Covering about 3% of Namibia, the Tsau//Khaeb National Park (Sperrgebiet NP) more commonly known as Sperrgebiet was, for over 100 years, strictly out of bounds due to diamond mining. The severe penalties in place for anyone who approached within 100km earned its name which translated from German means ‘forbidden place’. Now under the protection of the Tsau //Khaeb National Park – Nama for ‘deep sandy soils’, access is still very limited, but it can be explored by 4×4 excursions and strictly with a guide.
The park was declared (and name changed) in 2008, in order to rehabilitate and preserve its sands and inselbergs (hills that rise abruptly). There are also rare and delicate flora preserved, which survive purely on the life-giving fog that rolls off the ocean.
While the landscape is generally barren and stark, there are a few interesting (and accessible) sites including Bogenfels Rock Arch and spectacular dunes around Saddle Hill. A few lucky visitors may even spot a few wildlife species that survive in the area or the more easy to see, marine mammals.
Accessing the areas of the park that are available for visitors, can be done from the staunchly German town of Lüderitz, just 30 minutes away. The town is roughly 700 km from Windhoek Airport, with travellers generally staying over at the popular Sesriem area en route to break up the journey. Lüderitz itself, attracting many visitors to the area, is a definite must-see when visiting Namibia. The town is directly linked to the diamond mining history of the Tsau\\Khaeb and the eerie mining ghost town of Kolmanskop nearby, echoes of the past time there.
Tsau//Khaeb National Park (Sperrgebiet NP) isn’t a wildlife destination, but lucky visitors might encounter a few shy species. There are small and rare populations of oryx, springbok, grey rhebok, leopard, aardwolf, black-backed jackal, brown hyena and even cheetah. Smaller creatures that may be encountered are the African wild cat, bat-eared fox and clawless otters.
Most of the wildlife can be found offshore including thirty-five species of whales and dolphins that have been recorded. Heaviside's dolphins, which occur in the region, are one of the rarest dolphin species in the world. There are two seal species in the park, the enormous Southern elephant seal and the more common Cape fur seal.
For birders, with over 250 bird species recorded, the park is a great birding destination. There are several islands offshore which are important breeding sites for colonies of seabirds.
Tsau //Khaeb can be visited throughout the year as wildlife viewing is hit-and-miss at any time. There is very little rain and, when it does rain, it is usually welcome. The cooler winter months from May to September are the most pleasant for a visit.
As visitors cannot venture into the park unaccompanied, guided 4x4 safaris are available from Lüderitz just a few minutes away.
There is no accommodation within the national park. Lüderitz, just 30 minutes away however has a wide range of accommodations from hotels, B&B and guesthouses to campsites.