Do not be daunted if an eerie mist envelops you about 10km from town on your way in from the sun-drenched interior, particularly when the blistering heat becomes intolerable. This climatic phenomenon presents an enormous relief to many travellers. To some, however, it is seen to be part of a clever conspiracy developed by the mining houses to keep our riches secret!
Port Nolloth, where the cold Atlantic joins the shores of the hot semi desert of the Richtersveld, has had a very chequered past, both in terms of natural and social history. Its uniqueness and eccentricity have taken most by surprise. Just scratch below the surface and peer through the sometime haziness to find the true gems and artistry of this coastal village. And yes, there are glorious sun-drenched days too, although the weather is usually moderate.
A town created around shiny stones
Today, Port Nolloth’s main industry is marine diamond dredging and its most well known profession is that of diamond diver. It’s a tough job, vacuuming diamond gravel from the ocean bed. It takes a certain type of personality to pit his strength against the elements and dive deep into the freezing sea in every type of weather. Sometimes many diamonds are found and sometimes none at all.
People have come and gone, fortunes made and lost, some have perished in pursuit of riches and others have flourished. Mining companies have made gargantuan profits and a few have collapsed. Port Nolloth is little changed despite all the excitement and all those shiny stones. It is an unusual and risky lifestyle, mirrored by the unpredictability of the ocean and certainly not meant for anyone but the stout of heart.
A town alive with stories!
So please do not expect the ordinary here in the wild, wild west. Hear the colourful stories of odd characters and bounty hunters, sad tales of sunken ships, dramatic stories of diamond smuggling, happy ones of sweet success, incredible ones of a not too distant past, and of a present always in the making. A canoe trip around Bird Island in MacDougall’s Bay reveals a holiday town filled with quaint architecture and serene protected coves. Seals, unusual dolphins (heavy-side dolphins) and even the occasional whale can be spotted here.
Sizamile (“We have tried” in Xhosa), once a squatter camp and now a rainbow township, is a true testament to the incredible struggle that preceded its existence. There are also the sandy graves of the young sailors of old, the dunes, and rare lithops (the uniquely endemic Fenestraria).
The Museum tells it all on paper and in photographic collections. The local people will tell you in their eyes, perhaps while relishing a nice fresh snoek fish over the coals at sunset.
Port Nolloth Museum: Set in an 1880 historical building, the eclectic museum displays the history of diamond diving in the area, as well as geology and natural history.
MacDougall’s Bay: A holiday town where visitors can canoe around Bird Island and enjoy other water sports as well as watch marine life.
Dunes: Pristine dunes along the coast offer stunning views, but for walking and off-road driving please stick to demarcated trails and tracks.