Namibia Travel Guide
Namibia Travel Guide
Bushmanland & triangle
What to see and do

Namibia Travel Guide

What to see and do in and around Tsumeb


Facing the park, on Main Street, next to a beautiful Lutheran church, is one of Namibia's best little museums. It has an excellent section on the region's geology and exhibits many of the rare minerals collected from the mine. It also has displays on the German colonial forces, and a small section on the lifestyle of the Bushmen and the Himba people.

The 'Khorab' room contains old German weaponry, recovered from Lake Otjikoto, which was dumped there by the retreating German forces in 1915 to prevent the rapidly advancing Union troops from capturing it. Since that time, pieces have been recovered periodically, the most recent being the Sandfontein cannon on display here.

The uniform of the German Schutztruppe (stormtroopers) has recently been acquired, along with the photo album of one of them, General von Trotha, which makes fascinating reading if your German is good. Appropriately, the museum itself is located in a historic German school dating from 1915.

Open: Mon–Fri 09.00–12.00 and 15.00–18.00 in summer, 09.00–12.00 and 14.00–17.00 during winter. On Saturdays it opens 09.00–12.00. Costs: N$5 per person.

Cultural Museum

Between the Tourist Park and the centre of town is a relatively new and expensive-looking building. This has been funded by Norwegian donations and has open-air displays on all of the country's main ethnic groupings and their traditional housing.

Tsumeb Arts and Crafts Centre

18 Main St, PO Box 1812, Tsumeb; tel/fax: 067 220257

Next to the Etosha Café, on Main Street, the TACC is a charitable trust set up to help develop the skills of Namibian artists and craftspeople. It provides them with a base, skills training, and some help in marketing their produce – including this shop selling their work. It's well worth a visit.

Open: Mon–Fri 08.30–13.00 and 14.30–17.00, Sat 08.30–13.00. After-hours visits can sometimes be arranged by phone.

Excursions around Tsumeb

Lake Otjikoto

About 20km from Tsumeb, signposted next to the B1, this lake (once thought to be bottomless) was formed when the roof of a huge subterranean cave collapsed, leaving an enormous sinkhole with steep sides. Together with Lake Guinas, the lake is home to a highly coloured population of fish: the southern mouthbrooder, Pseudocrenilabrus philander. These have attracted much scientific interest for changes in their colour and behaviour as a result of this restricted environment. Now the lake is also home to some Tilapia guinasana, which are endemic to Lake Guinas but have been introduced here to aid their conservation.

Sub-aqua enthusiasts regularly dive here and have recovered much weaponry that was dumped in 1915 by the retreating German forces. Much is now on display in Tsumeb Museum, though some is still at the bottom of the lake.

Andersson and Galton passed this way in May 1851, and commented:
After a day and a half travel, we suddenly found ourselves on the brink of Otjikoto, the most extraordinary chasm it was ever my fortune to see. It is scooped, so to say, out of the solid limestone rock… The form of Otjikoto is cylindrical; its diameter upwards of four hundred feet, and its depths, as we ascertained by the lead-line, two hundred and fifteen… To about thirty feet of the brink, it is filled with water.

After commenting that the local residents could remember no variation in its height, and musing on where its supply of water came from, Andersson described how he and Galton:
...standing in need of a bath, plunged head-foremost into the profound abyss. The natives were utterly astounded. Before reaching Otjikoto, they had told us, that if a man or beast was so unfortunate as to fall into the pool, he would inevitably perish.
We attributed this to superstitious notions; but the mystery was now explained. The art of swimming was totally unknown in these regions. The water was very cold, and, from its great depth, the temperature is likely to be the same throughout the year.

We swam into the cavern to which the allusion has just been made. The transparency of the water, which was of the deepest sea-green, was remarkable; and the effect produced in the watery mirror by the reflection of the crystallized walls and roof of the cavern, appeared very striking and beautiful...

Otjikoto contained an abundance of fish, somewhat resembling perch; but those that we caught were not much larger than one's finger. We had several scores of these little creatures for dinner, and very palatable they proved.

The lake has changed little since then, except perhaps for its water level, which has lowered as a reflection of the area's water-table. The gradual diminution of the groundwater around here is a threat to the lake's future.

Now there is a kiosk by the lake which sells drinks, curios and woodcarvings from dawn until dusk, and charges a few dollars admission to see the lake.

Lake Guinas

This is reached 32km after Tsumeb by turning left off the B1 to Ondangwa, on to the D3043, and then left again after 19km on to the D3031. The lake is about 5km along, near the road. It is deeper and more attractive than Otjikoto, though there are no facilities at all here. It is home to a colourful species of cichlid fish, Tilapia guinasana, which is endemic here. In recent years they have been introduced into Otjikoto and several reservoirs to safeguard their future.

^ Top of page