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Otjikoto lake, Namibia

Otjikoto Lake

Namibia Travel Destination: Otjikoto Lake

Driving on the B1 main road, making your way from Tsumeb on a hot dusty day, some activity, the abundance of greenery or a glint of turquoise is bound to catch your eye just off the tar road. You will be rewarded to explore the area to discover the oasis that is the uniquely remarkable Otjikoto Lake. Tranquil emerald green waters that transform to a turquoise blue when kissed by the sunlight. Surrounded by limestone and dolomite structures of rock it provides a peaceful scene to relax under a tree and enjoy this natural phenomenon. At first glance it might look like just a small circular lake but there is much more to the Otjikoto Lake than what meets the eye.

Named after the Herero People, the word otjikoto means deep hole in Otjiherero and alternatively spelled Oshikoto, the region it is situated in is named after the lake. Accurately named, the lake is fascinatingly just a top section of an underground river system and the depth has been very difficult to determine. It varies from 62 meters at the side and has been estimated to be more than 142 meters deep thus earning it the name of the bottomless lake. Situated on 600 million year old Otavi mountain land, Otjikoto Lake is a sinkhole lake that was created by a collapsing dolomite cave. Made of carbonates the rocks are a testament of how the land has aged and eroded over time.

Declared a national monument in 1972, the lake has many stories to tell and amongst the most interesting is the board situated on site telling of the weapons that are still in the lake after being dumped by German Schutztruppe (protection forces) in World War I. After holding out for more than a year the Germans surrendered to the South African Union in 1915 but not before dumping all their weapons and artillery in the Otjikoto Lake to prevent the soldiers from making use of them. A lot of these war materials have been retrieved and can be seen today in the museum in the small mining town of Tsumeb, a twenty minute drive from the lake. Legend has it that there is treasure to be found in the lake in the form of a sealed safe containing six million gold Marks. The safe was also lowered into the lake by the Germans but never to be seen again. There is many a folklore told by the locals surrounding the Oktjikoto Lake and although it makes for an incredible scuba diving spot it is forbidden to swim in the lake. The peculiar shape of the lake and the undercurrents of the underground river make it a dangerous place to swim. Despite spotting people swimming in the lake through the years many locals still believe that no one can go into the Otjikoto Lake and come out alive.

Otjikoto Lake has a larger sister only thirty minutes-drive away on private farm land and despite claims that Lake Guinas and Otjikoto Lake share the same underground river there has been no proof of the speculation. Lake Guinas is also a picturesque locale and is larger and deeper than Otjikoto Lake and together they are the only two permanent natural lakes in Namibia. Otjikoto Lake is also home to a few types of fish species but there is one type which is endemic to this lake called the Otjikoto Tilapia.

You can make a stop at the Arts and Crafts Centre in Tsumeb to see folk crafts, fascinating trinkets and woodwork. On the path from the entrance to the Lake you will come across a mini zoo to see some local animals up close. It is well worth it to set aside a day to make a trip to the fascinating Otjikoto Lake with its stories and beautiful turquoise water.