Lake Otjikoto and Lake Guinas
  • Tsumeb

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  • Longitude: 17.550654
  • Latitude: -19.19453
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Lake Otjikoto and Lake Guinas

The Otjikoto Lake is the smaller of only two permanent natural lakes in Namibia. It is located 20 kilometres from Tsumeb next to the B1 road towards Namutoni and Ondangwa.

The Swedish explorer Charles John Andersson and his English companion, Francis Galton, camped on the edge of Otjikoto in May 1851. Andersson who measured, sketched and swam in it described the lake as, “… one of the most wonderful of Nature's freaks ..."

The name Otjikoto, an Otjiherero name translated as 'deep hole' means "the place which is too deep forcattle to drink water". Owing to its steep and rugged sides, cattle have no access to the water; and even a man can only approach this enormous well by means of a steep and slippery footpath.” (Tourismus)

The diameter of the lake is 102 metres and although various attempts have been made to determine the exact depth which is still unknown. Since the lake floor tapers into a lateral cave system it could not be determined.

According to some sources the "the depth varies from sixty two meters at the side to seven meters in the centre, and in some places leading off from the side depths of one hundred meters have been recorded".

During World War I German troops dumped 30 artillery pieces and more than 400 boxes of ammunition and other war materials in the lake before surrendering to the South African and British troops. Most of the larger pieces have been recovered and are displayed in Museums including the Tsumeb Museum. There are also a number of pieces still preserved in an "underwater" museum in the lake accessible only to qualified divers.

Tilapia guinasana, a mouth-breeding species of fish which naturally was only found in Otjikoto's sister lake, Lake Guinas, was introduced to Otjikoto Lake in an attempt to improve its chances of survival. Its long-term survival is threatened by the potential impact of introduced fish species, the use and depletion of groundwater resources and chemical pollution.

The claim that Lake Guinas located 32 kilometers north west of Tsumeb is connected to Lake Otjikoto by underground caves is frequently made but not proven as yet. Lake Guinas has a diameter of 140m.

Both these lakes are sinkhole lakes that were formed when dolomite caves collapsed.

The San believed that Otjikoto and Guinas were bottomless and that any human being entering the lakes would simply disappear. It has also been suggested that the lakes were linked by subterranean tunnels and that there is a whirlpool at the centre of Otjikoto. The drowning of Tsumeb's postmaster, Johannes Cook, in 1927 also contributed to the mystery surrounding Otjikoto. (Tourismus)

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