Oranjemund - Namibia
The little town of Oranjemund is like an oasis in the middle of a desert.
It is situated on the northern bank of the Orange River and is reached by
crossing a bridge over the river into Namibia .
The sole reason for its existence is diamonds.
When diamonds were discovered at the mouth of the Orange River
there was of course a rush to mine them.
The authorities then blocked of the area to the public and only
companies such as Anglo American or de Beers were granted concessions to mine the area.
Of course with your assets lying on the ground and over a wide
area it is necessary to fence off the place
and to stop pilfering by your staff.
It was to mine diamonds in a secure area that Oranjemund was built.
Houses were provided for the miners with families and barracks
were provided for single men to live in. Of course there are
entertainment areas, pubs and sports fields as well.
Oranjemund is about 500 kilometres from Cape Town and transport
of food to the area is expensive so gardens have been laid out
for the provision of fresh vegetables etc.
Much of the equipment to establish the place was brought in
by ship from Cape Town. As the Orange river is not navigable
for larger craft it was off loaded at Port Nollloth a port
about a 100 kilometres to the south and then transported by road.
A visit to the area is most interesting as you have to get
there by road travelling from Cape Town.
When last I visited the place about 30 years ago the road
from Springbok to Port Nolloth was gravel and terrible,
today however it has been tarred.
One travels north along the N7 highway until you reach Springbok.
There you turn north west and drive to Port Nolloth and from
there north to Alexander bay where you have to leave your car
in a parking lot on the south bank of the river.
You cannot just arrive as you will not be allowed in.
Your visit must be planned and a permit must be obtained to enter Oranjemund.
On arrival you are collected on the south bank by car and driven
across the river. You are taken into a reception area where you
are registered and only then allowed into the complex.
The mining takes place on the coast where they have earth moving
machinery that removes the sand from the bedrock and shale beneath it.
The shale is then transported to sorters where the diamonds are sifted out of it.
Once all the shale has been removed from the beaches miners
are sent in to scour the rocks to find any diamonds that
may have been left behind by the machinery.
Once this has been done the sand is returned and the
miners move to the next area to be mined.
Of course every miner who works the beaches has to be
checked daily for possible theft of diamonds.
Private vehicles are not allowed into the compound
because once they are brought in they cannot be
taken out again for obvious reasons.
People leaving Oranjemund are X rayed before being allowed out.
When I worked in the bank we had a branch in Oranjemund.
The Accountant in that branch was always advised that an audit
was pending as the auditors had to request permits to enter Oranjemund.
Unfortunately we in the local branches were not so lucky as
they would normally sneak into a branch just before closing
time and wreak havoc for a month or so.
There are also diamond mines in Alexander Bay and at
Kleinzee further south from the Orange River.
Visits to them are possible but have to be arranged in advance.
While you are at the Orange river you might as well
visit the Aughrabies Falls in the Orange River and
take a canoe trip down the river which starts near Upington.
Cross the Namibian border and visit Ais Ais where
you can stay for a few days and relax.
The Fish River canyon is nearby and you can either do
the hiking trail through the canyon or take a day
trip and climb to the bottom and back again.
It's not as big as the Grand Canyon but it is spectacular.
Of course if you are like me you will take your binoculars
and look down into it without setting foot in it.
Email : Geoff Fairman
6 Bothma Street, Monte Vista 7460 South Africa
© 2014 Turtle SA - All Rights Reserved - Cape Town - Oranjemund
Page updated 10.6.2015