Sperrgebiet National Park Namibia

The Sperrgebiet (German, meaning "Prohibited Area") (also known as Diamond Area 1) is a diamond mining area in south-western Namibia, in the Namib Desert. It spans the Atlantic Ocean-facing coast from Oranjemund on the border with South Africa, to around 45 miles (72 km) north of Luderitz, a distance of 320 km (200 miles) north. The Sperrgebiet extends to around 100 km (62 mi) inland, and its total area of 26,000 sq km, or 10,400 square miles, makes up three percent of Namibia's land mass. However, mining only takes place in five percent of the Sperrgebiet, with most of the area acting as a buffer zone. Members of the public are banned from entering most of the area, despite the creation of a national park there in 2004.

History of the Sperrgebiet National Park

In September 1908, the German government created the Sperrgebiet in its colony of German South West Africa, giving sole rights for mining to the Deutsche Diamantengesellschaft ("German Diamond Company"). In 1915, during World War I, South African forces led by General Jan Smuts and Louis Botha, the South African Prime Minister, invaded the country. The South Africans defeated the Germans, taking control of modern-day Namibia, including the Sperrgebiet. The owner of the mine, De Beers, had total control of the area until the 1990s, when the Namibian government purchased a fifty percent stake. They formed a joint partnership called the Namdeb Diamond Corporation.



Bogenfels (bow rock), a landmark in the Sperrgebiet. It is a 55-metre high rock arch on the Atlantic Coast.

Nature

The Sperrgebiet has a diverse range of flora and fauna, due to little human intervention in the area for 100 years. Forty percent of the landscape is desert, thirty percent is grassland, and twenty-eight percent is rocky. The highest point of the Sperrgebiet is 1488m.

There are 776 types of plants in the Sperrgebiet, with 234 being endemic to south-west Namibia, despite the Orange River being the only permanent water supply in the area. A study has shown that climate change will affect the plant life in the area, specifically the Succulent Karoo. Drier winters may lead to the extinction of these plants, as they are endemic to the Sperrgebiet. According to Morgan Hauptfleisch, a scientist who works at the Southern African Institute for Environmental Assessment, the Sperrgebiet "is the only arid biodiversity hotspot and this makes it a very special area." It has more biodiversity than anywhere else in Namibia, supporting animals such as the gemsbok, springbok and brown hyena. Bird species resident in the Sperrgebiet include the African Oystercatcher, the Black-headed Canary and the Dune Lark.

National park and recent history of the Sperrgebiet National Park

The Sperrgebiet was designated as a national park in June 2004. De Beers still controls the area, but will relinquish control to the Namibian Ministry for Environment and Tourism once a management plan for the park has been completed. In April 2008, a 500-year-old shipwreck containing Iberian coins, bronze cannons, copper, and ivory was found in the Sperrgebiet. Under Namibian law, the Namibian government is entitled to all the items found onboard.

Observe the birds and animals that frequent the Orange River mouth, an internationally renowned Ramsar site. And, of course, don’t miss the succulents, some of which grow as tall as trees and many of which put on a stunning floral display after winter rains.

National Park, a mere 11% of the Namibian portion of the Succulent Karoo, which is home to 2 439 endemic plants, fell in protected areas. Now, with the park’s proclamation, 90% is protected. Due to its world-famous diamonds, the Sperrgebiet has been off-limits to the public for over a century and the habitat is largely untouched and pristine, making a visit to the Sperrgebiet National Park a truly unique wilderness experience.

Diamonds and conservation in the Sperrgebiet National Park

Diamond mining has both scarred and spared the Sperrgebiet. The interior, due to the exclusion policy, has remained pristine, but the coastal areas where the diamonds occur have suffered considerable damage. Yet the scene from Bogenfels with active mining in the distance proves that nature and industry can co-exist. In the early days diamonds could be identified and picked up by the handful in moonlight, particularly so in ‘Fairytale Valley’, but soon mining became more destructive as excavations began and beaches were moved off-shore to act as sea barriers enabling miners to extend their operations into the Atlantic. The Namdeb Diamond Corporation is working to restore damage caused by open-pit mining, re-vegetate spoil heaps and return affected areas to as near a natural state as possible. Some traces of the early diamond rush will be preserved. The numerous ghost towns, rusting fragments of railway and other historic items that still survive will be allowed to remain. In their heyday some mining towns boasted surprising luxuries – skittle alleys, ice houses and dance halls. These structures will stand as a haunting testament to mankind’s tenacity, greed and love of beauty until the shifting sands finally swallow them.

The Orange River

The Sperrgebiet’s fierce and lonely landscape is bordered in the south by one of the greatest rivers in Southern Africa, the Orange. This mighty river rises in the Lesotho Drakensberg Mountains at an altitude of 3 000 metres. It is only 195 km distant from the Indian Ocean, yet it flows 2 000 km in the opposite direction before emptying into the Atlantic. The river mouth is a designated Ramsar site, and is one of Namibia’s globally important wetlands (the others being Walvis Bay Lagoon, Sandwich Harbour and Etosha Pan), protecting an abundance of bird life. The reed beds and tidal mud-flats sustain huge numbers of resident and migrant birds.

@ Sperrgebiet National Park

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Related Maps Accommodation in the area Activities in the area
Hotels Pensions B&Bs Lodges Camping & others
Grunau General Bahnhof Hotel Vastrap Guest House Grünau Country House Grunau Motors Chalets White House Rest Camp Orange River Rafting
Noordoewer Regions Bethanie Hotel Kratzplatz - Sinclair Guest Farm Diaz Point Day river trips
Fish River Canyon - Nest Hotel - - Klein Aus Vista Luderitz Backpackers Canoe trips
Karasburg - Bay View Hotel - - Obelix Village Guest House House Sandrose Hot air balloon trips
Accommodation South Africa - Kapps Hotel - - Zum Anker Self-Catering Hansa House Pomona/Bogenfels tours
Oranjemund - Hotel Diamond Reef - - Krabbenhoft & Lampe Island Cottage 4x4 desert tours
Luderitz - Hotel Zum Sperrgebiet - - Villelodge Accommodation - ''Sedina'' schooner tours
Orange River - - - - Op My Stoep Lodge - Luderitz to Walvis Bay

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