Lake Guinas is the larger of the only two permanent natural lakes in Namibia. It is a sinkhole lake that was created by a collapsed karst cave. It is located 38 km west of Tsumeb, near the D3043 road. The Swedish explorer Charles John Andersson and his English companion, Francis Galton, camped on the edge of the smaller of the two lakes, Otjikoto, in May 1851 and described it as, “… one of the most wonderful of Nature’s freaks …”
The name Otjikoto translated as “deep hole” means “the place that is too deep for cattle to drink water”, owing to its steep and rugged sides. The diameter of the lake is 102 m in diameter and although various attempts have been made to determine the exact depth, it is still unknown. Since the lake floor tapers into a lateral cave system, it could not be determined.
Depending on which source is cited, the lake’s depth varies from 62 m at the side to 100 m in the centre, and in some places, leading off from the side, depths of one hundred meters.
During World War I, German troops dumped 30 pieces of artillery and more than 400 boxes of ammunition and other war materials into 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 only found naturally 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.
Visit the Discover Namibia website for more info on the lakes.