Ai-Ais Richtersveld Transfrontier Park
South Africa / Namibia
The /Ai-/Ais and Fish River Canyon Park was declared publicly in 1968 and not long after this historic proclamation, the Huns Mountain complex and several farms were added. The Orange River forms the northern boundary of the Richtersveld in South Africa and the southern boundary of the adjoining Fish River Canyon Conservation Area in Namibia. The similarity of geology, landscapes, flora and fauna of the area resulted in the signing of a treaty on 1st August 2003, by the then Namibian and South African Presidents, and South Africa's Richtersveld National Park and the /Ai-/Ais and Fish River Canyon Park were amalgamated to form the /Ai-/Ais-Richtersveld Transfrontier Park, Namibia's first cross-border park.
Visitors to this magical part of Namibia can now experience a wilderness on a scale previously unimaginable. Standing at the edge of the largest natural gorge in Africa, and the second largest canyon in the world, the Fish River Canyon, is simply breathtaking, as are the dramatic views from Hell's Corner, where one can only try to imagine the dramatic natural forces that shaped that very canyon millions of years ago.
As a result of the union, the park protects a vast area that crosses the South African border, and encompasses one of the richest botanical hot spots in the world, the Succulent Karoo biome. There are some amazing photographic opportunities in the park and in particular the bed of the Fish River, strewn with immense boulders. It is also the venue for one of the most exhilarating walking adventures in Southern Africa, the 5 day, 90km, Fish River Canyon hiking trail. Hikers are dwarfed by sheer canyon walls that tower more than 550m above, and all of this awaits, once you've slowly descended down steep cliffs, until safely reaching the sandy banks of the Fish River! Watch out for klipspringer bounding up the cliffs and mountain chats, at home in the boulder-strewn slopes or rocky grasslands or anthills! The ancient rock formations add to the feeling of isolation, with a sense of timelessness never being too far away.
For 4x4 enthusiasts, driving along the rugged eastern rim of the canyon is not only an adrenalin rush in itself, but affords stunning views across the canyon from Hell's Corner and Sulpher Springs vantage points. Only 100km south, is another more leisurely route, winding along of the edge of the Orange River, where huge volumes of water are contained by towering black mountains.
Discovering the park includes searching for rare Namibian plants, (there are 100 endemic succulents) and over 1,600 other plant species, rare animals, spectacular scenery and thermal springs, all awaiting to be explored and enjoyed.
The park is managed jointly by South African Parks and its Namibian counterparts and visitors can now cross at the border post at Sendelingsdrift by ferry across the Orange River. (Please note, the ferry transports vehicles weighing 6 tonnes or less.) The park covers a total area of 6,045km².
Facilities include 12 campsites, a field kitchen and ablution facilities are available at Hobas and camping facilities are also available along the Orange River. /Ai-/Ais Hot Springs Spa, with its thermal springs, is tucked away amongst rugged mountainous terrain along the Fish River, has recently reopened after extensive refurbishment, offering a wide range of modern and state-of-the-art tourist facilities.
This new park is certainly an interesting destination for those on holiday in Namibia
Fairly basic accommodation at the famous hot-springs near the southern end of the Fish River Canyon
Probably the most popular lodge in the area. Friendly staff, interesting rooms and an emphasis on growing all local produce make for a wonderful stay
The smaller sibling to the Canon Lodge & Village, this fun establishment boasts loads of character
Supposedly laid out like an African village - this tends to be second choice to the Lodge but still offers good value
On the opposite edge of the canyon to all the other lodges, Fish River Lodge offers a unique perspective, excellent service and stunning views
Campsite close to the main viewpoint over the Fish River Canyon