- Lüderitz – city history in a nutshell
- First diamond finds in 1908
- Lüderitz in the present
- Lüderitz – destination of cruise ships
We visit the Namibian port of Lüderitz by cruise ship, a small town of little importance between the Atlantic Ocean and the Namib Desert. In 1487, the Portuguese sailor Bartolomeu Diaz was the first European to discover what he called “Angra Pequena” (small basin).
Lüderitz – city history in a nutshell
In 400, less than 1883 years after Bartolomeu Diaz, the Bremen tobacconist Adolf Lüderitz established a trading post on the bay called Lüderitzort. In the following year, at the merchant's request, the region came under the protection of the German Reich. He hoped to find mineral resources on what had previously been considered worthless land. However, the search for mineral resources was not crowned with success. For financial reasons, Adolf Lüderitz was forced to sell his property to the German Colonial Company for South West Africa. The place was later given the name Lüderitz.
Lüderitz - panorama with Felsenkirche
First diamond finds in 1908
The dream of mineral resources did not come true until 1908. Diamonds were discovered by chance while shoveling sand on the tracks of a narrow-gauge railway near Lüderitz. The find attracted many fortune seekers. Thanks to the finds, the settlement flourished into a respectable port city. However, this did not last long. Lüderitz soon lost its function as a trading port to the city further north Swakopmund. After the outbreak of the First World War, South African troops occupied the port of Lüderitz. After the end of the war, the small town became part of the South African Mandate of South West Africa.
Lüderitz in the present
The city is located in the ǁKharas region, the least populated part of the country. The last census of 2011 showed 12.537 inhabitants. This number fits visually with the first impression. Lüderitz is without a doubt a small town. In the cityscape, some buildings of colonial architecture catch the eye. They would not look out of place in any German city. Otherwise, timeless functional buildings predominate.
The city and its inhabitants live from the port, from fishing and oyster farming as well as from tourism. Special ships search for diamonds in the sea off Lüderitz. In the future, the city will rely on the energy of modern wind turbines. Neighboring South Africa could be considered as a buyer of the electricity. Despite these confidence-inspiring facts, it should not be forgotten that the unemployment rate in Namibia was 20,8 percent last year, according to the "statista" statistics portal. Ten years ago, media reports even spoke of an unemployment rate of 60 in Lüderitz. It is unclear whether this number still holds.
Lüderitz – destination of cruise ships
The city's wharves are suitable for receiving and servicing small and medium-sized cruise ships. Despite the good conditions, only a few ships make a stopover in Lüderitz during the cruise season from December to March. So far, ten mostly small ships have been reported for 2024.
AIDAaura - in the port of Lüderitz
Activities of cruise ship passengers
Visitor activities include wildlife viewing. There are many opportunities to do this. Visits to the seal and penguin colonies of the maritime environment as well as the desert landscapes with their unique flora and fauna are offered.
On the so-called penguin catamaran tours to the penguin island "Halifax Island" participants encounter dolphins, birds, seals and - with a bit of luck - even whales. On these boat tours, guests enjoy the view of the offshore Diaz Point and the associated lighthouse. Speaking of seals: It is not uncommon to see cute seals frolicking around in the Lüderitz harbor basin.
Horse lovers may want to visit the Namibian wild horses that live near Garub village. The town is a good 100 kilometers east of Lüderitz and can be reached via the well-developed B4 national road. The term "wild horses" is misleading. These are feral domestic horses. The approximately 100 animals live in the former restricted area of the diamond mines, which has had national park status since 1986. Due to five consecutive years of drought, the animals in the desert landscape are threatened with extinction, although they are offered a horse watering trough in Garub.
The ghost town of Kolmanskuppe
Favorite places to visit include tours to the aforementioned nearby Kolmanskop ghost town, in Afrikaans Kolmanskop. The abandoned settlement, ten kilometers from Lüderitz, is also on the B4 national road. At the time of the diamond finds, Kolmanskuppe was considered the richest city in Africa. The buildings surrounded by desert were exemplary at the heyday of diamond mining: there were stately stone buildings based on the German model, administration buildings, a hospital, shops, a bowling alley and much more. After the diamond mining shifted to other regions of Namibia, the residents left the settlement and the desert took back what was temporarily taken from it. Guided tours to the ghost town are offered from Lüderitz.
Tour of Lüderitz on your own
Regardless of which activity(s) visitors choose, a sightseeing tour of the city is also a “must do”. The city is small, clean, well arranged and safe. Nothing speaks against a tour of the place and the inspection of the historic buildings left over from the colonial era and some streets that are still named German.
Our main attraction is the rock church, consecrated in 1912. The small Evangelical-Lutheran church is enthroned on the "Diamond Mountain" and towers above all other buildings in the city. The building materials, including the sand for the concrete, were brought in by ship from Germany. German donors financed the construction. Individual donations such as the large altar window and the richly decorated Bible are highlighted. The donors were the German Emperor Wilhelm II and his wife Auguste Victoria. Duke Joachim Albrecht of Mecklenburg donated the three-part Luther window to the congregation. From the church's location, visitors have a view of the city, the harbor and Lüderitz Bay. If the church is open, it is worth taking a look inside.
The Goerke house is not far from the Felsenkirche. The hallmarks of the inconsistent building are the tower with a sundial and half-timbered elements. The house was built for Hans Goerke, an officer in the German Schutztruppe. After his service, Goerke became head of a diamond company. The building is currently used as a guest house. It is on the list of Namibia's National Monuments.
Location: Diamantberg Street
The simple-looking building originally served the Hamburg shipping company Woermann-Linie AG as an administration building with an adjoining waiting room. The company operated the scheduled service between Germany and Africa. In Swakopmund/Namibia there is another, much more important Woermann house.
The museum focuses on the history of the port city and its development. Geology enjoys significant attention as a prerequisite for the mining industry. Other exhibits relate to archaeological finds and the world of the natives.
Location: Dias Street
The Luderitz Museum
Luderitz train station
The German colonial power built the train station in Lüderitz in 1904. By the standards of the time, it is said to have been a splendid building. The purpose of the construction project was to connect the port city to the inland. Initially, the railway line was used to transport weapons to combat the rebellious Herero and Nama tribes. Following this, the railroad took part in diamond mining. The former passenger transport has been discontinued. The railway company TransNamib now transports manganese ore on the almost 300-kilometer-long, renovated railway line between Seeheim and Lüderitz. We are talking about 15.000 tons of manganese per month.