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The 2014 Chris Benz Luderitz Speed Challenge

  
  

The small coastal town of Luderitz in the south of Namibia is renowned for it’s laidback atmosphere and friendly locals. However, every year around October, the sleepy seaside community hosts one of the wildest water sports events in the world: The Luderitz Speed Challenge.

Namibia, Luderitz, Luderitz Speed Challenge, windsurfing, adventure

Sunshine and speed on the Luderitz Channel.
(Photo by Greg Beadle)


Since 2007 some of the world’s most renowned kitesurfers and windsurfers have been coming to Luderitz with one aim: To reach ridiculous speeds on the purpose-built channel just outside Luderitz.

The first two days of the event were characterised by mild winds, but despite this some speed sailing legends were on hand to entertain the curious crowds that had gathered at the channel. Sébastien Cattelan, two times world record holder and the man who helped design the Luderitz channel, managed to reach a hair-raising 50.07 knots (90km/h or 60m/ph) on his second run on the very first day of the competition.

Namibia, Luderitz, Luderitz Speed Challenge, windsurfing, adventure

The veteran kitsurfer in full flight on the channel.
(Photo by Greg Beadle)

 

The following day Erik Beale (who in the 80’s was the first windsurfer to reach 40 knots) made his long awaited comeback to competitive windsurfing on the Luderitz channel. The participation of these two veterans was a testament to lasting appeal that the event has for both seasoned and younger competitors.

 Windsurfing legends Erik Beale and Thierry Bielak. 

 

The Calm 

The days in the middle of this year’s competition were characterised by the riders waiting for the exact right conditions to maximise their speeds. While a few personal bests were set over this period of the competition, during this time most of the competitors fine-tuned their equipment and got used to the conditions in and around the channel.

 

There was also time for the guys and girls to relax a bit and soak up some of Luderitz’s famous hospitality at the world-class Crayfish Bar & Lounge in the Lüderitz Nest Hotel. The contestants even managed to get a little bit ridiculous on the water... 

Namibia, Luderitz, Luderitz Speed Challenge, windsurfing, adventure

The world's first kitesurfing leopard.
(Photo by Jonathan Tait)

 

The World Record

On Day 6 of the competition, while most spectators (and competitors) were not expecting too much in the way of serious record attempts, a spectacular record was smashed by Frenchman Chris Ballois.

Namibia, Luderitz, Luderitz Speed Challenge, windsurfing, adventure

Chris Ballois, World Record holder.
(Photo by Jonathan Tait)


Chris managed to hit a top speed of 42.92 knots on the famous channel and in doing so became the undisputed World Record holder for disabled kitesurfers. The record-breaking run was ratified by both the WSSRC and ISAF-IFDS and confirms the Luderitz Speed Challenge as one of watersport’s premier events.

Namibia, Luderitz, Luderitz Speed Challenge, windsurfing, adventure

The Frenchman flying toward a new world record.
(Photo by Jonathan Tait)

 

Chris Benz’ passion for the sport has motivated him to gain the skills, strength, and mental conditioning to achieve speeds that many non-disabled kite surfers can only dream of. Check out Chris' record run by watching the video below:

 

Chris was not the only record breaker this year though and even though wind conditions this year were far from ideal the riders managed to make the most of their time on the channel. Over 11 New National Records (and of course one World Record) were broken by the 34 Windsurfers and Kite Surfers with the field representing 17 different nationalities. The results of this year’s Chris Benz Luderitz Speed Challenge once again confirm that the event is one of the premier competitions on the world speed sailing circuit. 

 

Namibia, Luderitz, Luderitz Speed Challenge, windsurfing, adventure

20 riders, 1 leopard and a whole bunch of sun and fun.
 (Photo by Jonathan Tait)

 

More than just a flash on the water 

Beyond the surfing the LSC is about community. The participants and fans who went to watch this annual event are all testament to that. On the slow days when the wind is down, to keep spirits up, the riders got involved with some of the local children and showed some of these kids the basics of windsurfing and kitesurfing.

In the video below the riders express their love for the tiny Namibian town they call home for a brief period every year:

 

The event would not be possible without the local community, especially the offical partner hotel, the Nest Hotel. It’s great to see that the participants and the communities work so well together and it is this cooperation and mutual benefit that has seen the Speed Challenge go from strength for the last seven years.

Namibia, Luderitz, Luderitz Speed Challenge, windsurfing, adventure

Here's looking forward to next year!
(Photo by 
Greg Beadle)


 +++++++

 

 

Check out this video of the 2014 event for a more in-depth look at all the fun:

 

 

RECORDS BROKEN AT THE 2014
CHRIS BENZ LUDERITZ SPEED CHALLENGE

Andrew Redfern (Fiji) with 40.87 kts (75.5 kph average speed over 500m)

Andrew Redfern1 280x200 (1)

Roger Ornvang (Sweden) improved his national record - Kitesurfing - with 43.19 kts (80kph)

Roger Ornvang 22000

Remo Diethelm (Switzerland) with 48.31 kts (90 kph)

REmo 88 280x200

Franz Grabner (Austria) smashed the National record with 47.88 kts (88.5 kph)

Franz Austrian

Martin Tóth (Czech Republic) broke his country’s record often and finally ending with 46.73 kts (86.5 kph)

Martin Toth 280x200

Mark Grinnell (South Africa) set a new South Africa and all Africa record in Windsurfing with a truly impressive 49.92 kts (92.5 kph) – just short of the magical 50 knots

South AFrican 76431 280x200

Alain de Gendt (Belgium) - new Production Board Record of 46.66 kts

Alain De Gendt

Christian Bornemann (Germany) - new record in Windsurfing of 48.82 kts (90.4 kph)

christianright 280x200

Zoran Jovanovic (Serbia) - new national record (Kitesurfing) of 40.31kts (74.5 kph)

Zoran

Patrik Diethelm (Italy) achieved the TOP windsurfing performance at the 2014 event by improving the Italian National Record with a very impressive 51.18 kts (94.7 kph) just 0.8 knots of the World Windsurfing Record!

PATRIK Diethelm 280x200

Christophe Ballois (France) set a new Disabled World Record (Kitesurfing) with a superb and inspiring performance of 42.94 kts (80 kph)

Speed Chris Ball 280x200

 
To stay up to date with all the latest news visit the Speed Challenge's Facebook page, follow them on Twitter, or watch more of their excellent videos on their official Youtube channel.

Luderitz, Namibia's Extreme Holiday Mecca

  
  

Namibia is famed for its many different adventure sports and activities available to tourists and locals like. One of the most popular varieties of adventure sport is kiteboarding. Southern Namibia has a lot of wind, and a lot wide open spaces and beaches, this post will tell you a bit about a little town where you can learn how to take advantage of the wind, sun and water.

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Luderitz- a town of many surprises.

Luderitz: Adventure Sport Hotspot

There is one place in the world where the fastest kiteboarders converge every year, and that place is Luderitz. International kiteboarders flock to the Luderitz Speed Challenge every year to try and break the World Sailing Speed Record because of this small town's excellent prevailing winds, and perfectly suited lagoons and shorelines.

namibia, luderitz, souther namibia, luderitz namibia, kiteboarding namibia, kitesurfing namibia, rock climbing namibiaFree as a bird-
a kiteboarder is pulled skywayrd by winds off the coast of Luderitz
.
(photo courtesy of Geesche Neuberg) 

Naturally where there are great wind speeds and all-round amazing kiteboarding conditions in a picturesque place, kiteboarding fanatics will follow, and those fanatics need a place to stay while visiting the small town.

Element Riders

In Luderitz there is a place called Element Riders where thrill seekers can not only hire equipment for various adventure sports, but also receive instruction in how to do those sports.

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Friendly owners and clean rooms, that's Element Riders in nutshell!

Activities on offer include kiteboarding, rock climbing, landboarding, surfing, power kiting, paragliding, and even skydiving for the real adrenaline junkies! Element Riders also doubles up as a backpackers-style accommodation for those who want to stay close to the action.

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Climbers just outside Luderitz.
(photo courtesy of Geesche Neuberg)

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The wind stays constant for much of the day around Luderitz
which means more kiting!

(photo courtesy of Geesche Neuberg)

Learning to Fly

Geesche Neuberg runs Element Riders and when in Luderitz there is no one better to showcase the town's various activities that are available to the adventure seeking traveller. She walked us through her procedure when she takes someone kiteboarding for the first time.

If you are a novice kiter then you can start your day with Geesche explaining the basics of kiteboarding, which then will be followed by an hour long lesson in which the fundamentals of kiteboarding you have just learned can be put into practice.

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Start from the very beginning and learn how to inflate your kite.

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Fun with pumps!

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 Element riders has various kites on offer, from small beginner kites...

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...to the big guys like this kite pictured above.

Depending on your ability and experience with the kites you may require more or less instruction before you are ready to hit the beach and the waves. But even total novices are welcome and Geesche assured us that kiting is not as difficult as it looks.

And once you have the basics down then all that is left to do is catch some of the famous Luderitz wind. If you consult Wind Guru you will see just how constant the wind is in thie part of the world.

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There is always something blowing in Luderitz.

Plan Ahead- Avoid Disappointment

The fact that kiteboarding is weather dependent should be factored into your plans, and while the prevailing winds and conditions in Luderitz are usually perfect for kiteboarding, make sure you factor in three or four days if you want to ensure that you get some good kiting in.

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Perfect weather for kiting, but we had to move on to the next town.
(photo courtesy of Geesche Neuberg)

Other Activities

When in Luderitz, as we mentioned above, you are not just limited to kiteboarding. Geesche  also told us about some of the other extreme/adventure activities that one can do in the southern town.

We were surprised to hear that Geesche’s business alone runs mountain climbing excursions, stand-up canoe trips, skydiving, paragliding and landboarding. And there are several other adventure-activity operators that run out of Luderitz as well.

namibia, luderitz, souther namibia, luderitz namibia, kiteboarding namibia, kitesurfing namibia, rock climbing namibiaRock climbing in Namibia is beginning to become very popular.
(photo courtesy of Geesche Neuberg)

Friendly instruction is offered in each of these activities for travellers of all skill levels and experience. Adventurers of all skills and sizes are encouraged to take part and learn how to ride the water, ride the wind, climb the rocks, and even fall through the sky.

Photo chances

The great thing about almost all these adventure activities is that they offer amazing photo opportunities for budding photographers.

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Extreme sports mean extreme photography.
(photo courtesy of Geesche Neuberg)

From attaching GoPro’s to kites, to capturing amazing photos of cliffs and crags, to taking pictures of a companion as they cut through the ocean waves on a board; adventure sports are an action photographer’s dream.

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A kiter makes his way out to see as the wind whips up the sand.
(photo courtesy of Geesche Neuberg)

Accomodation in Luderitz

If Element Riders is full then fret not, there are several different places where you can stay in the small town.

Here’s a list of them:

Element Riders: Official Website

Nest Hotel: Official Website

Bayview Hotel: 
Tel: +264-63-202-288
, bayview@namibnet.com

Kapps Hotel
: Tel: +264-63-202-345
, pmk@mweb.com.na

Kratzplatz B&B
: Tel: +264-63-202-458

Haus Sandrose
: Tel: +264-63-202-630

Hansa Haus Self Catering
: Tel: +264-63-203-581

Obelix Village B&B
: Tel: +264-63-203-456

Island Cottage Self Catering
: Tel: +264-81-292-298

Shark Island Camping & Bungalows
: Tel: +264-63-202-752

Backpackers Lodge
: Tel: +264-63-202-000

For more accomodation options visit The Namibia Tourism Website.


Luderitz- Exploring Namibia's Historic Diamond Town

  
  

The small town of Luderitz is located in the South of Namibia and if you are lucky enough to have some free time on your holiday, then you should definitely go on a tour of it and its surrounds. From quaint old German-style architecture, to beautiful wide-open skies and crystal clear seas with white beaches, Luderitz is a small town with a lot to see.

sign
Welcome to Luderitz!

Arriving

The first great thing about Luderitz is that it has its own airport. Flights go to Luderitz from Windhoek once a day, and getting a ticket is usually not a problem.

One can also drive from Windhoek to Luderitz. It's a straight shot along the B4 and will take you about 6-7 hours to do.

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The flight into the isolated town, over the desert sands, was amazing.

The Nest Hotel

Once in Luderitz I made my way to where I would be laying my head down for the duration of my trip. I was staying at the Nest Hotel, which is the perfect spot to stay if you feel like having all the creature comforts of modern living.

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This was the view from my room- it was spectacular all day long!

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The Nest Hotel in the twilight.

Take your time

Luderitz exists as a town largely thanks to the diamond industry in Namibia, and to this day diamonds continue to be an important part of the town's economy. And with the railway being refurbished and new buildings going up all the time, the future is looking bright for this sometimes forgotten town.

Most travellers go to Luderitz just to use it as a stepping stone to other locations in Namibia's South, but doing this would be a waste of an opportunity to do some exploring. The coastal town has enough going on to keep a busy adventurer happy for a good few days.

Colourful streets, colourful buildings

But today we will concern ourselves with the past and of particular interest is the unique architecture of Luderitz. Colourful buildings built during the time of German occupation line the streets, and businesses more than a hundred years old can be found on some of the streets.

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Rows of brightly coloured houses can be found all over the seaside town.

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A shot of some of the local businesses.

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Barrels- the towns friendly watering hole.

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House Groenewald.

Historical sites

The town also has several historical sites, which are worth visiting. There is a wealth of information on the town’s history and you can find this information at any tourist centre or hotel in Luderitz.

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 A memorial for those who died fighting for their land.

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Plaque honouring Heinrich Vogelslang, Luderitz's first pioneer.

A short drive outside of town and one can find Dias Cross, which is a must see if you are in Luderitz. The site marks the location of where Bartholomew Dias landed in Namibia. Tourists can now visit this spot and enjoy the delicious cake and coffee on sale at the small café run nearby the site.

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The foot bridge leading up to the historic site.

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 Dias Cross, erected where the explorer landed in 1488.

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A modern lighthouse overlooks Dias Cross and Grossebucht.

Beaches near Luderitz

The beaches near Luderitz are also quite spectacular. White sands and shallow waters make these beaches perfect for picnicking and sunbathing. The fact that there are so few people in this part of the world only helps you appreciate the isolated beauty of the locations around Luderitz.

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An abandoned ship at Grossebucht.

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On our way to Agate Beach we had to obey the sign and not enter
the area still designated for diamond mining.

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Agate Beach-
Hundreds of agates lie on the shore and can be taken home and cherished.

Discover Luderitz

Luderitz is the gateway to the South of Namibia, and when staying in Luderitz it is very easy to visit such attractions as Kolmanskop, Pomona, Fish River Canyon, Klein Aus and many, many other places that are of interest to anyone looking for a bit of adventure.

So when you go to Luderitz, do not forget to stick around a bit in the town and take in its sites. It is a quaint, friendly place, unique and unlike any place you have stayed in.

The pictures above are by no means an exhaustative list of things to do in Luderitz. If you like exploring hidden gems, and finding out more about the rich history of one of the oldest towns in Namibia, then get yourself down to this small town, and get exploring!

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A view of the old harbour.

A Day Hike into Namibia's Fish River Canyon

  
  

Hiking in the Fish River Canyon

Words and pictures by Roderick MacLeod

intro


It begins

I woke up after spending a night in the Fish River Lodge knowing that my day would be a busy one. I had signed up for a full day hike into the second largest canyon in the world: the Fish River canyon. The hike would be a ten-hour affair; five hours into the canyon and five hours to get out of the canyon before dark settled on the land.

As you can expect the day started early. Breakfast was served at 5:30am and despite the hour everyone was in high spirits.

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Dube, one of the guides at the lodge.


The night before the hike I had had a chance to chat to some of the Fish River Lodge’s staff about the hike and what I should expect. The response was always along the same lines: It is a tough hike and should not be attempted by the frail or lazy. A good pair of shoes is an absolute must and a healthy pair of lungs will, of course, help. The Fish River Lodge, as part of the full-day hike package you can purchase, provided me with water and food for the duration of the hike.

 

Into the Canyon

Once our guides for the day (Ben and Desmond) had introduced themselves to us we set out for the point at which we would begin our descent down into the canyon.

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Our vehicle was left perched on the canyon's rim.
We would see it as a dot, many hours later, looking up from the canyon floor.


An hour after beginning our descent I noticed how spectacular the formations in this canyon are. The dried up river beds, the gullies, the outcrops of strangely sculpted cliffs are all a treat for anyone with an interest in natural beauty. It is incredibly interesting to witness the changes to your surroundings as you descend into the canyon for the first time.

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Rain-sculpted and sand-blasted, a face emerges from the cliff...

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A long dried-up river bed

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A gully in the morning sun.


On account of the many different landscapes in and around the Fish River canyon there is a varied collection of wildlife. The chances of sighting a few of these creatures increases when you are on foot. The park is home to many mountain zebra, various antelope, eagles and even a few rhino. Unfortunately I did not see any of the rhinos. I did however find traces of their activities on the path we were using.

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Rhino dung on the hiking trail.


Naturally created hiking trails

Many visitors at the lodge spoke of their encounters with the mountain zebras of the region. The reason why people have encountered so many of these animals is because the trails that I and everyone else hikes on are in fact the selfsame paths created and used by the animals. There is a distinct effort on the part of the park officials and lodge owners to keep the hike as natural as possible.

trail 2

When hiking the Fish River Canyon you will literally walk on the paths the local animals use...

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There has been no clearing of boulders or cutting of trails. This means that when scaling up or down the mountain you have to figure what the best route will be. Since the rocks in the canyon are frequently breaking off the cliff faces and rolling down the slopes no two hikes into the canyon are identical.

 

The Half-day hike viewpoint

After three or so hours of hiking we came to a type of plateau which was about half the way down into the canyon.

We had reached the halfway point of the half-day hike, which meant we were one quarter through the full-day hike. We could see the river and the canyon floor below us. We were then told by Ben (our guide) that we would be heading further down the canyon and further along the river toward our destination: A natural rock pool in which we could have a refreshing dip before turning around and heading back out of the canyon.

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View from the half-day hike turnaround point.
Below to the left is the Fish River.


Between the half-day hike turnaround point and the rock pool was the part of the hike I found to be the most treacherous. The landscape suddenly flattened out and i found myself walking on cracked rock and around small thorny shrubs. Constant attention was needed to avoid spraining an ankle or twisting a knee.

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 Ben surveys the harsh beauty of the canyon surrounds.


Your prize for making it through these trials is an hour of relaxation at the rock pool. After 4-5 hours of non-stop hiking this rock pool becomes more than just a pool, it becomes an oasis. Water cooled rocks and shade from the surrounding cliffs will give you all the comfort you need after having spent hours in the arid heat.

rock pool

The seemingly bottomless rock pool at the floor of the canyon.


Onward and Upward

After we had relaxed sufficiently at the rock pool we picked up our bags once more and headed back along the path we came down on.

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My hiking companion preparing to leave the rock pool behind.


The hike was nothing short of glorious. I was constantly struck by the massive beauty of the canyon. From the moment I stood atop the canyon to when I was seated on its floor, to when I once again stood atop its cliffs I was filled with a sense of wanderlust and excitement. The hikes and hiking options offered by the Fish River Lodge make it easy to say this is the perfect spot for just about anyone who  wants to go hiking in the Fish River canyon.

Ben Taking a Breather

 Even our guide, Ben, had to take a few breathers on the way up.

 

+++++++


How to get there - Where to stay

The Fish River canyon is one of the largest canyons in the world and it can be found in Namibia’s Southern Karas region near the South African/Namibia border.

As with most places in the South of Namibia the best way to get there is via the small town of Luderitz. The drive from Luderitz to Fish River canyon is a lengthy, but relatively straight-forward drive. A car capable of dealing with rocky dirt roads is strongly advised.

Almost the entirety of the canyon is now a protected nature reserve and there are several lodges one can stay at around the canyon. It should be mentioned that the Fish River Lodge is  the only lodge that is perched directly on the rim of the canyon, the other lodges are a little bit removed from the canyon.

If you wish to hike in the canyon you will need a guide as private hikes are no longer allowed since numerous tragedies have befallen ill-prepared private non-sanctioned groups of hikers.

Most of the lodges offer guests a variety of activities to choose from. So if there are people unwilling or unable to hike, do not fear. Activities in the Fish River canyon range from scenic drives to horse back safaris so check each lodge out and decide what is best for you and your traveling companions.

Here is a list of some of the places you can stay at near the Fish River Canyon:

The Fish River Lodge FishRiverLodge_footer_01 
Exterior  The Fish River Canyon Lodge
 Vogelstrausskluft Lodge  Vogelstrausskluft Lodge
 Canyon Roadhouse  Canyon Roadhouse
 Ai-Ais Hot Springs Resort  Ai-Ais Hot Springs Resort
 Exterior  The Canyon Village

Luderitz, Namibia: The Fastest Place on Water

  
  

Once a year kiteboarders converge on a specially modified canal in the quiet coastal town of Luderitz, Namibia. These men and women come to Namibia annually to smash and set insanely fast World Speed Sailing Records at the Luderitz Speed Challenge. The contest is open to almost anyone who can get themselves to Luderitz from 7 October to 17 November 2013 and has their own kiteboarding equipment. 

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Sophie Routaboul setting a new personal best.
(Photo via Kiteboard.com)


Leveling the Playing Field

One of the things that sets the Luderitz Speed Challenge apart from other events of this nature is the type of competitor that takes part in the challenge. Usually at these types of speed challenges big budget teams dominate the field. These multi-million dollar teams typically use all manner of highly engineered and purpose-specific craft for their record attempts. The Luderitz Speed Challenge breaks through these traditional barriers and, thanks to its unique canal and prevailing winds, affords all competitors, regardless of budget, the chance to challenge (and sometimes break) the overall World Speed Sailing Record on a yearly basis.

The most recent example of this was at the 2012 Luderitz Speed Challenge. Windsurfer Anders Bringdal of Sweden achieved a speed of 51.45 Knots over 500 metres on a stock-standard sailboard. It is much the same for kiteboarders. In 2010 Rob Douglas became the outright World Speed Sailing Record holder at 55.65 Knots. In setting this time he, along with four other kiteboarders at the event, smashed a record that had been set by the multi-million dollar hydrofoil craft the Hydroptere. The kiteboarders achieved this on boards that cost a fraction of the Hydroptere.  

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Kiteboarders reach awesome speeds at the Luderitz Speed Challenge
(photo via KitesportsKitesurfaris)

Why are so many records broken?  

The Luderitz Speed Challenge is arguably the best competition for World Speed Sailing Record attempts not just because of the prevailing winds in the region. It is because the strong and predictable local gusts of wind work in combination with a precisely engineered canal. These factors allow kiteboarders (and other sailors) to power themselves to faster and faster speeds. 

National records, international records, personal bests and overall speed limits are all pushed beyond previously imagined levels on a yearly basis at the Luderitz Speed Challenge. The first time a sailor broke the once seemingly unattainable speed of 50 knots was at the Luderitz Speed Challenge in 2008. It was the French kiteboarder Sebastien Cattelan who achieved a speed of 50.26 over 500 metres in the Luderitz canal. That’s over 91 kilometers per hour (or 60 miles per hour) with nothing but a board beneath his feet atop the surface of the water.    

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Serious speeds are reached on the purpose-built canal 
(photo via Surfertoday.com)

Since Cattelan’s groundbreaking run kiteboarders have ruled the roost on the overall World Speed Sailing standings. Kiteboarders have held the number one spot from 2008 - 2012.  Now, in 2013, kiteboarders from all over the world are looking to take back the number one spot currently held by Paul Larsen and his big-budget team: Vestas Sailrocket 2, a craft built for only one purpose: To achieve massive straight-line speeds.    

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The Vestas Sailrocket 2.
(Photo via QLDYachting.com)

It will be a case of David vs. Goliath and in order to take back the record the kiteboarders will have to reach an astonishing speed of 65.45 knots. That means the kiteboarders, if successful will be travelling at over 120kph (90mph); this is faster than most hurricane winds.   

Breaking Bones, Breaking Records 

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Rob Douglas’s wrist.
(Photo via TMZ.com)  

The Luderitz Speed Challenge is not for the feint of heart. Rob Douglas, once the fastest man on water, had a rough time of it at the Luderitz Speed Challenge in 2010. In attempting to break Sebastien Catalan’s newly set record of 55.49 Knots Rob came off his board and broke his wrist.  

For those of you requiring proof of this check out this video of Rob Douglas’s accident.  

Kite Surfer Breaks Record ... and then His Wrist
(via TMZ Celebrity Videos)

It was not all doom and gloom. Rob broke his wrist that day, but he also broke the World Speed Sailing Record by 0.16 Knots. He held this record until 2012 when the Vestas Rocket 2 smashed the World Speed Sailing Record.

Luderitz offers a great location for adventure holidaymakers in Namibia. If you want to experience the thrill of the Luderitz Speed Challenge get yourself down to this hidden gem on the South West coast of Namibia from the 7 of October to the 17 November 2013 and get ready for some water, wind, speed and sun. 

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Kiteboarding is not for sissies.
(Photo via Surfertoday.com)

So where is Luderitz?

Luderitz is located 350 km west of Keetmanshoop along a tarred road, the B4.

You can reach Luderitz by car from Windhoek, but its a pretty long drive, so you should definitely make a road trip out of it.

Alternatively, you can catch a flight with Air Namibia from Windhoek to Luderitz and be there in an hour!

Where can I stay when I get there?

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The Luderitz Nest Hotel
(Photo via TripAdvisor.co.uk)

Once in Luderitz the avid Kiteboarder or tourist has many options when it comes to accommodation. Book your room at the Nest Hotel for shorefront accommodation. Or for those of you wishing to rub shoulders with fellow kiteboarders check out (and then check-in) at the incredibly friendly Element Riders Place.

Below is a list of other accommodation options in Luderitz.

Bayview Hotel: 
Tel: +264-63-202-288
, bayview@namibnet.com

Kapps Hotel
: Tel: +264-63-202-345
, pmk@mweb.com.na

Kratzplatz B&B
: Tel: +264-63-202-458

Haus Sandrose
: Tel: +264-63-202-630

Hansa Haus Self Catering
: Tel: +264-63-203-581

Obelix Village B&B
: Tel: +264-63-203-456

Island Cottage Self Catering
: Tel: +264-81-292-298

Shark Island Camping & Bungalows
: Tel: +264-63-202-752

Backpackers Lodge
: Tel: +264-63-202-000

For more accomodation options visit this page on our Website.

Pomona: Namibia's Forgotten Ghost Town

  
  

Namibia has several deserted and abandoned regions. This entry is about one of them.

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Journey to the Sperrgebiet

Our day started at the Nest Hotel in Luderitz where we met our tour guide for the day. He would be taking us on a two person tour of the Sperrgebiet.

The road was rough, very rough. A 4x4 is an absolute necessity when visiting this part of Namibia. If it were not for our excellent little 4x4 mini-van then we would have gotten stuck numerous times. Eventually we got to the entrance of the Sperrgebiet, beyond lay Pomona and the Bogenfels

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The Sperrgebiet checkpoint

The Sperrgebiet

The Sperrgebiet is an area of land on the west coast of Namibia that was specially set aside for diamond mining. Even though only 5% of the Sperrgebiet’s 26 000km2 is used for mining today access to the whole area is strictly controlled. Checkpoints like the one our tour guide took us through are the only manner in which people can enter and leave the area without incurring massive penalties ranging from fines to jail time.

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A signboard warning trespassers of various penalties 

Once we were through the checkpoint we were treated to the vastness of the Sperrgebiet. There is almost no human life in this area as the diamond mining operations in this part of the Sperrgebiet have been winding down for years now. 

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 Pictured above: Vastness

Pomona's satellite settlement

After an hour of driving from the checkpoint we noticed some buildings on the horizon. Our guide informed us that the buildings had been constructed to provide basic services to people of Pomona. This outpost was responsible for providing the mining town with fresh water and other such necessities.

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An abandoned storage shed

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A waterpump was housed within this building

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An old building looking out over the road toward Pomona

The train station

Further down the dirt road we came upon a train station which had once been used to receive and dispatch goods to and from Pomona. Since the first motorcar only arrived in Pomona in 1917 the people of the isolated mining town had relied on trains to deliver basic goods in the early years of the town's settlement. Now, however, the train tracks lie in ruin and the loading station is being slowly swallowed by the desert.

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Our van on the buckling tracks

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One of the old station buildings

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On the second floor of the loading area of the station

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Arriving in Pomona

Eventually we got to the site where Pomona once stood. Looking at this place it was hard to believe that Pomona was once a town where people were able to live. All that is left are crumbling buildings, broken ceilings and abandoned bits of machinery.

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Crumbling buildings...

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Broken ceilings...

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...and abandoned machinery

The town was the center of an extremely productive region of the Sperrgebiet. Over 4 million carats worth of diamonds were discovered and processed by the German Diamond Company in Pomona and over 800 people at a time called this remote outpost home. By the 1940’s the diamonds had become much harder to find and it the town was later completely abandoned. All that is left now are quiet buildings and a peaceful graveyard overlooking the Atlantic ocean.

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One of the graves in Pomona's cemetery

A failed settlement

To get to our next destination we were taken passed another site of abandoned buildings. Our tour guide told us that this site was in fact the first (failed) attempt to settle in this part of the Sperrgebiet.

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Two chimneys that used to be part of a large canteen for the miners

Brutal winds made this site totally uninhabitable and the people who first settled here simply up and left, leaving even their beds behind. 

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The desert winds and sand are slowly eroding these traces of human settlement
from the Sperrgebiet

The Bogenfels

We ended off our day tour of the Sperrgebiet with a visit to the mighty Bogenfels. Bogenfels literally means “rock arch” and it is truly an impressive sight. Standing over 55 meters tall this massive rock formation is a perfect example of the impressive things you can find in Namibia if you are prepared to go out of your way. 

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The Bogenfels.
On the right of the giant arch a ship is sailing out to sea.

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Looking along the cliff-face from the top of the Bogenfels

How to get there

First, you will have to get to Luderitz. Luderitz is a charming seaside town located near Kolmanskop. You can fly into Luderitz's airport on Air Namibia or drive to Luderitz from Windhoek on the national road network. 

Currently only one company does a tour in this region of the Sperrgebiet. They are called Coastaways and they are located in Luderitz. Our driver/guide was friendly and knowledgeable and he made sure we had a great experience. Coastaways offers several different tours of the surrounding areas. Visit their website for more details.

Why you should go there

A tour to the Sperrgebiet is something everyone visiting the South of Namibia should try and do. A key feature of the Sperrgebiet's appeal is how quiet and peaceful it is. There are no massive crowds and thus it is very easy to become absorbed in the uncanniness of the sights on this tour. It was amazing to see the contrasts of the Sperrgebiet. Its sights range from flimsy man-made structures of diamond to naturally sculpted geological wonders.

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The view from the top of the Bogenfels...
and my travel buddy taking a photo 

The Lüderitz Crayfish Festival

  
  

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The colourful fishing town of Lüderitz is getting ready to hold the annual Crayfish Festival from 30th May to 1st June 2013 - don't miss out!

What to do at the festival

Take a walk around the festival stalls, taste-testing the different crayfish recipes and sauces of our local “masterchefs”, watch them battle it out in a crayfish cooking competition and browse the many stalls of Namibian made products. Take in the harbour views, mix with the friendly locals and enjoy a wonderful ambience of fabulous smells, music & sunshine. Watch naval & police band marches and even a music festival at the local stadium.

The history of the festival  

The Lüderitz community decided to host an annual Crayfish Festival to celebrate the town’s unique sea-life, multi-cultural roots, rich maritime history, and of course, superior quality crayfish. The festival brings together people from Lüderitz, Namibia and the world, and the proceeds of the event go to help the various charities that benefit the less advantaged.  

Her Worship the Mayor and the friendly "Buchters" invite you to join them at this year’s festival!   

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When: 30th  May – 1st  June 2013

Where:  Lüderitz Waterfront, Lüderitz, South West Coast, Namibia

For more information about the festival programme, contact the Lüderitz municipality here. To find out more about Lüderitz and its crayfish, keep reading!

 

 

Photos from The 2012 Lüderitz Crayfish Festival, where many local and international tourists flocked to Luderitz for the festivities, along with The Honourable Prime Minister Geingob.

Luderitz Namibia map, Namibia events, Namibia events calendar, luderitz crayfish festival, luderitz crayfish, crayfish Namibia, what to do in Namibia, what to see in Namibia, Namibia tourism

Luderitz Namibia map, Namibia events, Namibia events calendar, luderitz crayfish festival, luderitz crayfish, crayfish Namibia, what to do in Namibia, what to see in Namibia, Namibia tourism   Luderitz Namibia map, Namibia events, Namibia events calendar, luderitz crayfish festival, luderitz crayfish, crayfish Namibia, what to do in Namibia, what to see in Namibia, Namibia tourism

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What are crayfish?  

Well, to be specific, what we call “crayfish” here in Namibia are actually "West Coast Rock Lobster" (Jasus lalandii). The Crayfish Festival is a gastronomical feast of lobsters – if you’ve eaten them before, you’ll know why we go crazy for the firm and slightly sweet lobster tails. Steam them with a little lemon butter, or grill them on the braai (barbeque) and eat them fresh off the flames. Delicious! You might also hear the locals talking about “kreef” which is the Afrikaans word for crayfish.  

What makes Lüderitz crayfish special?  

It's not just marketing hype – the extreme conditions in the Atlantic ocean off the coast of Namibia means these Lüderitz crayfish have the upper hand. The strong South Atlantic winds create an upwelling in the ocean that makes for the perfect environment for nutrients and micro-organisms to thrive. In fact, it is estimated that the annual new production of Phytoplankton and Zooplankton in the Benguela system is 30 to 65 times more productive per unit area than the global ocean average.    

Where to eat Lüderitz crayfish  

The festival stalls will be serving up a host of different crayfish delights. But for those looking for a sit-down crayfish meal with fine South African sparkling wine or French Champagne, then try lunch at the Penguin Restaurant at the Lüderitz Nest Hotel.     

Where to stay  

The Crayfish Festival is a very busy time for the fishing town, so if you haven’t already organised accommodation, be sure to book as soon as you can. Click here to find accommodation in Lüderitz.

What to do around Lüderitz

  • Taste some fresh Namibian oysters in between all the crayfish; they’re some of the tastiest in the world!

  • Take a walk around the town to see the early 20th Century German Art Nouveau buildings

  • Get out on the ocean with a Catamaran Marine Tour (email here to book)

  • Visit the ghost town of Kolmanskop (only 10kms from Lüderitz) for a date with history and some incredible photo opportunities

  • Explore the Sperrgebiet National Park, one of Namibia’s newest National Parks that was closed to the public for nearly a century

  • Take a marine cruise from the waterfront to see Dias Point, outlying islands with Namibia’s largest colony of African Penguins (Halifax Island), Heaviside Dolphins, Cape Fur Seals (Seal Island) and sometimes whales. 

  • Desert adventure activities are available including; 4x4 Guided and 4x4 self-drive tours into the vast Namib Naukluft Park to the north and the Tsau //Khaeb (Sperrgebiet National Park) to the south. 

  • Lüderitz is also home to the world’s premier kite and wind surfing speed sailing event, the Lüderitz Speed Challenge, which takes place every year between November to December.     

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Lüderitz architecture

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Kolmanskop

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Sperrgebiet 

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Bogenfels

Kolmanskop - Swallowed by the Dunes

  
  

The "ghost town" of Kolmanskop in southern Namibia is one of our most photogenic locations. Its existence is due to one man - Namibian worker Zacharias Lewala - who found a diamond here in 1908 and showed it to his German boss. Realising the area was full of diamonds, the German government prohibited entry to virtually the whole of Namibia's southern coast - and named it "Sperrgebiet" - meaning "forbidden zone".

Kolmanskop was built in this gem-rich land, in German colonial style, complete with all modern facilities, including a hospital, ballroom, casino, ice factory and sports center. Its tram and x-ray machine were the first in Africa, funded by the diamond wealth.

The town was abandoned almost sixty years ago as the diamond supply was exhausted, and Kolmanskop gradually succumbed to the timeless power of the dunes. Though still in the forbidden zone, visitors can access the ghost town - with a permit - from the nearby coastal town of deritz. Our advice? Bring your camera to capture some spectacular scenes!

Here is a gallery of images shot in Kolmanskop by James McCaul.

Kolmanskop, Namibia

Kolmanskop, Namibia

Kolmanskop, Namibia

Kolmanskop, Namibia

Kolmanskop, Namibia

Kolmanskop, Namibia

Kolmanskop, Namibia

What Makes Namibian Oysters So Special?

  
  

Fresh oysters in Namibia

For most people, the words "Namibian cuisine" probably conjure up images of a succulent springbok steak, a bag of cured kudu biltong or perhaps even the infamous fried mopane worm - chewy and spicy. But one of Namibia's greatest culinary treats is surely more associated with Parisian restaurants and Champagne than with Africa: the oyster.

However, visitors to our coast would beg to differ that the French have all the fun when it comes to the original aphrodisiac. Served in beachside restaurants from Swakopmund to Lüderitz, the fresh, local oysters are best eaten raw, with lemon, pepper or a few drops of tabasco to truly appreciate their subtle marine flavour. Slightly more squeamish customers can try a cooked dish, such as oysters Rockefeller.

But the best oyster experience has to be out at sea, within sight of the oyster "nurseries" themselves. Boat tours leaving daily from Walvis Bay cruise past the seal colonies, hungry pelicans and playful dolphins to the mouth of the bay, where blue flotation barrels bob in the waves. Tied beneath the barrels are baskets filled with succulent oysters. A single oyster can filter an incredible 30 liters of water an hour to feast on plankton, so it is essential that the seawater can circulate freely. For this reason, the baskets are raised and thoroughly washed every six weeks, removing algae, barnacles and limpets which can stop the oysters feeding. On board, the captain serves trays of fresh oysters with lemon wedges - which spoiled passengers can wash down with glasses of ice-cold sparkling wine, surrounded by views of the bay and leaping dolphins. The bracing sea breeze certainly helps work up an appetite!

Walvis Bay boat tour with oysters

Passengers enjoy a tray of fresh oysters on Mola-Mola's boat tour of Walvis Bay

So how did a species which can only breed in warm water come to thrive in Namibia's chilly seas, with an average temperature of just 14 degrees centigrade? Originally, the oysters were all bred in and then imported from Chile, and allowed to mature in Namibia. More recently, a heated aquarium in Swakopmund means that they are now bred locally, before being transferred to the ocean baskets.

But why go to all that effort to farm oysters outside their natural habitat? It turns out that Namibia's cold Benguela Current is the secret... While a classic French oyster takes three years to grow, Namibian oysters can be harvested after just eight months! The cold water contains more oxygen and plankton, allowing for super speedy growth. Our oysters are exported across the globe - but there's nowhere you can eat them quite as fresh as in Namibia - on a boat, a jetty, or during a romantic sunset meal.

Oysters in Swakopmund

A bowl of oysters is served in a Swakopmund restaurant

Information:

  • Join a tour in Lüderitz to find out what happens before the oysters reach the table. Tours start at the processing factory and end with an optional tasting with wine at the Oyster Bar.

  • Take a boat tour in Walvis Bay - see the barrels where the oysters grow, and eat fresh oysters on board your boat as it bobs around in the ocean breeze.

  • Enjoy a sunset meal at Swakopmund's Jetty 1905 restaurant - live and cooked oysters are a specialty along with other seafood treats. The restaurant is at the end of the pier so diners will enjoy glorious views as well as the sound of the waves crashing beneath them.

  • The Lighthouse restaurant overlooks the beach in Swakopmund, and also serves fresh oyster platters in an informal setting.

Discover Namibia's Sperrgebiet National Park

  
  

The Sperrgebiet National Park is one of Namibia’s newest National Parks and while the park is largely undeveloped and much of it remains inaccessible to visitors there are still ways explorers can access this wild landscape.

Sperrgebiet National Park

Sweeping vistas abound in the park.

The Sperrgebiet (meaning ‘forbidden territory’) covers 26,000 km2 and used to be the site of a massive diamond mining industry. While there is still some small scale diamond mining going on today the Sperrgebiet has largely been left untouched for decades.

Since it has been closed to the public for nearly a century, the habitat is largely untouched and pristine, making a visit to the Sperrgebiet National Park a truly unique wilderness experience.

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A sign board and fence restricting access to the Sperrgebiet.

Unspoilt beauty

Because the public is not allowed free access to this area nature has been able to rehabilitate itself and now the area is of global significance as it forms part of the Succulent Karoo biome that extends down into South Africa.

With a wide variety of succulent species, that in terms of uniqueness and species number is unrivaled anywhere else on the planet, conservation scientists have classified this area as one of the world’s top 25 Biodiversity Hotspots.

Coleen Mannheimer

Mesembryanthemum longipapillosum can be found in the park.
(Image courtesy of Coleen Mannheimer via GEF)

To qualify for hot-spot status, an area must contain at least 1,500 endemic vascular plants (0.5% of the planet’s total) and must have lost at least 70% of its original habitat. Prior to the establishment of the Sperrgebiet National Park, a mere 11% of the surviving Succulent Karoo, which is home to 2,439 endemic plants, fell in protected areas. Now, with the park’s proclamation, 90% is protected. 

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Protected land = Little to no human/environment conflict.

What to see in the Sperrgebiet

Ministry of Environment and Tourism concessionaires from Lüderitz can take visitors into the northern extremity of the park where they can admire the colossal 55-metre tall Bogenfels rock arch, the modern diamond mine and the mysterious ghost town at Elizabeth Bay.

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Standing 55 metres tall the Bogenfels is truly humbling when seen up close.

While in the Sperrgebiet you can also visit the ghost town of Pomona (which is noteworthy for enduring the highest average wind speeds in Southern Africa) and Marchental – the famous ‘Fairytale Valley’, where diamonds were once so common they could be picked up in handfuls as they gleamed in the light of the moon.

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Part of the abandoned mining settlement.

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