Oranjemund, a diamond in the rough, is one of the newest tourism destinations in Namibia. Situated in the most southern part of the country on the banks of the mighty Orange River and shores of the cold Atlantic Ocean in the //Kharas region, Oranjemund was only opened for visitors in October 2017. Oranjemund was founded in 1928 and proclaimed as a town in 2011.
The entire area along the shore of the Atlantic Ocean was proclaimed restricted (the Sperrgebiet) in 1908 due to the occurrence of alluvial diamonds. Since then the public was forbidden to enter it. In 1927 diamonds were found south of the Orange River in South Africa. Hans Merensky and other prospectors assumed that the northern shore on South West African territory would also have diamonds. A year later they conducted an expedition from Lüderitz 300 kilometres (190 mi) to the mouth of the Orange. They found rich deposits on the north bank of the Orange River and the adjacent northern coastline and established a tent camp from which Oranjemund developed.
Due to the Great Depression, diamond mining was not taken up until 1935, and a year later workers’ houses were erected. Oranjemund as a formal settlement was thus established in 1936. Production of mainly gem-quality diamonds has remained in the region of 2 million carats (400 kg) per year since inception of the mine, mainly through improvements in technology.
The town was run by Namdeb (formerly Consolidated Diamond Mines), now a subsidiary of De Beers. Access to, and settlement in Oranjemund was restricted to employees and their relatives. Its infrastructure is superior to that of other towns in Namibia’s South, due to it not being dependent on cost recovery from its inhabitants. In the second half of the 20th century, Oranjemund featured a large recreational complex with swimming pool, cinema, restaurants and bars. Water is still provided free of charge, and until 2016 so was electricity.