The Richtersveld is the only mountain desert in South Africa. The rainfall, on the coast, is as low as 50mm per year, and increase deeper inland. The dominant biome, is the "Succulent Karoo" biome, although there are small areas with grass, a section belonging to the "desert biome", and also small areas with limited "Fynbos" growth.
A large part of the Richtersveld, has been declared a world heritage site, which in itself, says a lot about how special the area is. This is an unspoilt, undeveloped, destination, with mostly wilderness camps with limited facilities. Camping is in most areas the only accommodation. If you choose not to camp, there are a few camps with chalet facilities, although limited.
The wetlands, at the Orange-river mouth, is a RAMSAR site, with a rare variety of birds.
The area gets a low winter rainfall, which resulted in the succulent plants being the dominant vegetation. Most of the plants survive in the dry summer season, on the mist, coming from the cold Atlantic ocean, that ends up being blown into the desert.
Although the Flower season in Springtime (August/ September) is the more popular time to visit the Namaqualand and the Richtersveld, certain of the attractions can be seen throughout the year. November to February is quite hot, and not ideal for visits to the Richtersveld, unless you can handle the heat. During the warmer months, one could spend more time close to the ocean, where it is normally cool throughout the year, and stick to the shady areas next to the Orange river.
The climate in this desert mountain area can sometimes be extreme, and you can expect heat, sand, wind, cold and even rain. The weather should however not keep you away from this very special destination.
The Richtersveld is bordered by the Cold Atlantic on the Western side, the Orange river on the Northern side (also the border of Namibia), the N7 on the Eastern side, and the 'R382' on the Southern side.
There is an endless list of attractions in the area.
While on tour with the Richtersveld tours, we will take you to the places less often visited, due to its location, or security arrangements, or the fact that it is on private property, and not accessible without special arrangements.
We will show you rare plants, amazing landscapes, fossils, rock engravings (petroglyphs), shipwrecks, caves, places where the Khoi people lived, fountains in the desert, rare aloes, seals and other animals. If you like, we will also let you meet the interesting local people, and travel roads not normally used. We will establish your interests, and put together an itinerary to suit you and your group.
Our guides are "culture" guides, and have a general knowledge of the area, history, plants, geology, archeology, and the location of certain places.
The Richtersveld is probably the best known for its plants, especially the succulents. Apart from the well known, Aloe Pillansii, Aloe Dichotoma, and Pachypodium Namaquanum, we will show you many more special plants. Some of these have medicinal uses, some are toxic, and some could be used to brew coffee-like drinks. We will share much of this interesting formation with you while on tour. Even if this is not necessarily your interest, you will still find it fascinating, how these magnificent plants can survive in this desert, with very little, or sometimes no rain for long periods of time.
We will tell you about the pre-history, as well as the more recent history, of how things came about, with the copper mining in the Okiep and Springbok area, and eventually the diamond industry, which still plays a large role in sustaining the economy of the area. We will visit a few places that will take us back in time to the days when the Khoi people still lived in the area. They are one of very few nations who managed to live a sustainable life, and looked after the earth, and only used what they needed, to make a living.
We could visit a few historic buildings in the area, and you will be amazed at how people survived (still do) with limited resources.
The Richtersveld is not only Heaven to Botanists, looking for, and finding rare plants in various locations. It has a great variety of formations, dating to various times, as well as a few locations with fossils. Although mining is often seen as a negative issue, in terms of damaging the Earth, it creates opportunities to "view into the past". We could visit areas with prospecting trenches, exposing some very interesting formations.
Culture is the one big contributor to the "World Heritage site" declaration. We could focus on the various cultures in the Area, if that is your interest. The one culture that stands out, is the NAMA. They still live in the same nomadic way, as they have been doing for more than 2000 years. We could visit some of them on the Tour. It is always very interesting to still see their uncomplicated lifestyle, looking for the best grazing opportunities, and travelling with their stock.
Although there are more than enough excellent landscapes throughout the tour, we will make an effort to travel to some really special viewpoints.
Birds & Animals
Although the Richtersveld cannot be compared with Parks like the Kruger National Park, or the Kgalagadi, in terms of spotting animals and birds, there are always a few surprises. At the River mouth, we will normally spot a number of Flamingos, Pelicans, Cormorants and possibly a few Ducks and Terns. On a normal tour we could spot Springbok, Gemsbok, Klipspringer, Dassies and Ostriches. It is however most rewarding looking for the small things, rather than the big ones. If we then spot large game, it is normally a bonus.
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