Sands of time


This portfolio of captivating images explores the mystical ghost town of Kolmanskop, displaying it from every angle. This haunting place, half-buried in the Namib Desert, offers a singular glimpse into colonial times and demonstrates the supreme power that nature holds over such a volatile landscape. Photographs and words by Michael Poliza.

Kolmanskop (previously called Kolmanskuppe) resembled a wealthy German town in its heyday but was abandoned in 1956 when diamond prices crashed. The sands of time have blown through the decaying settlement, which is now a popular tourist attraction. Founded in 1908 when a rail worker in the area discovered a diamond there, the town enjoyed nearly 50 years of history. Diamond wealth assured a comfortable lifestyle. Just imagine: German-style houses rising out of the desert, along with a school, a hospital, a casino, a gymnasium, a power station, a ballroom, a pool, a bowling alley and the first X-ray station in the southern hemisphere. It was also home to the first tram in Africa, and a small railway linked it to the neighbouring coastal town of Lüderitz. At its peak, Kolmanskop had nearly 1200 residents from some 700 families and held the title of the highest per capita wealth in the world. Today, the town is a photographer’s dream, if you get up early enough before the tourist buses come rolling in.

Need inspiration for your next big trip?
Photographer and travel designer Michael Poliza has released several volumes of his images of Africa, including Classic Africa, Kenya, South Africa and Africa. His latest book, The World’s Most Magical Wilderness Escapes, reveals practical tips on photographing animals as well as wild and breathtaking landscapes. Friends started to approach him to ask if they could take part in his expeditions, leading to the foundation of Michael Poliza Private Travel in 2011 and Michael Poliza Experiences in 2012. If you would like Michael to create a personalised itinerary for you, or to find out more about his books and photography, contact him at or visit