Shark Island – Luderitz, Namibia - Atlas Obscura

Shark Island

Luderitz, Namibia

This deceptively beautiful island was known as "Death Island" and home to a German concentration camp. 


Shark Island was founded in 1795 off the coast of Luderitz, Namibia. Originally named Star Island, the land sat amidst immense winds and crashing waters of the Atlantic for a century before being connected to the mainland and used as a concentration camp by the Germans from 1904 to 1908.

During this time, the Shark Island Concentration Camp—also known as Death Island because of the stories of its brutal conditions, minuscule food rations, and the death toll—was home to German physician, Dr. Bofinger, who  was said to conduct sinister racial ‘science experiments.’ Dr. Bofinger would conduct inhuman trials such as testing whether scurvy was contagious by injecting prisoners with opium and arsenic. More than 3,000 skulls belonging to the Herero and Nama people were sent back to Germany for further experimentation.

The camp closed in 1907 and prisoners were transferred to an open area near Radford Bay where mortality rates eventually declined. Today, the harrowing peninsula is the site of a small memorial and plenty of open space for history buffs to go camping. 


Know Before You Go

During the day, there is a small fee of 10 Namibian Dollars to enter and tour the island. Access up onto the lighthouse is possible but not advised on particularly windy days. Just ask for the key from the guard. There are bathrooms and grills on site as well as electrical connections for campers. Further accommodations and camping rates can be found on the Shark Island website.