Luederitz is a slighty sleepy and maybe also bizarre place, which forms the basis of its appeal. The founding settlement of Namibia today consists of some 20 000 citizens. It was built on the bare granite rocks at the fringe of the Namib Desert and is openly exposed to the frequent Atlantic winds. Heavy sea fogs and sand storms contribute to the rough weather conditions of Luederitz.
Nostalgic Luederitz presents itself to the visitor as a very colourful town, due to the numerous lovingly maintained buildings in the Wilhelmian Art Deco (the German equivalent to the Victorian style) from the times of German colonialism. Above the town towers the Lutheran “Felsenkirche” built in 1911. The people of Luederitz make a living from tourism and diamond mining and, mainly, from fishing. The cold Benguela current brings in huge amounts of seaweed and so provides for an abundance of fish in the coastal waters. Because the water is very clean, even oysters are being bred here. So far, lobster catching was very lucrative. In the last years the waters were overfished, though, and the quota had to be reduced. Even in the hot summer months the water temperature in Luederitz rarely excedes 18 degrees celsius. The rough coast of Luederitz is thus not a desirable place for the swimming enthusiast, but it has quite a few other attractions. In the Eberlanz Mueum in Diaz Street the history of the town and its diamond mining industry is well presented. On Shark Island, the monument of Adolf Luederitz can be seen, and you will enjoy a stunning view of the town. The buzzing harbour is also quite interesting. Fishing boats are constantly docking and leaving while fish is unloaded and transported away. There are wonderful walks available at the beautiful Agate Beach, 8 kilometres north of town. If you are lucky, you can find an agate splinter in the sand or one of the numerous sand roses which consists of crystallized gypsum. Very rewarding is a drive across the Luederitz Peninsula; a nature conservation area with many little bays and untouched beaches. The drive takes you around the lagoon, where flamingoes and many other birds can be seen.
In 1908, Luederitz was plunged into diamond fever. People rushed into the Namib desert hoping to make an easy fortune and within two years, a town, complete with a casino, school, hospital and exclusive residential buildings, had been established in the barren sandy desert.
The diamond-bearing gravel was screened and washed in huge recovery plants. Over 1 000 kg of diamonds were extracted before World War I. However, the amount of gemstones greatly diminished after the war. Furthermore, considerably larger diamonds were found to the south near Oranjemund, causing Kolmanskop to become a ghost town. You can visit Kolmanskop. Every day, there are one-hour guided tours, in the mornings at 9h30 and 10h45. The weight unit for diamonds is called a “carat”. One carat equals approximately 0.2 grams. In Elisabeth Bay, located nearly 30 kilometres from Kolmanskop, about 1000 carats, that is around 200 grams, of raw diamonds were extracted daily. To achieve this, many waggon loads of diamond-bearing sand and gravel had to be brought in to the recovery facilities. The material was then screened and washed in huge drums. Normally, 10 tons of sand contained only 1 to 2 carats of diamonds. Today, Elizabeth Bay, like Kolmanskop, is a ghost town. However, although very picturesque, the place is only allowed to be visited with a special permit. Because a new recovery plant began operation nearby, Elisabeth Bay is situated in a strictly guarded diamond zone. Visitors who apply for a permit must prove that they have no criminal record.