bakery and more were born from the Namib Desert and the area became self-sufficient. The residents even produced their own lemonade. Entertainment was offered in the hall and it wasn’t uncommon for opera companies to be shipped in from Europe. There were lush green gardens, beautiful flower beds and even a pet ostrich that used to terrorise the residents. Kolmanskop was also home to the first x-ray station in the southern hemisphere.
The area resembled a German town and that’s because there were over 300 German adults living there, along with approx. 40 children and 800 Ovambo contract workers. It was a round-the-clock job. The town thrived and entirely relied on the sale of the mined diamonds, but after World Ward I and the discovery of far richer deposits at Oranjemund in the south, the diamond sales began to slow and eventually Kolmanskop would be no more. Within the space of just 40 years it had been born, flourished and left to die.
What you see today is exactly how the town was left. The stately homes can still be seen, although they are crumbling and slowly being enveloped by the sand dunes. It doesn’t quite resemble its former glory, but it’s a fascinating insight into what the town once did look like. If you let your imagination take over, you can visualise a bustling place, filled with everything you’d expect to find in any small-town. Get up close to the houses and admire their characteristic German architecture, featuring truncated roofs and large windows.
Our included tour to the site will allow you to visit some of the town’s more important buildings, including the hospital, post office and school. You’ll also have free time to explore on your own and take some photographs.
Aegean Odyssey will call to Namibia several times during our winter 2018/19 season, all sailings featuring Kolmanskop can be found on our website, along with our entire winter season which includes our 129-day Grand Odyssey – Aegean Odyssey’s longest ever sailing.