Northern Cape DestinationsKleinzee, Namakwa
Kleinzee is easy to find. Take the N7 from Cape Town, travel for about 560 km and then veer left at Springbok, following the course of the Skaap River, which merges with Buffels River on its way to the sea.
Set on the coast, Kleinzee (sometimes referred to as Kleinsee) was a diamond mining town. Tourists visited as part of the diamond route. Until De Beers closed their mining operations. By the end of 2011 the 370 houses in Kleinzee were mostly empty and the town's population had dwindled from about 7000 to 1000. The media spoke about it as a 'ghost town'. Normally mining towns are declared 'mining disturbances', bulldozed and planted over, but De Beers had Kleinzee declared a public town to the Nama Khoi municipality.
No sooner had diamond mines closed than exciting developments to make Kleinzee a more attractive option for travellers began. It is now on the 'shipwreck and daisies route' and people visit for reasons other than diamonds.
Kleinzee's dam is being used to grow oysters for export and some of the locals are employed at the abalone aquaculture project, farming abalone in giant tanks. They already produce 100 tons a year.
The hugely abundant bird life at the Buffels River estuary at Kleinzee attracts birders, whilst the huge Seal colony just north of the beach, with around 350 000 animals right on the beach – the largest on-land colony in the country – is an added attraction.
The Kleinzee Shipwreck Tour is a fantastic trek over the dunefields of the beach. Book the tour at the Kleinzee Tourism office right next door to the Kleinzee Museum, also worth a visit.
The shipwreck tour has a 4x4 option of the 37km between Kleinzee and Koingnaas. And you will need a permit to get into town as it is still regarded as a diamond-restricted area.