Taking to the sea for a waterside view of Lüderitz

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by Ginger Mauney

Much of Lüderitz’s past and present is tied to the sea. Early explorers reached the bay by boat, fishing is a mainstay of the economy, and diamonds are found buried deep in the ocean bed. All these elements come alive on the water, so when visiting Lüderitz, there is no better way to explore the area than by boat.

While two yachts offer boat trips out of the harbour and along the surrounding bays, there is yet another option – viewing Lüderitz from the Hannah, dubbed ‘a ski boat on steroids’ by her owner and skipper, Oliver Morgan. She is rugged and spacious, and on a calm morning, she is the ideal vessel for cruising the waters around Lüderitz.

Pulling away from the pier at the Waterfront, the Hannah glides past moored fishing boats, eases by diamond boats with their long hoses (used to suck up sand laced with diamonds) wound in a coil and resting on the water, and turns to portside past the lighthouse on Shark Island. Once well clear of land, Morgan hands over the controls of the Hannah and joins his guests on deck.

Born and raised in Lüderitz, Morgan is a typical Namibian homegrown character. He’s not only multi-talented, but has a mine of intriguing stories to tell. “I spent seven years as a diamond diver, going in and out of the cold water all day every day, wearing a flimsy wet suit. But hey, it paid for this boat.”

Historical highlights

With an intimate knowledge of these waters and of the area’s history, Morgan points out highlights as the boat cruises along. Off the waters known as Shearwater Bay, named after HMS Shearwater that explored the area in 1821, there are old, rusted remains and a dilapidated house, the remnants of a whaling station built there in 1912. For two years, whalers collected hundreds of tons of whale oil and whale guano, but due to  World War I and the occupation of Lüderitz by South African troops, work here was stopped. Fortunately for the whales, it has never resumed. The lighthouse at Dias Point looms ahead. Built in 1908, it is still a working lighthouse, but now the functions are fully automotive.

A wooden bridge built in 1911 spans the rocks at Dias Point and leads to a replica of the padrão or cross erected by Bartholomeu Dias, the Portuguese navigator, in 1488. Dias, making his way down the west coast of Africa, took shelter from a southerly storm in a small, rocky bay before continuing around the Cape of Good Hope. On his return, he stopped to erect a stone cross and named the bay Angra Pequena, which later became Lüderitz.

Close to the lighthouse on Dias Point there are a few large houses currently undergoing renovation that will soon be available for self-catering accommodation. According to Cheryl Korff from the Bay View Hotel in Luderitz, the development will be eco-friendly with solar power and ‘enviro’ ablutions. Also planned are a few campsites, a small coffee shop and kiosk selling basic supplies and renting bicycles to explore the surrounding areas.

Whales, dolphins, seals, penguins

“We still see whales out here, but they don’t come as close to shore as they used too,” remarks Morgan. Gulls, Cape Cormorants and Cape fur seals dart and dive around the boat, while closer to land flamingos cluster. In the waters around Lüderitz, there are three species of dolphins – the Atlantic Ocean bottlenosed dolphin, Heaviside’s dolphin and the dusky dolphin. As the Hannah turns starboard and heads back for the harbour, she’s joined by two pods of Heaviside’s dolphins, diving under the boat, jumping into the air and finally disappearing into the water.

Close to Dias Point is Halifax Island, a place with a more recent but also interesting history. Over the past century whalers, sealers, and collectors of penguin eggs and penguin guano used the island. It is now restricted to the public and to commerce, as it is the only island in the area where the Jackass or African Penguins, as they are known in Namibia, are increasing in numbers.

From the deck of the Hannah you can watch the penguins swimming, diving, and sunning themselves in the distance. They have taken over the deserted buildings, jumping up steps and waddling through doorways. So much of this area’s history has involved the cycle of utilisation, depletion and then abandonment. Gradually the sea, sand, wind and wildlife reclaim and redefine these places.

Nothing like the open sea

Skippers don’t have to take their boats far from the shore or town for guests to experience the ambience of history and the rush of life. The air is clean and fresh, and ahead you see striking layers of texture and colour, the boat’s red bow, the blue sea, grey rocks, white boats and orange dunes in the distance.

When he’s not taking tourists out on the water, Oliver uses his boat for ferrying materials, including diamonds, to and from larger vessels out at sea. But weather permitting, tourists may book cruises to Shearwater Bay, Dias Point and Halifax Island. They may also cruise past the other islands in the area – Penguin Island, Seal Island and Flamingo Island.

Oliver custom-designs trips for tourists, taking a minimum of six and a maximum of 14 persons to insure safety and comfort. Fishing is a favourite option for many guests on the Hannah. Oyster and crayfish feasts and champagne cruises are also popular.

Combining history, wildlife and a wonderful time, all with apparent ease, cruises on the Hannah are everything a visitor to Lüderitz could possibly wish for.

This article appeared in the Dec ‘06/ Jan ‘07 edition of Travel News Namibia.



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