Port Nolloth

Port Nolloth—a lovely drive from Springbok, particularly during flower time—started life as a copper port, but it's better known today as a fishing and diamond center. With only one (decent) road leading into it, the flat, desertlike coastal dorp is a ghost town at night, as the little life that exists by day dies completely after dark. If the few establishments in town are full, MacDougall Bay a mile down the coast has accommodation.

Port Nolloth is also the springboard to the Richtersveld, the vast region of mountains and desert to the north, which is well known for its exquisite succulents and other flora but should be visited only on an organized tour or once you have armed yourself with a considerable amount of information. It's extremely remote, and you'll definitely need a 4x4 or bakkie to avoid breakdowns. If you’re a newbie to deserts, a guide will help you get the most out of your visit to the Richtersveld. In fact this arid country comes alive when interpreted, whether that means learning about its flowers or the Richtersveld mountains (look out for Conrad Mouton of Aukwatoa Tours).

Port Nolloth's bay is safe for swimming, although the water is freezing cold almost any time of the year. Head over to the harbor to check out the diamond-vacuuming boats, with their distinctive hoses trailing astern. Divers use the hoses to vacuum under boulders on the seabed in search of any diamonds that have washed into the sea from the Orange River over many millennia. It's a highly lucrative endeavor but not without its dangers; at least one diver has been sucked up the vacuum hose to his death.

George Mouyses, at the local museum, has done it all (except for the diamond-vacuum). He can keep you enthralled for hours and asks only for a small donation for his time, which may feel invaluable as you depart.

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