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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 'halfmens' keeping vigil over this inscrutable landscape.
The |Ai-|Ais/Richtersveld is widely reckoned as one of the world's richest succulent areas. It is estimated that 50 genera out of a total of 160 from the Mesembryanthemaceae family occur here.
The |Ai-|Ais/Richtersveld National Park is a very good example of one of the most interesting megaeco-systems of the world, the succulent Karoo. There is no desert flora on our planet, possessing similar species richness and individuality of flora. On a surface area of one square kilometer more than 360 species of flowering plants (angiosperms) are found at a site with an average rainfall of only 68 mm per year.
The |Ai-|Ais/Richtersveld includes two floristic kingdoms. A magnificent variety of dwarf shrubs with water-storing leaves, belongs to the succulent Karoo region of the Greater Cape Flora, while its western portion forms part of the East Gariep Centre, the most important centre of the Nama Karoo Region.
The |Ai-|Ais/Richtersveld is divided into two portions belonging to two major climatic systems, the temperate winter rainfall region with its high air humidity, and the inland region with higher temperatures and important summer rains and low humidity, respectively.
Both units are closely placed against each other, separated only by a narrow transition zone of about 10 to 20 km.
NB: This is serious 4x4 country. No sedan vehicles are allowed into the park
The quickest way to get to the Park (sendelingsdrift) from 7N (RSA) and B1 (Namibia) is to turn off at Steinkopf and approach via Port Nolloth and Alexander Bay. Only the last 80km are on dirt.
For those wishing to vary their route and get a broader picture of the |Ai-|Ais/Richtersveld the road from Vioolsdrift, via Kotzehoop, through spectacular scenery to Eksteenfontein and then on to Sendelingsdrift is one well worth traveling. (If you take this route please respect the interests of the Kotzehoop farmers whose crops are affected by the dust from speeding vehicles).
1 October to 30 April: 07:00 - 19:00
Sendelingsdrift (Reuning Mine)
Tents only as the Richtersveld terrain is not suitable for caravans.
A new campsite designed to service the transfrontier rout with six sites. Ablutions with showers (cold water only).
The Hiking Trails Base Camp is situated in the panoramic Ganakouriep Valley and accommodates 9 people. Gas stoves, fridges and hot showers are available. Bookings for this unit will be taken three months in advance until such time as the trails issue has been resolved. It is also an ideal location from which to explore the Park by vehicle. Note that the water is not suitable for drinking and it is recommended that guest should bring their own drinking water. The cost of this unit is R600.00 for the first four people and R100.00 for each subsequent person.
The hiking trail itself is not open due to a shortage of qualified guides but groups under the control of an appropriately qualified guide may be allowed to hike. It is strongly recommended that they take a person with extensive knowledge of the area with them to enhance their experience and minimize the risks associated with this terrain and climate. It is also an ideal location from which to explore the Park by vehicle.
No shops in the park, but fuel and cold drinks can be purchased at a small general store at Sendelingsdrift. The shop is open on weekdays only.Fuel Hours:
Please note - heavy dew sometimes occurs at night.
The Richtersveld climate is harsh and dry, with extreme temperatures of up to 53°C having been recorded in mid-summer. Activity should be restricted to early mornings and late afternoons. Nights are cool, but may become chilly during winter. Heavy night time dew occurs in the park.