Richtersveld World Heritage Site, Northern Cape
The Richtersveld World Heritage Site in the Northern Cape is almost as big as the Ai-Ais/Richtersveld Transfrontier Park further north, and offers an equal experience of the awe-inspiring Richtersveld landscape and biome as well as a unique cultural experience.
The Richtersveld WHS was formerly known as the Richtersveld Community Conservancy – an area of land returned to its historic claiments and inhabitants, the Nama, after the fall of Apartheid in 1994. The Nama are descendents of San bushmen and Khoenkhoen nomadic pastoralists who moved into the area around 2000 years ago. Today, the Nama still practice the nomadic way of life passed down through the centuries, and they still build their traditional reed mat huts – the ‘Matjies Huts’ that are unqiue to the Nama. In addition to the Nama pastoralists, the ‘Bosluis Basters’, descendants of Nama and Cape Dutch farmers, with their own identity, live in harmony with the Nama.
Though the area is sparsely populated, the WHS is run by the Nama, and you can opt for a number of cultural experiences – from staying over in a ‘matjies hut’ to a traditional meal. The several hiking trails and 4×4 routes on the conservancy, as well as the remote location of some camp-sites, require guides due to the size and fragility of the area, and Nama guides are available in the two small towns of Eksteenfontein and Khuboes. Though their own traditional language clings on among the older generation, all of the Nama speak Afrikaans and will be able to converse easily. They will not only teach you about their way of life, the local flora and fauna and how they have managed to thrive in this ‘desert’, but will take you to see unique rock art – petroglyphs that have survived in a pristine state for thousands of years and which tell stories of ancient beasts and legends.
At first glance much of the Richtersveld looks all but barren, but this area was declared a World Heritage Site due to its unqiue biodiversity. There are 33 species of plant on the WHS that are found nowhere else in the world. Furthermore, it is untouched. The Richtersveld CC was reserved as a ‘coloured reserve’ under Apartheid, and the Nama’s gentle ‘take only what you need’ traditional way of life has had little to no impact on the environment.
The Richtersveld is pristine, untouched and unique, and so are its people and their way of life – together they offer ”a desert frontier for adventurers, wanderers at heart.”
Getting there: See ‘how to get there’ for detailed directions and updated maps (roads can be affected by flash floods).
|More info on the quaint town of Richtersveld||More info on the Namaqualand area|