Kleinsee at a glance
Kleinsee is a small village on the west coast of the Northern Cape province of South Africa. The village lies at the mouth of the Buffels River, 72 kilometers south-east of Port Nolloth and 105 kilometers west of Springbok. The name is Afrikaans for ‘small sea’, referring to a lagoon at the mouth of the Buffels River. The Buffels River flows through Kleinsee, but it is mostly a dry riverbed and this river only flows approximately every ten years.
The town was founded in 1927 and was known for its diamond-mining operations. While diamond fever was sweeping the northern reaches of the West Coast, a teacher was on a different mission – he was busy building a farm school near the mouth of the Buffels River when he kicked a diamond out from the ground. As a result the Kleinsee Mine was born. In recent years, mining giant De Beers has closed an 80-year operation in the small West Coast town, but with rehabilitation plans in the works, it’s left to see if Kleinsee can become the thriving hub it once was. In 2011 the population dwindled from about 7000 to 1000 and the 370 houses were left empty. Normally mining towns are declared ‘mining disturbances’, bulldozed and planted over but De Beers had Kleinsee declared a public town to the Nama Khoi municipality. Nowadays Kleinsee is on the shipwreck and daisies route and people visit for reasons other than diamonds.
Kleinsee’s dam is being used to grow oysters for export and some of the locals are employed at the abalone aquaculture project, farming abalone in giant tanks. They produce about 100 tons a year. The hugely abundant bird life at the Buffels River estuary attracts birders, whilst the huge seal colony with around 350 000 animals right on the beach is an added attraction.