The Richtersveld, Northern Namaqualand, Northern Cape
The Richtersveld is the name for both a demarcated region of the Northern Cape Namaqualand region, and a unique, stark, awe-inspiring but fragile landscape and biome. The Richtersveld is found in the very north-west of the Northern Cape and over the border into Namibia. Vioolsdrift is the last town before entering the Richtersveld.
Most of the Richtersveldt is protected within the Ai-Ais/Richtersveld Transfrontier Park and the Richtersveld World Heritage Site (formerly known as the Richtersveld Community Conservancy), but the biome extends to the very north-western coast at Port Nolloth and Alexander Bay.
The Richtersveld is a unique desert mountain biome, with a predominance and variety of endemic fauna and succulent flora that has not only managed to survive there, but flourish into the some very weird-looking species, such as ‘the half human’ tree, and some incredibly small species, such as a 4cm tortoise and the smallest viper in the world.
The part of the Richtersveldt south of the Transfrontier Park was returned to the Nama people with the fall of Apartheid and declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site not only for its natural heritage, but to protect the ‘transhumance’ semi-nomadic lifestyle of the Nama people.
The Richtersveldt is very sparsely populated and offers hundreds of kilometers of dirt roads and tracks ideal for 4x4ing but this is not offroad 4×4 country! Stay on the roads, trails and tracks to avoid criminal mass destruction of hundreds of endemic and irreplaceable plants and animals too tiny to see from your vehicle. Unlike the more Southern areas and to a certain degree the inland coastal stretches, the Richtersveldt does not turn into a flower carpet as it was never farmed in the 1800’s – the environmental damage that led to the flower madness we get to enjoy today. But flowers spring up in cracks in rocks – life takes a hold here wherever it can.
There is no fuel available in Eksteenfontein or Khuboes. Fuel is available in Vioolsdrift, Rooiwal, Steinkopf, Port Nolloth, Alexander Bay or Sanddrif. There is now cell phone coverage in some of the Richtersveld, but not yet in Eksteenfontein, and certainly not within the mountains of the WHS! (Pay phones are available in Eksteenfontein). All supplies must be taken with you.
Daily temperatures can vary dramatically. It is a land of extremes with temperatures ranging from freezing in the winter months to up to 50 degrees C during the summer. Most of the Richtersveld receives winter rainfall, generally between May and September, but occasional summer thunderstorms occur in the mountainous regions.
Springbok might be regarded as the last major town en route to Namibia from Cape Town but the little town of Vioolsdrift serves as a border post that lies virtually on the border with Namibia, on the south bank of the Orange River.