Shipwreck on the Skeleton coast - Namibia Safari and Lodges - Gondwana Collection

COVID-19. Status quo in Namibia.

It is with regret that Gondwana Collection Namibia has learnt that the COVID-19 virus has reached Namibia. On 14 March 2020, President Hage Geingob confirmed the first two cases. On 17 March, the President declared a state of emergency.

On 24 March 2020, the additional measures in response to the COVID-19 outbreak have been announced. They include a lockdown of the Khomas and Eronogo regions from 27 March until 16 April 2020. For regulations and guidelines please click here

Gondwana is fully aware of the current situation and continues to monitor the spread of the virus and the resulting changes to our industry. In view of the state of emergency and the additional measures ordered by the government, employees at Gondwana House in Windhoek will be working from home. Due to international and regional travel restrictions Gondwana has reduced its operations at the lodges as far as possible. Most employees have been sent home, at full pay. 

The Ministry of Health has made availability for a toll-free phone number within Namibia for queries with regards to COVID-19. The toll-free number is 800-100-100 or alternatively 911.

Namibia with Heart and Soul: Take our hand and let us introduce you to this awe-inspiring country. Come and stay with us, experience Namibia.


Where the Namib Desert stretches languidly from the Atlantic Ocean and wild land extends into infinity, dreams become real. At this place where fantasy meets reality, you'll find the Gondwana Collection safely positioned.

Take our outstretched hand and let us introduce you to our extraordinary country, Namibia. From the massive chasms of the Fish River Canyon, the fossilised dunes of the Namib Desert and the red sands of the Kalahari Desert to the waterways of the Kavango and Zambezi, there are countless marvels to behold. Explore this awe-inspiring wilderness from the warmth of our lodges, created with conservation cognizance and ample character. And return to relax after an exciting day of discovery.

This is the Gondwana feeling: Namibia with heart and soul.

Come and stay with us, experience Namibia.

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Experience Africa like never before. Explore Namibia your way with our well-maintained and fully inclusive rental vehicles. NAMIBIA2GOEasy. Hassle free. Unforgettable.

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Cardboard Box Travel Shop is a renowned tour operator in Windhoek that specialises in Namibian tours, either self-drive or with an experienced guide. The comprehensive (online) travel service covers among others car rental, accommodation, domestic and regional flights, safaris and route planning, including destinations in Botswana, Zambia (Livingstone) and Zimbabwe (Victoria Falls). more

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10-Day Namibian Highlights Tour
Enjoy Namibia’s most popular destinations on this compact guided tour that incorporates visits to the Kalahari and Namib deserts – including the famed Sossusvlei dunes, the intriguing coastal town of Swakopmund, the Twyfelfontein rock engravings and Etosha National Park. more

7-Day Northern Namibian Adventure Tour
Enjoy Namibia’s most popular destinations on this compact guided tour that incorporates visits the intriguing coastal town of Swakopmund, the Twyfelfontein rock engravings which received the UNESCO world heritage status in 2007, and the legendary Etosha National Park. more

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GO WILD - Track Namibia's awesome wildlife (12 days)

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Anyone touring Namibia should definitely take our road map along. It is available from Gondwana free of charge, or as pdf download. This map features fascinating experiences plus recommended accommodation. At the same time it is an ordinary road map with all the essential information of the official Namibia road map by Prof. Uwe Jäschke and the Roads Authority of Namibia.

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Shipwreck on the Skeleton coast

Avatar of inke inke - 20. November 2015 - Discover Namibia

The “Gertrud Woermann II” sailed from the port of Hamburg on her second voyage to German South West Africa. She ran aground north of Swakopmund. (Postcard, collection Gunter von Schumann)

Shipwrecks along the Skeleton Coast testify to the hazards of navigation without modern instruments. The Woermann Line, which operated scheduled shipping services to the German colonies in Africa until the First World War, lost several ships off the southwestern coast, among them the “Gertrud Woermann”, named after Adolph Woermann’s wife. The ship ran aground near Port Nolloth in 1903. At the time the Woermann Line was the largest private shipping company in the world and immediately bought a replacement vessel, the “Gertrud Woermann II”. She set sail on her first voyage to Africa in June 1904. 

The port of Hamburg was a hive of activity. The “Gertrud Woermann II” was back. She was to sail again within a week because of the Nama uprising in German South West Africa. On 26 October 1904 the steamer was on her way.

Bustling about the ship, apart from a crew of 79, were the officers and troops of the Survey Party, the 2nd Reserve Battery and the 4th Reserve Company as well as the replacement crew for the cruiser “SMS Vineta”, waiting for them in the waters off their destination, Swakopmund. They were 428 passengers in all, plus 300 horses, provisions for the journey of approximately four weeks, crates of arms and coal for the ship’s boilers. 

One of the passengers, Waldemar Kähler, a farmer, later reported that the journey was very well organised and harmonious despite the crowded conditions. Near the equator the engine gave problems but the crew was able to repair it in less than 24 hours. Otherwise, nothing out of the ordinary happened. 

Until the evening of Saturday 19 November. The ship was scheduled to arrive in Swakopmund on the next day, the Sunday morning on which the dead are commemorated (Volkstrauertag). It calmly glided over the ocean while the end of the journey was being celebrated below decks. Around midnight a crew member, Fritz Möhring, was enjoying the peace and quiet on deck. Suddenly he heard a loud scraping sound and felt a tremor going through the ship. On his way to wake his mates for the next watch he was toppled by two more jolts. Then, silence ...  

The “Gertrud Woermann II” had passed over a sandbank and run onto rocks. Events now unfolded in quick succession. The crew was called to the engine room because rocks had cut into the hull. 

Fritz Möhring writes: “Hellish smoke bellowed from the companion ladder to the boiler room because the water gushing in had already made its way to the glowing ashes in the lower fire ranges. Therefore we now had to extinguish all the fires as quickly as possible to prevent the risk of a possible explosion.”   

The engineers feverishly tried to open the safety valves. At last the “all-clear” was given. Valves were open and pressure in the boilers was dropping. The ship lay approximately 20 kilometres north of Swakopmund, 500 to 600 metres from the shore. 

Meanwhile the crew on deck ensured that no panic erupted among the startled passengers. The “Gertrud” was stuck on the rocks but did not sink. There was no immediate danger. 

A motor launch was lowered for the First Officer to go and get help in Swakopmund. The “Gertrud” was enveloped by thick fog. One of the passengers decided to while away the time by playing the piano. Soon all the tables in the dining room were taken and the crew began serving refreshments. Before long the atmosphere resembled that of an outing on Father’s Day. 

It took the motor launch until 9 o’clock to make it to Swakopmund due to the fog. The news of the shipwrecked Gertrud spread like wildfire. Schutztruppe soldiers mounted their horses to lend a helping hand at the site, and many Swakopmund citizens skipped the commemorative church service and set off on foot without further ado. 

The harbour authority immediately pulled out all the stops to salvage the Gertrud and her cargo. The first rescue vessels, with rafts in tow, were on their way within less than an hour. One of them was the cruiser “Vineta”, waiting for her replacement crew. The fog had not yet lifted and the rescue teams only found “Gertrud Woermann” around midday. 

All hands were needed now. Since the engines were idle, the horses had to be heaved to deck by pulleys and then transferred to the landing rafts dancing on the waves. Safely brought ashore, 110 soldiers took the horses to Swakopmund. In the meantime the fog had dissolved and the sun beat down relentlessly, giving the newly arrived troops a foretaste of what they would experience in the German colony. All survived the shipwreck; the passengers, the crew, the soldiers and the horses. 

Attempts to salvage the cargo that included urgently needed arms and ammunition continued for months. Most of the cargo in the flooded holds was lost. In June four men on the salvage team were drowned in rough seas. 

The maritime investigation board in Hamburg concluded in January 1905 that the wrecking of the “Gertrud Woermann II” was caused by thick fog and an unexpected northeasterly current, and that the captain’s navigation lacked caution. Nevertheless he was not dismissed. 

The wreck of the ship remained visible on Rock Bay Reef, south of today’s Wlotzkasbaken, for years. It finally broke apart and sank during a violent storm.

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