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Lüderitz in the far south is probably the most unique town in Namibia, if not on the entire African continent. Originally named Angra Pequena (small bay) by famous Portuguese explorer Bartolomeu Dias, who in 1487 was the first European to sail into the bay, the burgeoning settlement was renamed Lüderitzbucht in honour of German merchant Adolf Lüderitz in 1886.
Lüderitz enjoys a moderate climate. The infamous coastal mist envelopes the town perhaps on 15 days a year. This historical town, built on undulating rocky terrain, sits between the massive coastal dune belt to the north and the treacherously rocky coastline to the south.
Lüderitz boasts no less than 95 early twentieth-century German buildings, most of them Art Nouveau (Jugendstil) and all of them enjoy National Heritage status. The most striking examples are the neo-Gothic Felsenkirche (1912) and Goerke-Haus (1910). Other attractions of the small town are its waterfront development, the colourful fishing harbour – and Kolmanskop.
The world-famous Ghost Town of Kolmanskop, just 10 km away in the Namib Desert, affords visitors the opportunity to see and experience what life was like in the heyday of diamond mining in this harsh desert landscape. Back in 1912, Kolmanskop was one of the most affluent villages on the planet with impressive mansions, an enormous outdoor swimming pool, a bowling alley, entertainment hall, an ice-making factory and a hospital which was equipped with the first X-ray machine in the southern hemisphere. The tiny settlement even operated an electrified railway line to the diamond fields. Kolmanskop is a must-visit when staying over in Lüderitz.
Lüderitz is also famous for its delicious fresh seafood, harvested locally. Lüderitz oysters reputedly have the best quality in the world, and just as sought-after are abalone and rock lobster.
Local excursions include self-drive trails (4×2 and 4×4) on the wild, expansive Lüderitz Peninsula with its unique flora, solitary beaches, lagoons, bays, rocky fjords and a cave. Man-made landmarks are the Dias Cross (1488), the lighthouse and the remnants of an old whaling station. Help to protect the sensitive flora and fauna by staying on demarcated tracks and gravel roads.
Full-day 4×4 guided tours into Tsau //Khaeb National Park include southern Africa’s highest coastal rock arch, Bogenfels (59m), and the ghost town Pomona, a former tiny diamond settlement which has been deserted long since.
Catamaran tours to see one of Namibia’s largest colonies of African penguins depart from the picturesque fishing harbour daily at 08:00 – weather permitting. During this fabulous two-hour tour to Halifax Island, a protected marine reserve, you will almost certainly encounter Heaviside’s dolphins, Cape fur seals and in the whale season humpbacks and southern rights.
Lüderitz is also known as the official speed windsurfing capital of the world, proclaimed as such by the World Sailing Speed Record Council (WSSRC). From 2008 to 2019, no less than 145 national and 20 world speed windsurfing and kiteboarding records have been smashed at the annual Lüderitz Speed Challenge event. The current speed windsurfing record is 53.27 knots / 98.28 kph (average speed) over 500 metres. This incredible speed was achieved by French windsurfing legend Antoine Albeau who holds twenty-five World Championship titles. For those keen on windsurfing and kiteboarding, the fantastic second lagoon and Shearwater Bay will put your skills to the test and provide hours of pure enjoyment (when the wind blows, of course).
One of Namibia’s most reputable hotels is found in Lüderitz. The four-star Lüderitz Nest Hotel was inaugurated by the first State President in April 1998 and has hosted guests from around the world with exceptional hospitality ever since. It is the only hotel in Namibia located directly on the rocks at the sea, boasting its own tidal beach and walk-on jetty.
Sea views from every room as well as from the lounge, the bar and the restaurant are an irresistible feature of this hotel. Its Penguin Restaurant is locally acclaimed for the best seafood, and its event centre (sea views!) is a popular venue for weddings. TNN
Text Bruno De Comarmond
Photographs Brad Wood