The Richtersveld Community Conservancy is a mountainous desert in the north-west part of South Africa.
It sustains the semi-nomadic pastoral livelihood of the Nama people. The Nama are descendants of the Khoi-Khoi, considered as the indigenous inhabitants of southern Africa.
The site includes the seasonal migrations and grazing grounds, stockposts (kraals) and haru oms, the portable houses of the Nama.
Map of RichtersveldLoad map
To visit the park I stayed at the Vioolsdrift Lodge just across the border from Namibia. At the time it was run by a lovely family so I highly recommend it, great tents and a bar where you wouldn't expect one. The lady (formerly German I believe) also gave me superb info on the park and since I had a 4x4 on the trip I could access the park from a little road that goes northwest along the river. What you see are some low cliffs but the road is very shoddy, with big spiky rocks all over the place. It gets rougher as you go along. This may not be the main path into the park. It takes quite a while to get into the park and then it's still a while to see more things that you are looking for. Unfortunately this is like a huge "open museum" and the things you are looking for could be anywhere in the park without a guide. So my advice: book something from Cape Town if you want the full cultural experience. Going in on your own is mainly just for rock art and some remains of old houses.
However, I think the ǀAi-ǀAis/Richtersveld Transfrontier Park has the same cultural relics and MUCH better scenery. I've included a pic of Fish Canyon, a true marvel, and you can hike in it too. The access is better, there are more things to see, and it's more beautiful. Currently on Namibia's tentative list for natural whereas Richtersveld is unfortunately not listed as natural and got the natural part rejected for inscription, so the transborder extension may be a little tricky to achieve. Still though, unless you are a die-hard "I must visit the core zone" WHS enthusiast then I would suggest you just visit Namibia.
I find it very flattering to be the first one to make a review for Richtersveld. I still wonder why it was not listed as a mixed site (cultural and natural) considering the unique biodiversity and way of floral survival that exist in that region. My friend and I went through Vioolsdrif, near the border to Namibia, where we spent two nights to tick this site off, to get to the core zone. After going through the mountains,and passing through numerous massive rocks with 4,000 yo ancient Nama carvings (as shown in the page's photo above), the landscape dramatically changes to the world of the succulents - actually, upon entering Northern Cape region, the fynbos ecosystem loses presence. On the site, it constantly made me wonder how the plants there survive knowing how little rain the place gets, let alone how it can continually support pastoral activities for thousands of years already. We visited various quartz fields (see photo with this review) where the most bizzare plants grow (the halfmansboom being the most iconic), as well as a goat pen and a water well made by the locals. In our 7 hours stay in that part of Richtersveld, we never saw any other tourists around, making the experience truly memorable for us. I also felt I earned some bragging rights in going here when our guide explained to us that there are only around 400-600 tourists who visit the site every year, as most would rather go to the white water rafting on the Orange river nearby; which serves the site's preservation better, in hindsight. At the end of the day, we saw more of the botanical aspect of the site than the cultural, but it was totally worth it.
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