by Marita van Rooyen
Otjikoto, which translates loosely from Herero as ‘the place too deep for cattle to drink’, hosts weaponry dumped there by German troops during the First World War.
It is the only underwater war museum in the world, and is a National Monument.
Exploring the turquoise-green depths of this large sinkhole shaped like an inverted mushroom is an incomparable diving adventure for even the most seasoned of divers.
Apart from the war artillery, the lake is inhabited by the small, colourful Otjikoto tilapia, Tilapia guinasana, believed to originate from Lake Guinas (about 20 kilometres north-west from Otjikoto).
This rare species of mouth-breeding fish, which belongs to the family of cichlids found only in these lakes, are a spectacular sight to see. Another rare breed found here is the Pseudocrenilabrus philander dispersus, which lives at the bottom of the sinkhole and has the same dark-grey colour of the mud. Other fish brought in by the Germans in 1912 can also be found in these waters.
Stephanus Viljoen’s Otjikoto Diving Enterprises is the only commercial company allowed to take divers into these waters. The company also offers dives in Lake Guinas, and caves such as Gamkarab, Dragon’s Breath, Hariseb, and Aigamas.
Says Stephanus, “The caves and sinkholes in Namibia are all found at an altitude of more than 1 450 metres above sea level and with depths ranging from 30 to 130 metres. Our di-ving is therefore advanced technical diving, for which special skills are required.”
The best time to dive at Lake Otjikoto is from April to October, outside the rainy season when tempera-tures are conducive to camping. Otjikoto offers good visibility compared to the rather gloomy conditions prevailing along the coast and in local storage dams. The water in the lake is usually clear, with visibility reaching 15 metres on good days.
Lake Otjikoto is located next to the B1 about 18 kilometres from Tsumeb—the town that houses the recovered ammunition, guns and weaponry in its museum. Otjikoto Diving Enterprises will provide all the necessary equipment, including diving gear and camping and outdoor equipment.
This article appeared in the Aug/Sep ‘10 edition of Travel News Namibia.
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