The twin lakes Otjikoto and Guinas

Lake Otjikoto - Photo: Wiebke Schmidt

The twin lakes Otjikoto and Guinas

12 August 2019 | Tourism

Having left the northern town of Tsumeb in the Oshikoto Region and driving in the direction of the Etosha National Park or Ovamboland in general, you will encounter a small recreational stop-over a little more than 20 kilometres after having left town. It is here that you find the Otjikoto Lake, which along with its sister Lake Guinas are the two only permanent natural lakes in Namibia. The Lakes are a mere 21 kilometres apart (as the crow flies) and found in the Karst area of Namibia, which is blessed...

Frank Steffen

Many myths and legends surround these two lakes, but most are not true. Up to now the theory that these two lakes are bottomless is not true and for that matter neither could it be proven, that they are connected underground.

The explorers Francis Galton and Carl Johan Andersson, who were the first to formally establish many locations in the region of Etosha, were also the first white people to visit Otjikoto in 1851. While they measured the depth of the lake to be no more than 55 metres, it was later established that it is in fact at least 102 metres deep, only to be revised again. According to a report in the Allgemeine Zeitung in 2009, the main reason for the depth never having been assessed correctly is: “The lake tapers into a lateral cave system making it impossible to determine its exact depth, estimated to be in access of 142 meters.”

The San people referred to the lake as “Gaisis” (ugly), while the Herero started calling it Otjikoto (deep hole) when they moved into this area. Essentially being formed as a result of a collapsed karst caves, Otjikoto Lake is the smaller of the two lakes and was declared a national monument in 1972. Guinas depth has been established as more than 140 metres.

Shortly before surrendering to the military forces of the Union of South Africa at Khorab (near Otavi) on 9 July 1915, the German Schutztruppe dumped war material and ammunition into the lake in June 1915, so as prevent the equipment from being used by the South African and British troops. Being a favoured diving location, most of the larger pieces were subsequently recovered and can now be seen in the Museum of Tsumeb. At least two cannons and ammunition are still located in the lake and they can be admired by obtaining a special diving permit.

The Guinas Lake is situated on farm ground and not easily accessible, but the Otjikoto Lake has been developed into a visitors’ centre, allowing the weary traveller to enjoy a short respite.

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