More than 100 years after the discovery of the first gemstone, diamond mining remains Namibia’s foremost economic activity, accounting for the highest export earnings of any one sector. In many ways, the discovery of diamonds defined the course of history for the country, and for one of its youngest national parks, Tsau //Khaeb. And even after a century, the former Sperrgebiet remains a mythical tract of desert. A vast stretch of Namib that has been enticingly off-limits. A land of mixed fortunes in a harsh environment.
The diamonds found here are alluvial, washed into Namibian territory by the Orange River and its tributaries millions of years ago. The route of the sought-after stones along prehistoric river courses and beaches still dictates the focus of mining activity and infrastructure. A clear understanding of the geological processes involved has allowed most of the area to be rezoned and declared a national park, as no diamonds are found in the interior. Still, it took a century to get to this point.
The park is a wilderness in an altered sense. Like few other places, the Sperrgebiet was scoured by geologists and prospectors. Remnants of their searches litter its landscapes. Yet because the public was excluded, the area has escaped most other human impacts. And even today, most of the park remains out of bounds.
Standing on bare bedrock in the massive open pit of the Daberas Diamond Mine hits home the stark dichotomy between conservation and mining. It’s a fundamental dichotomy of our modern existence. We rely on the health of our environment for our own survival. We need its resources for our industries, our economies, our luxuries; we need them for our modern civilisation. For a sustainable future, we must find a balance between our needs and those of a healthy environment.
TRAVEL TIPS - TSAU //KHAEB:
WHEN TO BE THERE:
• Some parts of Tsau //Khaeb are open all year
• Kolmanskop ghost town is open daily from 08:00 to 13:00
• The tourism concessions are accessible only as guided tours
• The southern coast is the windiest part of Namibia; strongest winds blow from November to January
WHAT TO DO:
• Visit Kolmanskop, a romantic relic of the colonial diamond boom
• Explore the many bays & beaches of the Diamond Coast Recreation Area
• Go on an exclusive excursion to Bogenfels or other concession areas
• Enjoy birding at the Orange River mouth
WHAT TO REMEMBER:
• Tsau //Khaeb is zoned for various uses
• Entry to the municipal areas of Lüderitz & Oranjemund is unrestricted
• No permit is required for the Diamond Coast Recreation Area
• Access to most of the park is restricted & requires special permits
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