/Ai/Ais-Richtersveld Transfontier Park
Make a startling discovery upon closer inspection when the mirage dissolves into the human-like half-mens (half person) and the harsh environment prove to be a treasure-chest containing the world’s richest desert flora. Miniature rock gardens, perfectly designed by nature, cling precariously to cliff faces. Tiny succulents, mere pinpoints against a backdrop of surreal rock formations, revel in the moisture brought by the early morning fog rolling in from the cold Atlantic Ocean.
Rugged kloofs, high mountains and dramatic landscapes that sweep away inland from the Orange River divulge the fact that you are now in the vast mountain desert that is the /Ai/Ais-Richtersveld National Park, an area managed jointly by the local Nama people and the South African National Parks. This is a harsh and unpredictable land where water is scarce and life-sustaining moisture comes in the form of early morning fog – called ‘Ihuries’ or ‘Malmokkies’ by the local people – which rolls in from the cold waters of the Atlantic Ocean, sustaining a remarkable range of small reptiles, birds and mammals. A staggering assortment of plant life, some species occurring nowhere else, is to be found here, with gnarled quiver trees, tall aloes and quaint ‘half-mens’ keeping vigil over this inscrutable landscape.
The Park is only accessible by means of a 4x4 vehicle, but vehicles with high clearances such as combi’s and LDV’s do travel in the Park. Sedan vehicles are not permitted. There is no specific route that can be booked in advance.
5 Things To Seek
- Rock Hyrax
- Ground Squirrel
- Jackal Buzzard
- Half-men (Half Human)
- Hartmann’s Mountain Zebra
The quickest way to get to the Park from N7 (RSA) and B1 (Namibia) is to turn off at Steinkopf and approach via Port Nolloth and Alexander Bay with only the last 80km being on dirt.
For those wishing to vary their route and get a broader picture of the /Ai/Ais-Richtersveld the road from Vioolsdrift, via Kotzeshoop, through spectacular scenery to Eksteenfontein and then on to Sendelingsdrift is one well worth travelling. (If you take this route please respect the interests of the Kotzeshoop farmers whose crops are affected by the dust from speeding vehicles.)
- The scenic route via Kuboes, Lekkersing and Eksteenfontein provides an additional dimension of what the region has to offer.
- Another spectacular route, recommended for 4x4 vehicles only, is over the mountain pass via Helskloof Reserve between Eksteenfontein and Vioolsdrift.
- Admission and overnight permits must be obtained at the Park office at Sendelingsdrift before entering the Park.
- Overnight visitors must arrive before 16:00 to reach camping sites before dark.
- Internal roads are ‘farm tracks’, mainly suited to 4x4 vehicles, but vehicles with high clearances such as kombis and LDV’s do travel in the Park. Sedan vehicles are not permitted.
- Due to deep-sanded riverbeds and rough mountain passes, driving in convoy is recommended.
- Single vehicles must sign an agreement to report back to Park headquarters on departure.
- The old pont, that was last in service in 1988, when South West Africa (now Namibia) was still governed by South Africa, has been restored and offers an unusual and convenient way of crossing the Garib (Orange) River that separates the two countries. Before the opening of this border a very inconvenient 485km detour and about 4 hours drive had to be undertaken to cross from one side of the Park to the other.
- Driving in the Park at night is not permitted.
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