Chasing ghosts in the Namib desert

1 blue sky view

The obligatory tourist stop while in Lüderitz isn’t actually touristy at all: it’s a ghost town called Kolmanskop, a 15 minute drive into the desert. It seemed as though only a couple of dozen people besides ourselves visited over the course of a morning.

2 tour

We started with a tour to get context and history before being turned out to explore freely…with a warning to look out for snakes, and shown sidewinder tracks in several locations.

3 sidewinders

4 Pinterest kolmanskopDiamonds were first found here in 1908, and it quickly became a mining center—producing 20% of the world’s supply at the outset of World War I.

Built by German miners, the little town was constructed to exceptional standards for a speck in the desert: a theater, bowling alley, ballroom.

Marble was imported, as were furniture and fixtures. Residents had a restaurant, swimming pool, the first x-ray in the southern hemisphere, and all the services to meet the needs of the small population.

Not two decades later, the town virtually abandoned when the diamond field declined. The buildings stand in ruins, open to the elements, worn by sand and sun and wind over most of a century.

Sand blows through some structures, leaving them passable, while blocking off others almost completely.

6 worn by wind

5 tub

7 kids at Kolmanskop house

8 doors
A few select areas have beeen restored, and are preserved to show visitors how the rest might have looked if not for the weather of the encroaching Namib desert sands. Most furniture and fixtures have been stolen, unfortunately, but this shopkeeper’s home contained mostly original pieces.

9 preserved

9 pres
Every cruiser knows what this is. The Italian couple on our tour asked if it as for making lasagna.

10 wringer
Our guide pointed out that stencils in the bowling alley were original.

11 bowling stencils
I got a little stencil-happy after that, seeing them in other homes: an easy way to decorate, so far from home?

11 stencils
There was one home along “millionaire’s alley” that boasted wallpapered rooms.

12 walpaper

Who knows what this is? Who has actually used one?


What is the irresistible urge when presented with a big sand dune? To go careening down the front of it. Of course!




It is a photographer’s dream, although not during the harsh midday sun…but it was money we didn’t want to spend for the photo permit and off-hours access. And sure, that would be fun, but skipping it didn’t diminish any of the wonder of exploring as we did.

This post is syndicated on Sailfeed.

One Response

  1. Being from West Texas and growing up with seasonal sand storms, I’ve seen how sand can pile up and encroach on things. But this is amazing. I would love to see this place during a Haboob.

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