Only after I have held many talks and signed a pile of paper, I get access to the “Sperrgebiet”, a diamond restricted area. Not only the precious stones benefited from the enormous security measures. Incidentally, the most protected nature reserve in the world was created – an African wilderness that is not in the public eye because it is so difficult to access. This makes birdwatching and photography as appealing as it is complicated. Of many settlements of the Diamond era, only ghost towns remain, which are recaptured by the desert again. The ruins of these ghost towns are populated by animals. In addition to birds such as the Kori bustard (Ardeotis kori), reptiles also feel at ease here.
The restricted area is larger than many states in Europe and is only permeated by a few dust tracks. Only where gems are extracted, it is worth to maintain connecting routes. The remaining slopes are quickly reclaimed from the desert. An off-road vehicle is therefore indispensable. Nevertheless, many areas of the restricted area were simply not accessible.
Since the operators of the mines are no longer interested in nature, the infrastructure is correspondingly poor. Detailed maps are not available, there are no Rangers and few other people who can help you with words and deeds.
The old mines and ghost towns from the time of the diamond fever are vulnerable to collapse. Anyone moving here has to be careful. Many of the buildings have been sandblasted by nature for decades. From walls that are particularly exposed to the wind, today only skeletons. In many living rooms of the former workers’ settlements, sand dunes are now piling up. Nevertheless, the houses are not uninhabited. After the humans disappeared, animals entered the “artificial caves”. Especially Brown Hyenas (Parahyaena brunnea) appreciate the winding buildings and the shafts of the old diamond mines. The soil is littered with their traces and remnants of meals. Brown Hyenas (Parahyaena brunnea or Hyaena brunnea) are also Beach Wolfes.
The barren landscape of the restricted area, which reminds in some places of the Etosha National Park, has its own charm – even if encounters with wildlife are rare here. Mostly only Common Eland (Tragelaphus oryx), Springbok Antelopes (Antidorcas marsupialis), Black-backed Jackals (Canis mesomelas) and a few Ostriches (Struthio camelus) or Kori Bustards (Ardeotis kori). These species, like Brown hyenas, are true specialists because they survive without drinking. Their fluid requirements can only be covered by their food. A necessary adaptation, because fresh water does not exist in this part of the desert.
Life – in constrast – on the coast is all the more lush. Thousands of Cape Fur Seals (Arctocephalus pusillus) lie on the cliffs and rocky slopes. In November, the seals are coming in large numbers on land to give birth to their young and then mate again. Soon, tens of thousands of Fur Seals cover the coast, and there is a huge mess. The bulls are constantly fighting for the best sites, and only the strongest can muster a female harem. Fights for supremacy are carried out with full physical effort and pointed teeth. Scarred is the skin of old bulls. But the effort is worth it, because only those who win many disputes, can pass on his genetic material to the next generation.
In mid-December, when midsummer is raging in southern Africa, most seal-babies are born. Immediately Kelp gull (Larus dominicanus) find their way to the afterbirths. It’s a time of abundance: for a few weeks, the coast is a land of plenty for Gulls, Hyenas and Jackals. Next door life Cape francolin (Pternistis capensis), Black oystercatcher (Haematopus moquini), Crowned Cormorant (Microcarbo coronatus) and even African Penguin (Spheniscus demersus). The latter can only exist here, because the cold Benguela stream with its nutrient-rich water masses streams from the Antarctic to the coast of Africa
In 1908, access to the area was much easier. At that time, the German colonials discovered an above-ground diamond field near the town of Lüderitz. The so-called diamond fever broke out. The mining rights lay with a company that built a huge, 26,000 square kilometer restricted area to keep unwanted guests away. Thieves would have had to go through lengthy marches across the desert to reach the diamond fields. With the technology and equipment available at the time, it was a downright suicidal venture. The endless desert was the best protection the operators of diamond mines could wish for. Work was done with the simplest means. In some areas, the gems were so common that they could be picked by hand. Hoping for quick wealth, many lucky knights poured into the area. Many German settlements sprang up. If the diamond fields were superficially exhausted, new ones had to be discovered; The cities then sank in the desert sand.
The former Diamond Restricted Area is also known as the Sperrgebiet (Restricted Area) National Park and extends from the southern boundary of the Namib Naukluft Park to the Orange River, the border river between Namibia and South Africa. It covers an area of 26 000 km ². It is crossed by the national road B4 from Keetmanshoop to Lüderitz. The route to Lüderitz is freely passable, for the visit of the ghost town Kolmannkoop a permit is required, as well as the visit of Oranjemund in the very south must be approved.
With World War I, the German colony fell to South Africa and became independent Namibia in 1990, whose government now controls the mines together with a South African corporation. The landscape is characterized by sand dunes, bizarre rock formations and ghost towns. The region still bears its original name: The restricted area.
To cope with the growing demand for top shots of the rarer species of the Palearctic Bird-Lens is keen to enrich the range of pictures of birds not only in the western palearctic. Trips to remote places like this one to capture images were very successful. The nice image of the blog is only a first impression, what you will find in the gallery in the “Picture Shop” very soon. Just give bird-lens.com a message, if www.bird-lens.com could serve you with an image needed before the new pictures are online.