Ai-Ais Richtersveld National Park
About The Ai-Ais Richtersveld National Park
The Ai-Ais Richtersveld Park is one of the Southern African Peace Parks which straddle international borders in the interest of conservation. The park occupies 6 045km² of Namibia and South Africa on either side of the Orange River.
The Park came in to existence when South Africa’s Richtersveld National Park and Namibia’s Ai-Ais and Fish River Canyon Park were merged in 2003. It is jointly managed by SanParks and the Namibian Ministry of Environment and Tourism.
Ai-Ais Richtersveld Transfrontier Park is found in the south-western region of Namibia about 760km from Windhoek, 460km from Lüderitz, and 260 km from Keetmanshoop. You can enter the park from one of the following entry points:
- Ai-Ais Hot Springs
- Sendelingsdrif Gate in South Africa
You can also explore the Fish River Canyon portion of the park from several resorts dotted around the perimeter too.
The Ai-Ais Hot Springs Game Park has been in the making for millennia. The local Nama people were the first to discover the ‘burning water’ at Ai-Ais. The area was only recognized for its outstanding conservation potential in 1968 with the declaration of the Ai-Ais Hot Springs Game Park.
The Huns Mountains and several surrounding farms were added in 1988. During 2003, the Ai-Ais Hot Springs Game Park was united with the Fish River Canyon Conservation Area as well as South Africa’s neighboring Richtersveld National Park, to create the Ai-Ais Richtersveld Transfrontier Park (ARTFP).
Ai-Ais-Richtersveld Transfrontier Park offers rustic experiences within its boundaries, with a smattering of more luxurious offerings on its outskirts.
On the South African side, there are 8 accommodation options. These are:
- 3 Wilderness Camps – Tatasberg, Hakkiesdoring and Gannakoriep
The Wilderness camps are very rustic with canvas or reed cabins. There are private or communal showers and solar power but no plug points. Gas stoves and braais are provided but guests should bring their own firewood.
- 3 Camp sites – Kokerboomkloof, Potjiespram and Richtersberg
These camp sites are very rustic, please check with SanParks regarding the availability of facilities at the time of booking.
- 1 Rest Camp – Sendelingsdrif offers rustic camping with shared ablutions or chalets with private bathrooms and kitchenettes.
- The De Hoop Camp Site – for overnight hikers
This camp site has no electricity and ablutions with cold water showers.
In Namibia, you can choose from:
- Ai-Ais Hot Springs Spa – This resort has 7 family chalets, 36 double rooms with river or mountain views and various camp sites. The resort features indoor and outdoor swimming pools, a shop, restaurant, bar, kiosk, fuel station, laundry service and wellness facilities.
- Hobas Lodge – The Lodge has 14 campsites and 6 chalets as well as a restaurant, swimming pool, and shop.
Children are welcome at Hobas and Ai-Ais Hot Springs Spa, but the accommodation in the other camps is not suited to very young guests.
Many of the lodges on the outskirts of the park cater for conferencing. Group bookings can be accommodated at the camps within the park according to availability.
What Ai-Ais Richtersveld National Park lacks in Big Five Game viewing experiences it makes up for with fascinating ecosystems, ancient geology, historical sites and wide open spaces.
Wherever you find yourself within the vast expanses of Ai-Ais Richtersveld National Park you will find something to aim your camera at. The light in the park is incredible in the early morning and late afternoon, allowing you to capture stunning images of the geology, vast panoramas and unique plant life in the area.
Exploring the Fish River Canyon and surrounding arid landscapes is the main activity in this National Park. The 5-day Fish River Canyon hike is a challenge that no serious hiker can resist. There is also a cross-country running version of this hike for the true fitness fanatic.
The hikes vary in difficulty and take place along marked trails or with an experienced guide. You can also tackle your surroundings on horseback or mountain bike if preferred.
Some of the most interesting spots to visit in the Ai-Ais Richtersveld National Park include:
- The 300-million-year-old Fish River Canyon, second in size only to the Grand Canyon
- Halfmens Pass
- Centuries-old San petroglyphs all over the park
- The ‘Hand of God’ impression on the rocks near Sendelingsdrift
- The hot springs at Ai-Ais
- Amazing rock formations at Tatasberg
- Ancient Nama and San grave sites
- Rare succulents at the Sendelingsdrift nursery
At camps where there are restaurant facilities, you will find wholesome local and international meals to suit your palate. Campsites and rest camps are strictly self-catering.
The lodges in the area offer excellent cuisine in the form of both a la carte and set menus.
Fauna and Flora
Ai-Ais Richtersveld National Park includes the succulent Karoo biome, one of the most diverse botanical hot spots in the world. Here you will find amazing plant life to admire such as the halfmens boom and quiver tree. There are over 100 other succulents found among the 1 600 plant species and 10 major vegetation types that occur here.
Over 200 types of birds have been sighted in the area, including fish eagles and ostriches. Some of the more sought-after species include black eagle, squacco and purple heron, and osprey.
There are 5 different species of tortoises in the park along with 22 different kinds of snakes. Chameleons are common too.
Wildlife too is diverse with klipspringers, dassies, squirrels, steenbok, oryx, Hartmann’s mountain zebra, springbok, vervet monkeys and baboons. Leopard and hyena are also present but very rarely seen, although you may hear them at night.
Some essential items to bring along for your trip to Ai-Ais Richtersveld National Park are:
- A camera
- Swimming costume and towels
- A map and guide book
- Comfortable walking shoes
- Binoculars, preferably one pair for each person
- Sunglasses, lip balm, moisturizing lotion and sunblock
- Mosquito repellent and anti-malaria medication
- Camping and catering equipment (depending on your accommodation)
- Drinking water
A passport is essential if you would like to cross over between the South African and Namibian sides of the park.
Guided tours to the Ai-Ais Richtersveld National Park are available from Windhoek, but most travelers prefer the flexibility of self-guided safaris to this national park.
A 4×4 vehicle is essential for travel within the park, although you can enjoy the viewpoints along the outer-rim of the canyon with an ordinary sedan car.
Directions from Windhoek:
If you fly in to Hosea Kutako International airport, you can expect a 7-hour journey to Ai-Ais Richtersveld National Park. Many guests arriving in the capital choose to stay in Windhoek accommodation for a few days first to stock up on supplies and hire camping gear before embarking on their trip.
You can get to Ai-Ais Richtersveld National Park from Windhoek by travelling south on the B1 until you reach the C10 to Ai-Ais.
Air Transfers are available from Eros Airport to private airstrips at Ai-Ais, Fish River Lodge and Vogelstrausskluft, Seeheim, Grünau, Keetmanshoop, and Bethanie.
For more information about Ai-Ais Richtersveld National Park or to book your accommodation in Namibia, get in touch via our contact us page, and we will gladly assist you.
Please Note: The details shared herein were correct at the time of publishing. However, with time some of this information may change. We recommend confirming information with suppliers prior to making final travel arrangements. If you do happen to find an issue with any information we’ve shared here, please feel free to contact us so that we can make the relevant changes.