For centuries, Lake Otjikoto in the north of Namibia served as the biggest copper supermarket in the country. It is here, a distance of about 20 kilomtres from a secret and very rich copper depository at the green hill, now known as the town of Tsumeb, that the local Hai-//Khom Bushmen clan came to sell the metal to their biggest buyers, mostly to an Ovambo tribe, the Aandonga.
The Otjikoto lake acted as a central meeting point between the two tribes, where the Ovambo bartered a variety of objects, such as glass beads, salt, knives, spears and more. The Bushmen, who were able to mine the copper but not smelt it, in return offered up the precious metal which the Ovambo used to create ornaments and jewelry, amongst other things.
It is estimated that the lake measures around 102 meters in diameter. It’s depth is unclear, some say it is around 70 meters deep, but others think it might extend to 100 meters or more.
One thing is for sure – the sinkhole’s water is reflected as a blend of turquoise and azure colours, and surrounded by metre high cliffs, and one can’t help but view it with a sense of awe and mystery.
The Bushmen named the lake ‘Gaisis’, meaning ‘very ugly’. This name reflected their fear of the lake, which they believed could cause someone who swims in it to disappear forever.
Moreover, since the German colonial forces dumped their artillery, including dozens of cannons, into the lake, the lake is viewed as a treasure chest by historians and divers alike. This ‘underwater war museum’ also contains, according to legend, a treasure chest filled with 6 million gold coins which sunk to the murky depths of the lake in 1915 – adding another layer of mystique to the lake.
According to scientists, this cave diving faverouite in southern Africa, is home to an endangered freshwater fish species.
The rare and engangered species, Otjikoto Tilapia, is endemic to Namibia.
Lake Otjikoto is linked to another lake, Lake Guinas which is situated around 20 kilometres to the west.
Otjikoto and Guinas are actually sinkholes which were only revealed after the karst roof collapsed revealing the underground water cave. A formation of cavities are wide-spread in the Otavi
Mountain land and several lakes and caves have formed over millenia here.
Lake Otjikoto was discovered by two European explorers Sir Francis Galton and Charles Anderson in 1850, who surprised locals by immediately taking a plunge into the water to cool off.