Stretching across the border from South Africa to Namibia, with the Orange River lazily winding through its centre, the Ai Ais Richtersveld Transfrontier National Park is an outdoor lover's paradise with abundant walking, hiking, 4X4 and mountain biking trails to explore. A 4X4 enthusiast, hiker and adventure seekers' paradise, the Ai Ais /RichtersveldTransfrontier National Park.
A seemingly barren and desolate landscape, the Ai Ais Richtersveld Transfrontier National Park stretches across 162 445 hectares of South Africa and a further 442 055 hectares in Namibia. Truly enormous, the reserve offers spectacular landscapes and scenery ranging from forbidding mountain chains, a massive water carved canyon; the Fish River Canyon, and the lush green banks of the Orange River. The park is positioned around the Orange River that twists first in a northerly and then southerly direction through the reserve on its way to the Atlantic Ocean in the west.
On the South African side of the reserve there is over 200 km (124 miles) of sandy or rugged road network available for 4X4, 2X4 and high clearance vehicles to explore. There are also a number of mountain biking and hiking trails for visitors to navigate and the 5 day hiking trail through the Fish River Canyon is a very popular tourist activity.
Human-beings lived in the Richtersveld area for at least 200 000 years leaving artefacts from all three of the Stone Ages. More recently the hunter-gathering San people lived in the area for several thousand years and their bloodlines can be seen mixed with the other indigenous tribe of the area, the Nama, part of the KhoiKhoi group. Scattered through the reserve one may find grave sites and rock engravings from both the Nama and the San.
All of the, 10 or more, major vegetation types found within the area are carefully adapted for survival in the arid environment. The most recognisable and sought after of these are the quiver tree, the 'halfmens', with its thorny trunks and small leaf clusters at its tips, and the rare giant aloe.
The western region of the nature park is the richest succulent plant region in the world and is considered part of the Succulent Karoo Biome, with more than one third of the total population of succulentsin the world. On the foot of the hills you will see low tree species such as the white-trunked shepherd's tree, the ebony tree and the Karoo boer-bean tree.
The nature reserve is not considered a particularly good game viewing destination and of the African game animals found in the reserve, visitors are likely to see Hartmann's Mountain Zebra on the north side of the river, Southern Oryx, Klipspringer and Grey Rhebok. Along the flat area one may see Steenbok and Springbok and the wooded banks of the river are home to Vervet Monkey and Savanna Baboons. Leopard and Brown Hyaena are found within the reserve but they are more often heard than seen. The area is also the only place in South Africa where one might see both the Southern African Ground Squirrel and the Damara Ground Squirrel in the same location.
The Ai AisTransfrontier National Park is considered an excellent bird-watching destination and there are at least 212 species of birds recorded in the park. African Fish Eagles are a common sight and Ostriches are often seen along the plains. Heading down to the riverbird-watchers will have excellent sightings along the water's edge and in the riverine vegetation.
There are 5 different tortoises found in the nature park and 22 different snake species. The Nile Monitor Lizard hunts in the water and along the river bank and Ground-dwelling Namaqua Chameleons are fairly common but are often overlooked due to their carefully colourations.
The Orange River is a popular fishing destination with Mozambique Tilapia, Carp, Sharptooth Catfish and Large-mouth Yellowfish all being found in the waters here and northwards towards the Fish River Canyon.