Did you know: The ‘strange’ town of Oranjemund

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August 12, 2012
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August 12, 2012
namdeb oranjemund diamonds
By Bill Torbitt
 
‘Closed’ to the general public’

Oranjemund is a small town in the far south-western corner of Namibia, situated – as the name implies – at the mouth of the Orange River, where it empties into the Atlantic Ocean.

It is an unusual town, because although it has a population of about 4 000 – a small to medium town by Namibian standards – it is ‘closed’ to the general public, is not part of the national local government system, and is run by the Namibian diamond-mining company, Namdeb, a subsidiary of De Beers.

You still need a reason and a permit to go there (there is a security-card-operated turnstile to leave the small airport!)

namdeb oranjemund diamonds

Alluvial diamond deposits

Formerly an almost uninhabited area, Oranjemund was founded in the 1930s to cater for the workers of the company exploiting the lower Orange River alluvial diamond deposits, which were discovered by the legendary geologist Hans Merensky, who also discovered the world’s richest platinum deposits in South Africa.

oranjemund

A one-horse town, run by Namdeb

Oranjemund has one school, one supermarket, one roundabout and one hospital, but at least six churches! 

There is a library containing rather venerable books and a fascinating small museum.  Nearly everything is owned and run by Namdeb, including the school, with undoubted advantages for the inhabitants.

For instance, until recently, water, electricity and local telephone calls were free.

Unlike in most of Namibia, there is plenty of water, because of the perennial Orange River close by, so there is an abundance of public gardens, lawns and huge shade trees.  Do not expect to see any diamonds, however – the mining operations are situated well out of town, and surrounded by impenetrable security.

namdeb oranjemund diamonds

In a time capsule

Although there are a few modern structures, most of the buildings and houses date from the early founding days of the 1940s and 1950s, so that when in the town you experience a strong sense of being in a time capsule.

Similarly, when flying overhead and seeing the compactly laid-out little town surrounded by the boundless rolling sands, and ocean, you are reminded of science fiction classics like Solaris.  The frequent, thick early-morning fogs add to the sense of other-worldliness.

namdeb oranjemund diamonds

Link to Alexander Bay

On the ground, in the sunshine, the scenery is spectacular, with the timeless landscape of the river threading though the Namib Desert and merging peacefully, almost imperceptibly, into the sea. 

On the horizon you can see the other diamond mining settlement of Alexander Bay in South Africa, and the modern Oppenheimer Bridge linking the two towns. Until recently, the only road link to the town was via Alexander Bay, also a restricted area, which took care of unwanted visitors.

namdeb oranjemund diamonds

Road to Rosh Pinah

A new road leading to the other largely one-company town of Rosh Pinah has now been constructed. 

Both the road and Oranjemund itself have just been proclaimed, which means that the town is now a real municipality.

It’s not freely accessible to the public quite yet though – Namdeb and the Ministry of Mines still have to make some security arrangements to ensure that visitors do not have the opportunity for unofficial diamond prospecting.

namdeb oranjemund diamonds

A trans-Namibian road race?

When Oranjemund is finally open, it would be fun if some entrepreneur could organise a trans-Namibian road race, say from Katima via the Caprivi and Kalahari Desert, through the streets of Windhoek, southwards through the Namib, and ending at the Oranjemund roundabout! 

It would be a fitting rival to the Paris Dakar rally.

This article appeared in the Sept'11 edition of FLAMINGO Magazine.
Photos courtesy of media photos from http://www.namdeb.com/multi_photo_gallery.php?cId=11
Travel News Namibia
Travel News Namibia
Travel News Namibia is a high-quality glossy Namibia travel and lifestyle magazine tasked with promoting Namibia to the world. With riveting stories, first-hand encounters and magnificent photographs showcasing tourism, travel, nature, adventure and conservation, TNN is the ultimate and most comprehensive guide to exploring Namibia. Travel News Namibia is published in five different editions per year. These include four English- language editions and one German. Travel News Namibia is for sale in Namibia and South Africa.

34 Comments

  1. leroy says:

    mango groove came in 1990, at the independence celebrations and did a gig in the park behind the school, that was the only contact Oranjemund ever made with the outside world.. Oranjemunders are so deprived of urban conveniences they will pack an entire family into a car, and drive 12 hours to go shopping in cape town, spend a night in a b&b, and drive home the next day…

    its great to have the desert on your doorstep tho, i miss it 😉

  2. Patricia says:

    I had the privilege of growing up in Oranjemund!! Oh such happy memories!

  3. Denise Smith says:

    I was born in Oranjemund. It was a wonderful town to grow up in. Would love to go back sometime soon.

  4. Catherine Fry says:

    I also grew up in Oranjemund, having come from England in 1952 until I left for Joburg in 1970. It was a lovely place to grow up in – many fond memories. And today the ex Oranjemunders keep in touch via special website!

    • John Haycox says:

      Hi Cathy,

      Wonder whether you remember Jimmy and myself ? Used to live in 21/11th

    • Charles Badenhorst says:

      Hi Catherine,I also remember the good times we had back then,you must remember Paul Selby Peter Henshall-Howard the Creedy boys and your mate Hillary Watson.

  5. Annalies Kotze says:

    I also grew up in Oranjamund. I have the fondest memories of the town and friends.

  6. Josefina says:

    Good to see the Oranjemund town. It so unique. I hope to come see it physical.

  7. tshisevhe says:

    Im planning to go there soon, I’m a south african , who is now decided in rosh pinah.

  8. tammy says:

    Hey im maybe moving there in a few months whats it like there i live in s.a middelburg

  9. Dawn ritson Ralston (nee Wright) says:

    I lived in Oranjemund in 1956. My uncle Harry Maughan worked for the Diamond Mine. My mother and I stayed with my uncle Harry and aunt Peggy, who had had their first child Stuart Maughan, whilst we were there. I attended the school for approx. 1 year. I remember a girl who I went to school with and her name was Ray Lazereth, they had a dry cleaning business. I remember the Club we visited on Sunday mornings and swimming in the swimming pool and having miniature bottles of Pepsi. Paul and Alaister were also school friends, can’t remember their surnames. Happy days.

  10. I was born in Oranjemund and lived there until we moved in 1996 to the USA. Does anyone know my family- my parents are David and Ruth Wylie? Also, I would love to reconnect with my childhood friend Simone Marais.

  11. Eloise says:

    I was born in Oranjemund 1993.
    Raised and father still lives here, Oranjemund has and always will be my home.

  12. Marcel Laubscher says:

    Hi there.I grew up in Oranjemund and was there until 1977.My parents were Pine and Loretta Laubscher.Would like to come in contact with all 1976 standard 5’s.

  13. Johann Stander says:

    I was born in Oranjemund in 1954 and left in 1989.
    I went back in 2012, and must say that a lot have changed since I left.
    What are still there are the Gemsbok that are walking around town

  14. bev walker says:

    I lived in Oranjeund during the 60’s….it was a dream come true to go back about 5 year ago very kindly organized by some of the residents there now….we organized a school reunion and had a brilliant time…..i loooove this place….things had changed in the 40 odd years since i had left …Oranjemund online run by mike made it all possible

  15. Trevor Barnes says:

    Well to add to the good feeling about the place! What a great town. Lived there from 1979 to 1981. Jennifer and I had the twins there in 1980, then due to the cool weather, which was not good for the prem twins, we left for Pretoria.
    We enjoyed the town and the feeling of safety and help from your neighbour. Ran the Pink Pan Race, and had many evening at Casey’s Bar. Also went fishing at Dougalls Bay. Still keep in touch with Tony Simnett and Alan Watson, and was shocked to hear what happened to Gudrun Corvenus. Happy Oranjemund – with the sand, sea and millions of cormorants. (Tried to count them once.Silly idea!!) Regards.

  16. Deb Pearson says:

    I was born in Oranjemund in 1966 and left in 1968. I can remember Mum pulling my pram backwards because of dust on a high up track bordered by some “tall trees”. We’d just visited my friend Maurice. I can also remember sun on the water – the Pink Pan ? – whilst sitting in a swing and being worried about the “red balls” out on the water. Mum – Rhona, Dad – Ian. We had a boxer dog called Lassie.

    • Zheyla says:

      I have great memories of staying with my sister Rhona and her husband Ian Pearson for about six months and went to the school while I was there Mrs Smith was our teacher. Made some good friends.
      Happy Days Deb

  17. Noeroenniesa Ramedies says:

    My husband (“Mo”), our little daughter then and I moved to Oranjemund in 1986. I had three more children there and life was really good. We stayed until 2000. My kids still miss the place very much. Fond memories of places, events and friends.

  18. Elmarie (Rokitta) Snyman says:

    Arrived in December 1993 with my parents, met my husband here, Jakes Snyman, our daughter was born here in 2003 and after 22 years still living here, I am still in love with this little gem in the desert…. the drive to Cape Town to shop is not as bad as earlier described and we have a variety of shops, you make the most of what you have….life is still good in Oranjemund.

  19. hazel jacobs says:

    Born in oranjemund 1960.went to school.left with my parents valerie and faas jacobs in 1973.awsome town to have lived in.hazel jacobs

  20. Peter Rauh says:

    Worker in O.mund from 1962 Tll 1975. Best years of my life.Starter as electrician left as Elect.Foreman No.4.Plant.Founder of Claypidgeon Club.Hope it still exists.

  21. David brownless says:

    Went to Centaurus high in Windhoek left oranjemund in1973 with PeterWatson and Paul goubert to Cape Town then left in 74 to the uk .anybody know what happened to the watsons Bernadette , Shirley ? David brownless

  22. Ulrich Verlemann says:

    Ich habe von 1972 bis Ende 1975 in der Town-Garage in Oranjemund als Kfz.-Mechaniker gearbeitet. Es war eine wundervolle Zeit, an der ich mich gerne zurück erinnere. 1994 habe ich meinen Sohn sein Geburtsland gezeigt, wobei auch ein Besuch in Oranjemund mit der Familie Siebers anstand. Es war einfach Traumhaft!!!

  23. N/A says:

    I love oranjemund it is such a beautiful place strange is never the term to use on my town, my birth place

  24. Knut Meyer says:

    I spent 2 and a bit years in Oranjemund with my wife Sally and 2 children. Sally was library assistant and our 2 children, Ian and Deborah, attended the primary school. I was seconded to Oranjemund by Anglo American as CDM’s company pilot. We loved our time there before moving to Australia.

  25. I worked in Oranjemund for three months as a contractor in 1977,I was a pump fitter and just over from England and in my early twenties.I was based at some remote hostel.The food was good but the work was backbreaking and could be dangerous.
    The foreman was called Ronnie Jew ( this may have been a nick name ) he wore a white shirt and bowtie.
    We went into town on a Friday,to a pub called the Sportsman,I only remember this as my local in England was called the same.
    I left after my three months,it was an experience but it was one I did not want to repeat !

  26. Nabila says:

    Hey my name is Nabila Williams I’m from cape town still deciding to live in oranjemund namibia I need to know how far is the primary school for my little one and if there is any work opportunities for me as women my husband has already work there

    • Travel News Namibia says:

      Dear Nabila,
      The schools in Oranjemund are all within walking distance. For work opportunities, we would recommend looking around once you have arrived in the town. It would also, of course, depend on your industry and qualifications. All the best with your job search and move.
      Regards, the TNN Team.

  27. John Kilbride says:

    Hi, my parents Vin and Peggy Kilbride emigrated from the UK to Oranjemund in 1956 and we stayed 12 years. I’m John Kilbride and have three brothers Mike, Mark and Scott. We had a great childhood and teenage years in Oranjemund, so many great memories. We were close friends with the Hockneys, Bailey’s, Creedy’s,Vintners, Bakers, Griggs. Nice to read that the gemsbok are still roaming around the town.

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