In the north of the Northern Cape in the green Kalahari bordering Namibia, the Augrabies Falls National Park protects 28,000 hectares of barren, rocky semi-desert terrain surrounding the Orange River. This mighty river tumbles 56m over a sheer granite cliff at Augrabies Falls then cascades a further 135m into a turbulent pool below. This is best seen in March-May after the summer rains when it justifies it’s original Khoikhoi name of ‘Ankoerebis’ or ‘place of big noises’ as the water thunders into the gorge below (the name Augrabies was later derived from this by the Boer Voortrekkers).
Augrabies Falls National Park provides sanctuary to specialised flora and fauna which are able to survive the aridity and extreme temperature fluctuations. As well as smaller succulents, the kokerboom (aka quiver tree) can be found here – a giant aloe which can store water in its stems and so survive lengthy drought. Their name comes from the tradition of the San people to keep their arrows in kokers (quivers) made from hollowed branches of this plant. There are several varieties of mesembryanthemums (known locally as ‘vygies’), shrubs such as raisin bush and tree species include camelthorn acacia, wild olive and white karee.
Small reptiles and mammals such as Broadley’s flat lizards and rock dassies (hyrax), slender and yellow mongoose find shelter in rock crevices, fallen trees or burrows. Klipspringer are some of the more commonly seen antelope, as well as gemsbok (oryx) steenbok, kudu, eland and springbok. Giraffes here are paler in colour than elsewhere as an adaptation to reflect the sun’s heat. The park is home to black rhino and Hartmann’s mountain zebra and predators include leopard, African wild cat, black backed jackal, caracal and bat eared fox. Cape clawless otters may be found hunting for fish in the river.
Nama people, who are descendents from the original Khoikhoi, have inhabited the Augrabies Falls National Park area for many centuries and learnt many fascinating methods of survivial.
Visitors can explore this wilderness on 4×4 trails, game drives, river rafting trips, on mountain bikes or hiking trails.