Tsumeb is a city and the the largest town in Oshikoto region in northern Namibia. Tsumeb is the “gateway to the north” of Namibia. It is the closest town to the Etosha National Park and has a population of 14,113 inhabitants.Tsumeb used to be the regional capital of Oshikoto until 2008 when Omuthiya was proclaimed a town and the new capital. The town area of Tsumeb forms its own electoral constituency.
The name Tsumeb is generally pronounced “SOO-meb”. The name is not a derivative of German, Afrikaans or English. It has been suggested that it comes from Nama and means either “Place of the moss” or “Place of the frog”. Perhaps this old name had something to do with the huge natural hill of green, oxidized copper ore that existed there before it was destroyed by mining.
The town was founded in 1905 by the German colonial power and celebrated its 100th year of existence in 2005.
Near to the town are two large and famous sinkhole lakes, Lake Otjikoto and Lake Guinas (“Gwee-nus”). Guinas, at about 500 m in diameter, is somewhat larger in area than Otjikoto. A pioneering documentary movie about scuba diving in these lakes was made by Graham Ferreira in the early 1970s. The depth of the lakes are unknown, because towards the bottom both lakes disappear into lateral cave systems, so it is not possible to use a weight to sound them. Otjikoto, which has poor visibility (owing to pollution from agricultural fertilizers used nearby), is at least 60 m deep. The water in Guinas is completely clear and well over 100 m deep. Divers who have performed bounce-dives in Guinas to 80 m (strictly speaking, beyond the safe depth for SCUBA dives, especially given the altitude of the lake above sealevel) have reported that there was nothing but powdery-blue water below them. Guinas has been in existence for so long that a unique species of fish, Tilapia guinasana, has evolved in its waters.
One of the largest and deepest underground lakes in the world lies a little to the east of Tsumeb, on a farm called Harasib. To reach the water in the cave one has either to abseil or to descend an ancient, hand-forged ladder that hangs free of the vertical dolomite walls of the cave for over 50 m. Here, too, SCUBA divers have descended as deep as they have dared (80 m) in the crystal-clear waters and have reported nothing but deep blue below them from one ledge of dolomite to the next with nothing discernible in the depths.
The largest meteorite in the world, called Hoba, lies in a field about forty minutes drive to the east of Tsumeb, at Hoba west. It is a nickel-iron meteorite of about 60 tonnes.