More background info:
for general info about the history of diamond mining and the Sperrgebiet see under Kolmanskop
Elizabeth Bay, locally also known as “E-Bay” for short, is a natural bay on the Namibian coast, named first by the British – in the German colonial period it was called “Elisabethbucht”. The diamond mine and associated town was established between 1924 and 1926, as the diamond deposits in Kolmanskop were already being depleted.
Like its older equivalents Kolmanskop
, the town of Elizabeth Bay had all manner of state-of-the-art amenities including a grand community centre (“Messe”) and sports facilities. Drinking water – as well as all building materials and food supplies – were brought in by an elaborate railway system from Lüderitz
After only a few years of lucrative production of diamonds, the global Great Depression hit Elizabeth Bay hard. The mine was shut down in 1931. The last residents left in ca. 1940 and the mining settlement became a ghost town
Unlike at Kolmanskop
, however, diamond mining at Elizabeth Bay was restarted at the time of Namibian independence (see Namibian history
). This continued on and off in the 2000s. In 2021 a new owner took over and at the time of my visit (August 2022) the modern mine, visible from the adjacent ghost town, was in operation, though there are rumours that it’s not making much of a profit (if any at all).
As Elizabeth Bay is deep inside the “Sperrgebiet” (‘forbidden zone’), the restricted diamond area between Lüderitz and the border with South Africa
, access to the town is possible only by guided tour with an operator granted a concession to do so (see below). However, since the area was declared a National Park in 2008, some restrictions may over time be loosened or lifted to facilitate tourism. If/when this may happen remains to be seen.
What there is to see:
I had used the same tour operator (see below
) already the day before (for Pomona
) so already knew our guide Heinz, when he collected my wife and me from our accommodation in Lüderitz
in the morning in a big, sturdy 4x4. This time we also picked up two more participants, so were a small group of four. The others were from the Netherlands
and the tour was thus conducted mostly in English (although when I spoke just with Heinz we switched back to German).
Again we first had to register and have our passports and permits checked at the Sperrgebiet checkpoint
. Then we passed through the gate there.
Shortly after we had a short stop
from where we could get a good view of the mining and ramshackle diamond processing plant of Kolmanskop
, which is otherwise off limits to tourists (probably too dangerous to enter) – see the Kolmanskop photo gallery
for a couple of images I took on this occasion.
The drive from there to Elizabeth Bay, or “E-Bay” as Heinz referred to it (apparently it’s common to use such abbreviations for old place names in these parts), took only a bit over half an hour.
As we passed the modern diamond mine
) it was shrouded in coastal fog
that morning. And when we arrived at the ghost town of Elizabeth Bay, there was some lingering mist still about there too – making for a few atmospheric photos – but then the fog quickly lifted.
Heinz first gave us a guided tour of the place in his 4x4 jeep, pointing out the various parts of the town, then drove us to the bay and the pier and water pump, which was in use for the current diamond mine.
From there he took us to the nearby old diamond processing plant
– now a fantastic industrial ruin
. The Dutch guy with his photo backpack revealed himself as an ardent urbexer
& photographer. We were both totally fascinated by this plant and started shooting away immediately.
Right next to the main part of the plant a film crew was busy preparing sets for some TV series (see also Kolmanskop
) so this corner of the place wasn’t as totally silent as befits a ghost town.
Heinz then left us to explore the rest of the ghost town for ourselves, while he drove to the former mine director’s house where he’d have hot drinks and pastries waiting for us later.
My wife and I headed in a different direction to the other two participants so for much of the time we had most of the ghost town ruins all to ourselves again, just like at Pomona
the day before. First we climbed the slope to get to the former mine office building
. This had a barred window – and apparently behind this would have been a diamond storage room.
We proceeded to the large building that used to be the “Messe
” or “Kasino”, i.e. the community centre
where the entertainment facilities once were (e.g. a theatre – and I’m sure they would also have had a bowling alley just like all the other ex-German ghost towns I had encountered here, yet at Elizabeth Bay I didn’t come across it). The community centre is the largest building here, though not quite so grand as the equivalent in Kolmanskop
– and totally unrefurbished, instead seriously dilapidated.
We already noticed a significant difference
: here in this coastal location (Elizabeth Bay town overlooks both the bay of the same name as well as the Atlantic Ocean
) there were no accumulations of desert sand and indoor dunes. Instead many of the buildings were clearly weathered down by wind. The front facade of the community centre looked like it was barely held in place by the window frames, while the bricks were slowly being eroded away.
North of the community centre were rows of former residential buildings. Again, some were in a very bad state, with more bizarre wind erosion in evidence. Here and there it looked like structures were held together (just about) by the mortar between the bricks, while the bricks themselves had partially disappeared. In some cases whole houses had vanished except for indications of the foundations. So dilapidation has progressed much more here than at Kolmanskop.
Other, more intact buildings could be entered, however. In one of them we found floor-to-ceiling wall murals depicting palm trees and flocks of geese flying in a V-formation. Obviously you would never get the real thing in this desolate desert location.
At the end of one of the rows of residential buildings is another larger, grander building. This used to be the town’s general store (as a map of the place in the mine director’s house informed us – see below).
At the far northern end of the ghost town was the part with the living quarters
for the local (black) manual workers
. As in Pomona
the sleeping halls featured small individual niches for them to lie in, not offering a lot of privacy. In contrast to Pomona, these niches were stacked in two tiers. Most of these halls were also in a rather bad state and should probably not be entered. Outside each of the buildings are bucket toilets – with no doors (either they never had any or they’ve been taken or eroded away).
Finally there was also a large workshop building housing a former kitchen and boiler room with a tall chimney attached. This sturdier stone building looked better preserved at first, but I noticed a crack going all the way from the ground to the roof at the end of the building – and that on both sides. So it’ll be only a question of time before this end wall will come crashing down.
There’s lots of rusty debris lying around, including remnants of water pipes, narrow-gauge railway tracks and by now unidentifiable metal objects.
I also found tracks
left by brown hyenas
– also known as “Strandwolf”, or ‘beach wolf’. The white colour of the poo is an unmistakable giveaway (hyenas can eat and digest bones, hence). But I never saw a single hyena in the flesh anywhere in Namibia
, sadly. (I am quite fond of hyenas – see also here
!) I know that there used to be a resident brown hyena at Elizabeth Bay’s diamond processing plant, but it was not to be seen. Maybe it’s moved on or shied away from the film crew disturbing the peace.
At the former mine director’s house overlooking the town and the actual Elizabeth Bay our guide Heinz was waiting and invited us to help ourselves to tea or coffee and home-made pastries. These were available from a room within the house’s walled courtyard. And inside the same room was a kind of mini-museum about Elizabeth Bay, with period photos, old plans, documents and a few artefacts such as ceramics, metal jugs and glass bottles.
The Dutch urbexer-photographer gave all this a miss and instead carried on exploring the former diamond processing plant further. It took us quite a while to locate him again so that we could set off on the drive back to Lüderitz
. But eventually he reappeared.
En route Heinz made a detour to a Cape fur seal colony – primarily in the hope that we might see a brown hyena there (they often linger about at such colonies looking for deceased seal pups). But the fog had returned so we could barely make out the seals – and never saw a hyena here either. So we drove off again and towards the Kolmanskop Sperrgebiet checkpoint.
By the way, at this checkpoint
there were two “search rooms
” were I presume suspected diamond smugglers will have to strip down and be searched, possibly including uncomfortable inspections of orifices – as the diamond smuggling exhibition at Kolmanskop
At the end of the tour we were again dropped off in Lüderitz
and said our goodbyes to our fellow travellers and our guide Heinz.
All in all
this was yet another highlight of that Namibia
trip in 2022. It was definitely worth the money. In some ways I found Elizabeth Bay even more intriguing than Pomona, because of the larger scale of the industrial ruins and the often bizarre erosion of houses – though it lacked the atmospheric shifting desert sand that so characterizes Kolmanskop
. For more comparison of the three ghost towns see here
If you can only do one more ghost town in addition to Kolmanskop
(which you will not want to miss out on in any case), and the Pomona tour is too expensive for you, then Elizabeth Bay is a perfect compromise and as a ghost town perhaps also slightly more exciting than Pomona
ca. 20 miles (30 km) south of Lüderitz
on the Atlantic coast and the eponymous bay in southern Namibia
Google Maps locators:
Access and costs: restricted; by guided tour only; quite expensive.
, this is a destination you cannot visit independently but have to book a guided tour offered by an operator with the official concession to do so. At the time of my visit (in August 2022) this was “Namib Offroad Excursions”, or NoEx for short – see under Pomona
for more info on that!
The half-day tours
to Elizabeth Bay can run any day
. Making arrangements well in advance is recommended, also as it takes several days for the permits
to be issued. To get these you have to submit your passport details, so the operator can do the paperwork with the Sperrgebiet officials. I had my general Namibia agent arrange this on my behalf. But you can also book direct with NoEx in Lüderitz or via their partners of “Sandwich Bay 4x4” (who are based in Walvis Bay).
The price for the tour is not cheap – at the time of writing it costs 2700 N$ (ca. 150 EUR) per person. It includes some snacks and drinks.
of the tour is ca. four hours. Your guide picks you up at your place of accommodation in Lüderitz
and drops you off there (or any other point in town) again after the tour.
For exploring the ghost town, wear
suitable clothing (layers, long sleeves and trousers) and sturdy closed shoes. Be careful with some of the more dilapidated buildings. You can enter at your own risk
but in quite a few cases I found the risk too high given the state of the ceilings, walls and floors. Better safe than sorry is a good motto here (or bring a hard hat, perhaps). However, unlike at Kolmanskop
, it’s the outdoor photo ops that trump the interiors here anyway. So you won’t miss out on much by not entering so many buildings.
Time required: a whole morning (ca. 9 a.m. to 1 p.m.)
Combinations with other dark destinations:
I used the same operator also for the full-day tour to yet another diamond mining ghost town, namely Pomona
, and Bogenfels (and a few more stops along the way). It’s even more expensive but also very cool.
And then there is the much more famous and also more easily accessible (and much more affordable to visit) ghost town of Kolmanskop
, the most must-see sight in this part of Namibia
For a comparison of all three of these ghost towns see here
Combinations with non-dark destinations:
See under Lüderitz
- E-Bay 01 - arrival in coastal mist
- E-Bay 02 - shrouded in coastal fog
- E-Bay 03 - misty ghost town
- E-Bay 04 - by the pier and water pump
- E-Bay 05 - former diamond processing plant
- E-Bay 06 - industrial ruin
- E-Bay 07 - dereliction
- E-Bay 08 - rusty machinery
- E-Bay 09 - debris and the sea
- E-Bay 10 - hanging precariously
- E-Bay 11 - that segment will come down too
- E-Bay 12 - rusty sign not pointing out much at all
- E-Bay 13 - ghost town
- E-Bay 14 - barred window
- E-Bay 15 - unbarred window
- E-Bay 16 - interior columns of the community centre
- E-Bay 17 - barely hanging together
- E-Bay 18 - eroded
- E-Bay 19 - very dilapidated
- E-Bay 20 - door
- E-Bay 21 - tropical mural in the desert
- E-Bay 22 - more wall paintings
- E-Bay 23 - general store
- E-Bay 24 - electric substation
- E-Bay 25 - ex-sleeping hall for workers
- E-Bay 26 - very dilapidated
- E-Bay 27 - bucket toilet
- E-Bay 28 - ex-door frame and mangled steel
- E-Bay 29 - walls, door and windows
- E-Bay 30 - precarious
- E-Bay 31 - brick arch
- E-Bay 32 - former kitchen
- E-Bay 33 - boiler house from the outside
- E-Bay 34 - this wall will collapse
- E-Bay 35 - former water pipes
- E-Bay 36 - brown hyena tracks
- E-Bay 37 - hyena droppings
- E-Bay 38 - loo with a view
- E-Bay 39 - former house of the mine director
- E-Bay 40 - courtyard
- E-Bay 41 - small indoor exhibition
- E-Bay 42 - artefacts
- E-Bay 43 - the actual Elizabeth Bay
- E-Bay 44 - contemporary diamond mine of Elizabeth Bay in the distance
- E-Bay 45 - contemporary diamond processing plant closer up
- E-Bay 46 - fur-seal colony in the mist
- E-Bay 47 - search rooms at the Kolmanskop checkpoint