Augrabies Falls National Park
Few sights are as awesome or a sound as deafening as water thundering down the 56-m Augrabies Waterfall when the Orange River is in full flood. The Khoi people called it ‘Aukoerebis’, or place of Great Noise, as this powerful flow of water is unleashed from rocky surroundings characterized by the 18-km abyss of the Orange River Gorge. Picturesque names such as Moon Rock, Ararat and Echo Corner are descriptive of this rocky region. Klipspringer and kokerboom (quiver trees) stand in stark silhouette against the African sky, silent sentinels in a strangely unique environment where only those that are able to adapt ultimately survive. The 28 000 hectares on both the northern and southern sides of the Orange River provide sanctuary to a diversity of species, from the very smallest succulents, birds and reptiles to springbok, gemsbok and the endangered black rhino.
Kgalakgadi Transfrontier Park
Where the red dunes and scrub fade into infinity and herds of gemsbok, springbok, eland and blue wildebeest follow the seasons, where imposing camel thorn trees provide shade for huge black-mane lions and vantage points for leopard and many raptors…this is the Kgalagadi Transfrontier National Park. The Kalahari Gemsbok National Park in South Africa was proclaimed in 1931 mainly to protect the migrating game, especially the gemsbok. Together with the adjacent Gemsbok National Park in Botswana, this park comprises an area of over 3,6 million hectares – one of very few conservation areas of this magnitude left in the world. Red sand dunes, sparse vegetation and the dry riverbeds of the Nossob and Auob show antelope and predator species off at a premium and provide excellent photographic opportunities. Kgalagadi could be considered a haven for birders especially when interested in birds of prey.
Kgalagadi (SA) has six different camps of varying size, facilities and cost. Three traditional camps that have a basic shopping facility and fuel are situated on the South African side of the Park. Kgalagadi is the first Park to provide accommodation in three wilderness camps that, with no fences, invite the Kalahari and the tranquillity of Africa right into your room. The camps are:
Traditional Rest Camps
- Twee Rivieren
- Mata Mata
- Kalahari Tented Camp
Due to the high demand for accommodation in Wilderness Camps, three additional camps, with four fully equipped units each, were developed.
Kieliekrankie wilderness camp
Sunk into a dune, with endless views of the red Kalahari sands. Located in the Twee Rivieren region, this unique self-catering wilderness camp will be accessible by passenger vehicles.
Urikaruus wilderness camp
Located in the Mata-Mata region of the park, between the veil of old camelthorn trees, overlooks the Auob River. Urikaruus is accessible by passenger vehicles.
Located in the far northern region of the park, will provide guests with elevated views of Kalahari dunes and the thornveld savannah. Gharagab will only be accessible by 4x4.
Richtersveld National Park
Ai–Ais/Richtersveld Transfrontier National Park
Conjure up a desolate and forbidding landscape, seemingly devoid of life, except for some people dotting along the horizon. Make a startling discovery upon closer inspection when the mirage dissolves into the human-like half-men (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 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.
Tankwa Karoo National Park
As luminous clouds of dust swirl through the scarred landscape, a Karoo tortoise patiently ambles around in search of a succulent coral aloe. A lizard basks in the sun while suricates and mongoose share the arid plains with orb-web spiders, centipedes and leggy toktokkies.
The 80 000 hectare Tankwa Karoo National Park, proclaimed in 1986 and still in a development stage, is at present in a veld recovery phase and it will be some time before the original vegetation re-establishes itself. Even so, after the occasional shower, the park erupts into a dazzling display of flowering succulents. With an average rainfall of 80mm a year, even a scant shower is reason for celebration.
Nomadic pastoralism first brought sheep into the succulent Karoo about 2 000 years ago, and cattle some 1 500 years later. The European pastoralists (trekboere) who moved northwards from the Cape Peninsula in the 18th century were nomadic, moving with their flocks to suitable grazing. In the 19th century the succulent Karoo became the first biome used for settled European pastoralism (Milton et al. 1997). The extremely arid summers however make much of the succulent Karoo unsuitable for settled pastoralism, even now when boreholes provide perennial water and forage can be imported from other areas (Milton et al. 1997).
Vaalbos National Park
The Vaalbos National Park is an extraordinary area along the Vaal River where wildlife such as roan antelope, black rhino, white rhino, buffalo, eland, red hartebeest and tsessebe are to be seen in the former heart of the alluvial diamond diggings near Kimberley. A tourist route, built with material from the diamond diggings using local labour, winds through the park, exposing visitors to all facets of its three different ecosystems as they merge together as one. The name Vaalbos originates from the vaalbos (camphor bush), a prominent plant species in the park.