Just outside the small, quaint port town of Luderitz, Namibia is a popular tourist destination known as Kolmanskop. This former diamond mining town, where once diamonds could be collected from the surface sand as they lay glinting in the moonlight, has been abandoned and is now gradually being taken over by the sand, which gets whipped around by some of the strongest wind I’ve ever experienced. From 1908 to 1954, the town was home to over 1,000 miners and workers living in the huge “Sperrgebiet” or “Restricted Area” set aside for diamond mining. Even today, permits are required to enter the area. You can join the tour every day at 0930, or Sundays at 10 – or you can purchase a photographer’s permit in order to enter the area right at sunrise.
We visited the town, lured by rumors that it is haunted. While the whole town is rather eerie, I thought that the hospital was uncharacteristically large for a town of that size, and its long corridor with clattering and creaking noises was pretty creepy. We didn’t see any ghosts, but I wouldn’t want to be caught in the place at night!
If you travel there on a weekend, remember that everything pretty much closes in town after lunch on Saturday, and stays closed through Sunday. We were worried we wouldn’t be able to get a permit, but it turns out that you can show up at the gate entrance at 7 a.m. and purchase a photographer’s permit directly from the guide who runs the tours.
It really does pay to come early – although the permit is not cheap – about 20 bucks a person – as the lighting is spectacular in the morning and the effect fades after about 60-90 minutes. From the attached slide show, which is roughly chronological, you can see how the light gradually becomes less “orange” – which really enhances the photos I think. Coming in the evening is also an option, but because the town is built on a southward-sloping hill, I imagine the sunset effect is not nearly the same as the town is probably fully in the shade, with the sun obscured by the hill.
See more photos I’ve taken of Kolmanskop at this Flickr album. This is my favorite photo. I’m not sure why.
For more on Kolmanskop and other amazing ghost towns, check out this link.