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Built on rocks in a small enclave within the Sperrgebiet (restricted Diamond Area) is the quaint harbour town of Luderitz with its curious array of historical German style buildings built during the diamond rush.

Set around the sparkling bay, with their gables, winding stairwells, verandahs, turrets and bay and bow windows, these buildings have a unique character of their own.

The most striking is GoerkeHaus, a former magistrate's residence built in 1909. The Lutheran Church on the hill above the bay, known as the Felsenkirche, was built in 1912. Its stained glass windows were donated by Kaiser Wilhelm 11. Both buildings are open to visitors at specific viewing times.

Luderitz was the first German settlement in the former Deutsch SudwestAfrika. It was named after a Bremen merchant, Adolf Luderitz, who began trading operations in the harbour. Luderitz persuaded Bismarck to place the territory under German protection, which was done in 1884.

A replica of the cross erected in 1488 by the Portuguese navigator Bartolomeu Dias can be seen at Dias Point. The local museum portrays the unusual history of the town. Luderitz has an arts and crafts center, as well as a weaver where wall hangings and carpets of karakul wool are made.

Other than the tarred road from Keetmanshoop, Luderitz can be accessed by gravel road, passing through Maltahohe and Helmeringhausen. It is along these less-travelled roads that some of Namibia's most spectacular scenery can be seen.

The Luderitz area is home to a wide variety of aquatic birds. Large numbers of flamingos, cormorants and seagulls inhabit the shallow lagoon. When sailing in the bay, seals and dolphins can be seen playing in the water.

The rocky coastline has many uncrowded beaches and numerous small bays and reefs to explore. For anglers favoured species are galjoen, steenbras, dassie and rock lobster.

Popular windsurfing areas are Grosse Bucht and Grosse Lagoon. A Snoek Derby takes place during the long weekend in May, and a boardsailing competition during the Easter weekend.

For golfers there is an interesting desert course, described by locals as "rocky with oiled greens". Clubs can be hired at the local golf club.

It is no unusual sight to see a jackal trotting along the beach, a group of springbok close to the sea, or an occasional brown hyaena.

An attractive plant is the Bushman's candle, its pink flowers contrasting vividly against the black rock. Unusual species of dwarf succu-lents grow in the area, such as the small but intriguing lithops, colloquially known as Hottentot's buttocks.

A tour operator based in Luderitz offers visitors the unique opportunity of entering the Diamond Area to visit Bogenfels, the 55 m high rock arch which juts into the sea, the modern diamond mine and old ghost town at Elizabeth Bay and the seal colony at Atlas Bay.

Visitors can also explore the ghost town of Pomona and the legendary valley of Maerchental (fairy tale valley), where early prospectors collected diamonds by moonlight.

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