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Sands of time

This portfolio of captivating images explores the mystical ghost town of Kolmanskop, displaying it from every angle. This haunting place, half-buried in the Namib Desert, offers a singular glimpse into colonial times and demonstrates the supreme power that nature holds over such a volatile landscape

From the sky

“On my helicopter trip from Hamburg to Cape Town in 2006, which took eight weeks, Kolmanskop was one of our final destinations. The vastness of the lonely landscape dwarfs the buildings and the sand seeks to drown the structures. It is not until you approach the houses that their characteristic German architecture, featuring truncated roofs and generous windows, can be appreciated. And being German myself, many things did indeed seem very familiar to me.”

Canon EOS-1Ds Mark II, 24.0-70.0mm, 400 ISO, 1/1250s at f/16

Kolmanskop (previously called Kolmanskuppe) resembled a wealthy German town in its heyday but was abandoned in 1956 when diamond prices crashed. The sands of time have blown through the decaying settlement, which is now a popular tourist attraction. Founded in 1908 when a rail worker in the area discovered a diamond there, the town enjoyed nearly 50 years of history. Diamond wealth assured a comfortable lifestyle. Just imagine: German-style houses rising out of the desert, along with a school, a hospital, a casino, a gymnasium, a power station, a ballroom, a pool, a bowling alley and the first X-ray station in the southern hemisphere. It was also home to the first tram in Africa, and a small railway linked it to the neighbouring coastal town of Lüderitz. At its peak, Kolmanskop had nearly 1200 residents from some 700 families and held the title of the highest per capita wealth in the world. Today, the town is a photographer’s dream, if you get up early enough before the tourist buses come rolling in.

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About Travel Africa

Transfixed by Ethiopia • Lake Kariba • Kolmanskop, Namibia's ghost town • South Africa on a shoestring • Looking for lemurs in Madagascar • Kenya's keepers of the wild • Why Bengweulu is so bewitching • Remote Ruaha • Sail away to St Helena • Chimps in Uganda • Picture-perfect Tuli... and much more!