Kolmanskop is a famous deserted diamond-mining town, which has slowly been taken over by time and sand, blown in from the Namib Desert. The town now stands empty and is best explored at dawn when the light sparkles off the sand.
Diamonds define the Namib. Kolmanskop was founded in the early 1900s when some rough diamonds were found in the desert, but it was abandoned just 40 years later because of the hardships in the this brutal place and the further discovery of bigger and better diamonds along the Namibian coastline.
Nearly a hundred years ago, Germany lost control of South West Africa and still this European influence remains. It's easy to see its endurance in Swakopmund and in the little coastal town Luderitz, which is the closest living town to Kolmanskop.
The brightly-coloured walls still remain even though winds have sandblasted the colours to a pastel hue and wooden ceiling slats remain intact, causing gorgeous morning shadows in the rooms. When I arrived at dawn, I had the whole town to myself. So I could wander from home to home without company - or competing photographers.
The first guided tours of Kolmanskop start at about 9 o'clock and it's fascinating to learn how people lived a relatively comfy and lavish life out here in the desert. They had to ship in fresh water and devise an ice room to keep meat and other goods fresh to eat. The townsfolk even created a bowling alley, which is still completely intact today and the first x-ray machine in the country landed here to check people hadn't swallowed any diamonds to smuggle out.
Kolmanskop was preserved by diamond mining company De Beers for historical importance. Some buildings have been restored, fitted with furniture to illustrate what life was like back in the early 1900s, while most of the buildings remain abandoned and have been reclaimed by the sand.
Stay here: Kairos Cottage was a delightful find. Set in Lüderitz, close to the harbour, it's a great place to spend the night in order to see the ghost town. Besides Kolmanskop, I'd consider returning just for the oysters. Don't leave without trying some! On my visit, one plump and delicious oyster cost just R10. Ask about the best place to find them when you check in. B&B from R750 for two sharing.
Cost: Tours range from R85pp to R230, depending on when you want to visit. kolmanskuppe.com
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