Cape Town  -  Oranjemund

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.

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Page updated 10.6.2015

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