Braai4Heritage Tour Day 4: Port Nolloth

As the local Namaqua inhabitants already knew it was there, it would be wrong to claim that Bartolomeu Dais discovered Port Nolloth. But he did land there in 1487 before travelling further down the West Coast. The area remained relatively obscure until 1852 when copper was discovered 160km inland from there and the Cape Colony needed a harbour to ship the copper from. A captain Nolloth was dispatched and he found the bay to be fairly sheltered, and a basic harbour and quay was built. The harbour was also named after him.

Entering the diamond area in the Kleinzee region.

For the next 60 years copper was shipped from Port Nolloth, but it was never really a great place for ships to dock. There were a few reefs blocking the entrance to the bay, and various ships got stranded through the years. The town really started to go downhill, but then in 1926 alluvium diamonds were discovered along the coast south and north of the town. Alluvium diamonds are the same as real diamonds only they don’t sit underground, but are lying around in loose soil. In this case the loose sea sand under the water, just off the coast of Port Nolloth. Through the years these diamonds were washed down the Orange River from inland. What followed was a diamond rush of note and once again the town prospered. The diamonds did not make the harbour any safer though, and ships continued to get stranded and sink at regular intervals. From the 1970’s to the 1990’s the diamond supply was on the decrease, and by the turn of the century, Port Nolloth was yet again quietly slipping into obscurity. Currently there are two good reasons to visit Port Nolloth. It’s a quiet West Coast fishing village in a remote part of the country, and secondly, the still persistent rumours of untold diamond riches lying just offshore.

Similar to me, the locals all speak rubbish fluently.

But if you are on a braai tour, none of that matters. What you do then, is hook up with a group of about 60 locals, go to a historical braai site called Houthoop and you braai Cob, Steenbras, Mussels (all freshly caught in the Atlantic a few kilometers away), boerewors, lamb chops, vetderms (sausage made from lamb intestines) and lamb tails. You sit around the fire, and as the evening progresses you start hearing the truth behind the diamond rumours.

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