Kolmanskop, otherwise known as the Ghost Town, is an old diamond-mining town just outside of Lüderitz. It was founded at the beginning of last century, back when Namibia was known as the colony of German South West Africa. Explorers found diamonds that had been washed over by the Orange River, and boom! a diamond rush began.
Residents—many from Germany—started pouring in, building the town in the spirit of the German villages from which they’d come. There were prettily painted wooden houses, a school for the local children (now serving as the visitor’s center), a theater, tram, and a hospital that apparently had the first X-ray machine in southern Africa. You can still see the vestiges of the German influence in the town’s signage—wooden placards for the town Arzt (doctor), Lehrer (teacher), and Laden (stores) lettered neatly in white Gothic print.
But when the diamonds ran out, so did the people. By the 1950’s, the town was more or less abandoned—and sand and time did their work. What’s left is an eerie ghost town whose only inhabitants are long-haired hyenas and visiting birds. We came in before the big tours with a sunrise photographer’s permit that’s available for purchase from Lüderitz (be advised they are closed on Sundays), and shared the grounds with only two other people. I strongly advise this option—it’s the best way to get the full experience: so bizarre and beautiful you’ll get the chills.