Oranjemund, Namibia – the Diamond Town
After a police inspection, a border crossing over the narrowest bridge in existence and killing time at Namibian immigration reading posters advising against bat consumption (TIA) – we were in Oranjemund. It had been a long, albeit beautiful drive from Cape Town to Namibia and Dad and I were happy to finally see the Orange River. If you haven’t paddled the Orange River, you need to add a trip to your lifetime bucket list – it is one of the most beautiful places on earth.
This was my first time in Oranjemund – a town that exists purely to serve the diamond industry. I’d been told to expect a small, lush oasis where gemsbok roamed the streets, the golf course and caused general mayhem if they got into your garden. Driving along the river and past the salt flats, we spied the fertile patch of green trees and manicured lawns in the middle of the Namibian desert, that is Oranjemund. I had laughed off the gemsbok talk, so you can imagine the surprise when we turned into town and found the above welcoming committee. The tales were true, around every street corner and upon every grassy patch, you could expect to find a sleepy-eyed gemsbok dozing in the sunshine. Apparently they pop into the Spar from time to time to check out the specials, or so the locals said.
We spent 3 days in Oranjemund and it was absolute bliss. It’s so quiet in that town, that you can hear a pin drop in Zimbabwe. The air is so pure and you find yourself so relaxed that you’re climbing into bed at 8.30pm and having some of the best sleep of your life. Days are made up of morning tea, walks on the giant sand dune, watching a family of gemsbok frolic in the desert, tracking jackals on the golf course (found one) and laughingly looking for diamonds on the beach.
We had several days and it is a tiny town, so I was able to take in most of the Oranjemund tourist attractions. These include the sand dune (a quick hike, but take water), the golf course (home to Oranjemund’s wildlife), the lake, the town museum (great exhibits on the history of the town and the diamond trade) and the beach.
The town is also home to stories about hopeful diamond prospectors like the man who moved in and started digging up his garage floor in an effort to find the next Cullinan. I admit, walking along the beach, even I got a touch of diamond fever – especially on hearing that the diamond boats weren’t able to process diamonds over a certain size, so unceremoniously threw them back into the ocean. Naturally I imagined tons of giant diamonds floating around the ocean with nowhere to call home. Halfway along the beach however, we realised we had no idea what a rough, uncut diamond looked like and abandoned the hunt.
I loved visiting this small, sleepy diamond town and it was the perfect way to end off a crazy 12 months of work. The people are friendly, the gemsbok are like the local town watch and it’s incredibly peaceful. The diamond history is interesting and everyone has a story to tell about the quaint mining town. The security in that area is understandably tight, which means you need an invitation from a town resident in order to visit.
If you can wangle an invite, or the chance ever comes to visit Oranjemund, take a roadtrip up and go for it!