Port Nolloth is the largest town on the Namaqualand coast and is situated 93km off the N7 in the isolated north-west of the region. The town has been synonymous with diamonds since 1925 when Jack Carstens found the first diamond just south of the town. This sparked a diamond-rush that would change this isolated coastal strip - known as the Diamond Coast - forever.
Today Port Nolloth is still a centre for small-scale diamond recovery using diving boats that trail long suction pipes.
Due to adverse weather conditions, divers can only operate for an average of five days a month, spending between 3 and 4 hours in the water at a time using pipes (much like an oversized vacuum cleaner) to suck the gravel from the seabed. It is put into bags aboard, brought back to shore, and trucked off to a sorting house where the divers hope they will find at least a few crystals.
It’s a real desert coastal town and has a unique atmosphere, especially when the cold mists roll in from the Atlantic Ocean. Travellers to the Ai-Ais/Richtersveld Transfrontier Park often overnight here.
Four kilometres south of the town is McDougalls Bay, a satellite neighbourhood where much of the accommodation is situated. Port Nolloth is a popular holiday town, especially at McDougalls Bay, where the sheltered waters offer plenty of pastimes. Spending the December holidays here requires booking 12 months in advance.
Look out for
The pier is the focal point of the town, and you have to sign in at the security office before being allowed to venture further. It’s a good place to get a closer look at the diamond boats anchored in the bay, and it’s also the offloading point for the diamond bearing gravel brought in from the seabed.
The museum on the beachfront has a theme that revolves around the ocean and its riches, with plenty of shells, diving apparatus, relics recovered from the seabed and a display of semi-precious stones.
Crayfishing is one of the biggest attractions, with the season running approximately from mid-November to the end of April. Sunsets are superb and best enjoyed with a cold glass in hand while the tantalising smells of grilling crayfish season the air.