Luderitz Things to Do – Safari Adventure, Diamonds and Culture

We spent three full days exploring Luderitz, Namibia and the surrounding area. As a result, we enjoyed the best Luderitz things to do such as wildlife viewing, Kolmanskop ghost town, agate beach and shark island. Additionally, the rich Luderitz history includes local African culture mixed with the imposition of German colonialism.

But the most spectacular aspect of the best Luderitz things to do is the natural surroundings of Namibia. Follow along and I will provide you with all you need to know about visiting Luderitz, Namibia.

The Diamonds of Luderitz, Namibia

Namibia culture has a rich history based on the nomadic African tribes that migrated here. However, the German colonists arrived in 1883 and rudely interrupted the cultural balance that existed.

Indeed, the natural environment was the main interest of the German immigrants. Therefore, exploitation of the abundant natural resources such as whales, seals, fishing and guano harvesting was their first objective. However, Luderitz, Namibia entered boom times after the discovery of diamonds in 1909. As a result, the diamond trade expanded rapidly and quickly took priority.

Indeed, the coastline of SW Namibia is a rich depository for diamonds. As a result, 80 million carats have been discovered along the coast over the last century. However, the diamonds themselves actually originate in central South Africa and they are not native to Namibia. 

Kolmanskop Ghost Town
Kolmanskop, Namibia was a former boom town which was abandoned after the diamond deposits were exploited.

Shark Island Concentration Camp

The Luderitz Peninsula, known as Shark Island prior to 1906, only became a peninsula after the creation of a land connection that doubled its natural size.

Luderitz Namibia Map
Luderitz, Namibia Map showing Agate beach and “Shark Island”.

During 1905-1907, the German authorities established a concentration camp on Shark Island. The camp held the Herero and Nama resistance fighters captured during the Herero Wars. Additionally, the camp’s inhabitants were used as slave labor for the expansion of Luderitz town, railway, port and colonial farms. As a result, between 1000 and 3000 prisoners died due to the harsh living conditions.

However, in modern times Luderitz Peninsula is a source of adventure for visitors due to the flamingo colony, local geology and colonial relics.

Water Source for Luderitz, Namibia

Luderitz, Namibia had no local fresh water source during the diamond boom years. As a result, fresh water was transported by ox cart or ship. However, after construction of the railway transportation became more economical.

An underground fresh water reservoir was eventually discovered 65km away. Therefore, a pipeline replaced the railroad to transport fresh water. As a result, the railroad has became obsolete. However, the railroad tracks are still visible near Kolmanskop.

Railway tracks
Photo of the now decommissioned railroad tracks that run past the Kolmanskop ghost town.

The Original Source of Luderitz Diamonds

Diamond formation requires extreme heat and pressure that only exists very deep within the earth. Additionally, kimberlites serve as a transportation mechanism for bringing the diamonds towards the earth’s surface. The exposed diamonds now become vulnerable to the forces of erosion and eventually become exposed.

However, the conditions for the formation of diamonds do not exist in Namibia. As a result, the wealth of diamonds that are in Namibia are secondary deposits that originated in South Africa. 

In South Africa, the Orange River just happens to flow through the kimberlite region. As a result, the Orange River transports the diamonds to the Atlantic coastline and the Benguela Current carries them to the SW Namibia coastline.

Namibia’s High Quality Diamonds

As a result of the long migration, the quality of the diamonds found in Luderitz, Namibia is very high. The transport erosion removes impurities and this results in a high ratio of gem quality diamonds. In Namibia, 85-90% of the diamonds found are of gem quality.

Unfortunately, in South Africa, only 15% of the diamonds located there are gem quality. No wonder South Africans have always had a very keen interest in Namibia!

Visit Kolmanskop Ghost Town

The chances of you finding a diamond on the side of the road in Namibia are pretty rare. However, one of the most compelling Luderitz things to do is to explore the local ghost town called – Kolmanskop

It is possible to take tours of Kolmanskop, just hook up with a local tour agency. However, the more independently minded tourist can just drive out there in the evening. Its a great spot for some “gem quality” photos in the evening light and the area is easily accessible.

Kolmanskop Ghost Town
The Kolmanskop ghost town is located a few kilometers east of Luderitz town.

Barchan Sand Dunes

Luderitz is surrounded by copious amounts of desert sand. Indeed, Central South Africa is also the source of the Luderitz sand deposits. Contrast this with the native sand dunes found at Sossusvlei National Park.

Luderitz Desert Safari
The mobile barchan sand dunes fleeing over the horizon.

The Orange River is the transport mechanism which brings the sand to the coast which then catches a ride on the Benguela current. After being deposited in SW Namibia, it is blown northwards up the coast by the prevailing south west winds. This process results in the formation of the mobile “barchan” sand dune which are much smaller than the stationary “star” dunes at Sossusvlei.

Furthermore, the sand in SW Namibia is white in contrast to the reddish sand at Sossusvlei. The sand from South Africa is white because it lacks iron oxide content.

The wind shaped sand dunes in the desert surrounding Luderitz.

Due to their mobility, the barchan sand dunes commonly form on the Aus-Luderitz road. In fact, there are many signs in the area warning of the drifting sands. However, Aus-Luderitz road is also a crossing point for the local ostrich.

Ostrich Racing

The ostrich near Luderitz also use the Aus-Luderitz road for transportation. However, the ostrich were a little bit quirky because they would race alongside the vehicle and then try to dart in front of us.

Ostrich racing on Aus-Luderitz Road
Ostrich crossing the Aus-Luderitz Road outside of Luderitz town.

Explore Shark Island (Luderitz Peninsula)

The Luderitz Peninsula is in itself a splendor of natural wonders. It will intrigue the geologist, archeologist and also the bird enthusiasts. Discover the oldest rock formations in Namibia on Shark Island. Prehistoric rock formations such as gneiss outcroppings are easy to find while you are exploring.

Visitors should be well prepared with 4×4 safari vehicle. If so, the best adventures await on “Shark Island”.

Lighthouse Shark island
The lighthouse on Shark Island, Namibia.

Discover the whaling stations and lighthouses that are still standing on the Luderitz peninsula. These are the long lost remnants of the European colonists.

whaling station shark island
Flamingos take flight over an abandoned whaling station on Shark Island.
Shark Island Lizard
There are no human inhabitants on Shark Island.

Shark Island Flamingos

In addition to novel geologic formations, there is a large flock of resident flamingos on the Luderitz Peninsula. Their habitat is the shallow salt marsh on the peninsula. We were able to get some fantastic photos of them in flight which is quite rare.

Best Luderitz things to do
The resident flamingos on Shark island provide adventure and photographic opportunity.
flamingos Shark Island Namibia
Flamingos in flight Shark Island, Namibia.
Flamingo in flight over Luderitz Peninsula (Shark Island)
Flamingos in flight over Shark Island.
Photo Flamingos in the salt marsh - Luderitz Peninsula (Shark Island)
Photo of flamingos feeding in the salt water marsh.

Visit Agate Beach

You should definitely explore Agate Beach. Agate Beach is located a few kilometers north of Luderitz town and it is a great place to catch the sunset. It also has surfing potential if you are so inclined. However, the water here is absolutely freezing due to the cold water Benguela current.

Agate beach Sunset
The sun sets behind Seal Island.

Visitors can dig for sandroses if they are in the company of a conservation officer. A permit from the Ministry of Environment and Tourism would be necessary. They have an office in Luderitz town. Additionally, it is possible to find agates with a bit of luck.

Photo Agate Beach Namibia
The “sand” grains at Agate Beach are very colorful indeed.
Galloping oryx seen near Agate Beach.

Luderitz Hotels and Accommodation

Unfortunately, Luderitz accommodation options are not so great. Although if I were to return, I think the bed and breakfast might be worth a try. Additionally, the restaurants in town are pretty bare bones, fish and chips is probably the best choice. However, Luderitz is not a luxury destination and we didn’t expect too much.

Nonetheless, the Luderitz things to do makes it an excellent adventure travel destination. Indeed, the desert flora and fauna is amazing. Plus, the flamingos were like a desert mirage and they created some excitement and great photo opportunities.

Namibia – Fascination of Geology
A Travel Handbook
Nicole Grunert