Luderitz - A Quaint Coastal Town Steeped in History

PUBLISHED 14 NOV 2016   

Luderitz is a quaint coastal town situated to the south of Namibia that is characterised by German art nouveau architecture and other colonial influences. Flanked by the cold Atlantic Ocean and arid desert sands of the Namib desert, the environment here is harsh and desolate.

Luderitz bay was originally discovered by Bartolomeu Dias in 1487, who erected a stone cross on the southern point — now a popular tourist landmark known as Dias Point.  Dias named the bay Angra Pequena, which means 'small bay' in Portuguese. 

In the 1700s and early 1800s the area was explored further by Dutch explorers, who discovered the bountiful marine life. They quickly set up enterprises, such as guano harvesting, seal hunting, and whaling, that exploited these valuable marine resources, establishing Luderitz as a trading port.

The town of Luderitz was established in 1883 when the bay of Angra Pequena together with some surrounding land was purchased by Heinrich Vogelsang, on behalf of fellow German, Adolf Luderitz. When Luderitz failed to return from a trip exploring the Orange River, the town was renamed Luderitzbucht to honor his memory.

Luderitz saw a burst in prosperity after diamonds were discovered nearby in 1909. The ensuing diamond rush drew prospectors to the area and by 1912 the population of Luderitz had grown to 1100 inhabitants, excluding local indigenous tribal folk. As the coastal town experienced a surge in trade, the adjacent settlement, Kolmanskop, was established to cater for the influx of people drawn to the expanding diamond mining industry.

In 1915 South Africa took over German run South-West Africa, deporting many Germans back to their home country. This resulted in a drastic decline in the number of local inhabitants. Furthermore, diamond mining operations shifted further south, which in turn reduced the importance of the role Luderitz played as a trading post. In addition, the shallow, rocky bottom of the bay makes the harbour unsuitable as a port for large modern ships. Consequently, the town has retained its quaint atmosphere, with port operations primarily serving the fishing industry. 

This makes the town attractive to tourists who can experience the unique culture of this quaint unspoiled historical town firsthand. Tourist attractions include a newly established waterfront complete with shops for tourists to browse through and the ghost town of Kolmonskop, which now lies abandoned in the swirling sands of the desert.