Spanning across 5 920 km², this transfrontier park comprises the Ai-Ais Hot Springs Game Park in Namibia and the Richtersveld National Park in South Africa. A treaty was signed in August 2003 between Namibia and South Africa, creating the Peace Park now called ǀAi-ǀAis/Richtersveld Transfrontier Park (ARTFP).
It may not be known for its wildlife diversity however it has a long and prestigious list of other reasons to visit that draw scores of travellers year-round. Recognized by UNESCO as a World Heritage Site, the landscape is renowned as a biodiversity hotspot and boasts some of the richest succulent flora in the world. It is one of only two entirely arid ecosystems to earn hotspot status, the other being the Horn of Africa.
The impressive Fish River Canyon – second only to the Grand Canyon in Arizona, USA – is situated on the lower reaches of the Fish River in southern Namibia. This awe-inspiring landscape provides the most spectacular rugged backdrop for many adventure activities too.
Adding in some of the world’s oldest rock paintings, natural hot springs, and the legendary Orange River, it really is a surreal environment. The hot springs give credence to part of the park’s name as /Ai-/Ais means “burning” water in the local Nama language.
It is by no means a conventional destination. As it straddles the two countries, there are many access points. The main ones would be flying into Johannesburg or Cape Town airports in South Africa or Windhoek in Namibia. From there the adventurous traveller can embark on a 2-day drive or connect on charter flights landing in airstrips close to the park. Only accessible by 4×4 it is all quite an undertaking, however once finally there, one is definitely rewarded for their efforts!
Whether visiting to experience the incredible scenery and isolation, the world-renowned attractions, or adventure-seeking 4×4 enthusiasts, this park is not to be missed.
The ǀAi-ǀAis/Richtersveld Transfrontier Park is not really a wildlife destination. Wildlife is very sparse and large animals aren't present but there are a few for those who take the time. The rare, localized Hartmann's mountain zebra can sometimes be spotted as well as klipspringer, kudu, leopard, brown hyaena, and grey rhebok.
The area has over 200 bird species recorded with 23 species restricted to southern Africa. The only breeding pair of augur buzzards in the region occurs here. The high cliffs are great viewing sites for other birds of prey, such as jackal buzzards and African fish eagles.
It is the rare flora and diversity there of, that attracts the naturalist to this dramatic landscape.
Avoid the hottest months of the year (October to April). The cooler period (May to September) is a much better time to visit. This is also when wildflowers colour the landscape. There’s little wildlife viewing in ǀAi-ǀAis/Richtersveld Transfrontier Park, so this isn’t really a factor in the timing of your visit. For the Birders, it is best in the hot summer months.
There isn’t a need for antimalarial medication if you are visiting |Ai-|Ais/Richtersveld. However, if you are travelling to the eastern part of South Africa or the far north of Namibia, you will need to protect yourself against malaria.
With its lack of wildlife, one would think there would be few 'safari' options in the area but that couldn't be further from the truth. Safari, or in essence exploring landscapes, is at its absolute best in this park.
There are legendary hiking trails that involve camping under the stars, similar to the kayaking trips done on the Orange River. Self-driving 4x4 adventure in the rugged terrain is the most popular and mountain biking across it even more so.
There are also fly-in trips that can be done, to fully appreciate the size of the Fish River canyon.
Some of these activities are guided and so all logistics of getting there are provided. For the self-drivers, the route will depend on where one is able to hire the 4x4 for the trip. This will be in major Cities only.
Even though it is incredibly remote, the park is equipped with a large number of accommodations. This is a testament to ǀAi-ǀAis/Richtersveld Transfrontier Park popularity!
On the Namibian side, you will be able to find campsites, chalets and rest camps with some amenities. Situated by the Hot Springs, there is even a luxury resort with the aim of indulging in this natural phenomenon.
On the South African side, it is managed by SANParks, and so has a plethora of offerings. From trail camps, well-equipped campsites and luxury self-catering chalets there is something for everyone.
Please see below for accommodation inside and near Richtersveld National Park