Words and pictures by Bernie Williams.
New routes, giant dunes and new wrecks are all in a special Desert Magic coastline tour that covers areas not seen by the public in more than 107 years
The Namib Desert has always held a certain mystique, its siren call luring many people − from yesterday’s diamond miners, to today’s adventurous 4×4 owner. It’s a must-do destination on any seasoned traveller’s list, if huge dunes, desolate spaces and the wrecked evidence of centuries of sea trade get you ready to pack bags.
But I am one who has travelled the Namib Desert extensively, and have gone from Luderitz all the way to the Kunene River mouth numerous times; so I had to wonder, after a phone call from legendary Namib Desert guide Volker Janhke, what could possibly be different about his latest shipwreck tour.
However, as there are more than 486 known shipwrecks along the treacherous Skeleton Coast, from Oranjemund in the south to the Kunene River mouth in the north, a trip to explore some of the betterknown wrecks did hold some allure.
“The route starts out in Luderitz and finishes in Walvis Bay,” explained Volker, “but, unlike the route others have followed, we enter directly opposite Kolmanskop (the ghost town) and go to an area into which nobody has been allowed for 107 years: one which forms part of Diamond Area 1.”
My interest was certainly piqued, and then came the clincher: “And, Bernie, you can drive the backup Land Cruiser.” Having had two of my own 4.5-litre EFI Cruisers in the past, I was now as bok as the first guy ever to pick up a diamond in the Namib Desert!
This new six-day route between Luderitz and Walvis Bay was finally approved by the Namibian government in 2015, along with Namdeb, thus clearing the way for Desert Magic Tours to pass through their diamond concession area between Luderitz and Hottentots Bay/Gibraltar area for the first time since 1909.
All Luderitz-to-Walvis-Bay crossings have to make a detour via the Koichab Pan, which involves approximately 70km of road-driving before the vehicles are able to enter the coastal area in the late afternoon of Day 2. With the new route, one is able to enter the coastal dune belt an hour into the trip via Kolmanskop, and have the first shipwreck hove into view an hour later.
Volker was born and raised in Luderitz and has an extensive knowledge of the Namib Desert − from its fauna and flora, to the history of the diamond-mining activities that took place from the early 1900s. He is the pioneer of almost all Namib Desert routes, making him a true legend in his own right. His company has now joined with Popyeni Safaris, who are the official concessionaires for this route – an assurance that this new route will become a world-class adventure product, with nothing to beat its diversity, scenery, history and wildlife… And providing a dune-driving experience second to none.