Sperrgebiet National Park

Useful Information

Location: West of Rosh Pinah, southern Namibia. Gates at Kolmanskop and Rosh Pinah.
Open: Kolmanskop open with guided tours. The rest of the park: only with permit, which must be applied three weeks in advance!
Classification: ExplainDiamond Mine
Light: n/a.
Guided tours:  
As far as we know this information was accurate when it was published (see years in brackets), but may have changed since then.
Please check rates and details directly with the companies in question if you need more recent info.


SEP-1908 .
JUN-2004 Sperrgebiet National Park founded.


The arid area along the Namibian coast is covered by erosional remains, mostly sand dunes and gravel. As a diamond bearing kimberlite pipe was also eroded, the diamonds can simply be found in the sand. The mining was unique, the sand was simply sieved for the diamonds. This was done by indigenous people, as the Germans were physically not able to work hard at this enormous temperatures.


The Sperrgebiet National Park (SNP) covers an area of 26,000km² of Namib Desert and Succulent Karoo, almost 3% of Namibia's land surface. It is the second largest protected area in the country after the Namib-Naukluft Park. This National Park protects the vegetation and wildlife of semi-arid and arid plateaus, and it protects the diamonds of the Diamond Area 1. The area between Aus, Sendelingsdrift, Luederitz, and Oranjemund is the only arid biodiversity hotspot on earth.

This area is known as Sperrgebiet, a German term meaning Prohibited Area. The diamonds were discovered during the time Namibia was a German colony. The germans declared it a prohibited area in September 1908 and started the diamond mining. The only company which had mining rights was the Deutsche Diamantengesellschaft (German Diamond Company). However, during World War I Germany lost this colony, Nambia became independent and owner of the diamonds. Consequently the mining was subsequently controlled by the new owner, the De Beers company. In the 1990s the Namibian government purchased a fifty percent stake. Since then the development as a National Park and tourist centre started. But until today tourism is impeded by the security restrictions, which require the obtaining of a permission, which takes two to three weeks to get police clearance. This makes it impractical for foreign tourist to visit the place during a short journey. At the moment the are no tour operators interested to apply for concessions to be allowed horseback and camelback riding safaris, lodges, guided tours, campsites, hiking or mountain bike tours.

The main tourist site at the moment is the ghost town Kolmanskop, the location of the German diamond mining. The Germans called this place Kolmannskuppe after a transport driver named Johnny Coleman. During a sand storm he abandoned his ox wagon on a small incline opposite the later location of the settlement. The town look exactly like a typical German town of the turn of the 20th century. Many houses are in an impressive good state, although the lower floors are often filled with sand. There is a lot of original equipment still in the houses, and a part of the village has been restored during the last years.

Beneath the diamonds there are several other extraordinary geologic sights in the park. The Bogenfels Arch is a notable natural bridge or arch, located at the coast. The German name Bogenfels translates bow of rock, so actually the name is simply Bogenfels and the Arch-suffix only explanatory for non German speakers. The layers at the coast line are tilted some 45° and the continual erosion of the sea creates a steep cliff face. Sometimes softer layers are eroded faster below harder layers which form a cap of the bow. Because of the incline of the layers the bridge has a unique triangular shape. The arch is a sort of erosional cave or sea cave, but as it is not very long, too short for a dark part, it is not called a cave.

The next extraordinary spot is the Roter Kamm (red ridge) which is the impact crater of a meteorite. About 2.5km in diameter and 130m deep it is covered by a 100m thick layer of desert sand. The rim of the crater forms a circular ridge of red rock, hence the name. The crater was formed by an impact during the Pliocene, some 3.7 million years ago.