The Khoi people call it ‘Aukoerebis’ which means Place of Great Noise, and in fact few sounds are as deafening, or sights as breath-taking to behold as that of the Augrabies Waterfall when the Orange River is in full flood. Unleashed from its rocky surroundings to thunder 56m into the abyss of the Orange River Gorge, the Augrabies Waterfall is not easily forgotten.
The 55 383 hectares on both the northern and southern sides of the Orange River make up the Augrabies Falls National Park and provide sanctuary to a diversity of species, from the very smallest succulents, birds and reptiles, to springbok, gemsbok, giraffe and the endangered Hartmann’s Mountain Zebra.
Temperature fluctuations in the region have resulted in unique adaptions in animals. Giraffes found in the region are lighter in colouring than those found in eastern regions of the country, as a counter-measure for the extreme heat. Predators found in the Augrabies Falls National Park are leopard, black-backed jackals, caracal, the bat-eared fox and the African wild cat.
The most characteristic plant in the park is the quiver tree (kokerboom), which gets its name from the fact the San used its soft branches to make quivers for their arrows. The eye-catching silhouette of the quiver tree is typical of the Northern Cape landscape. The park is also home to the Nama people, who over the centuries have managed to adapt to the harsh conditions of the area.
Only the strongest survive in this ruggedly beautiful part of South Africa. This Northern Cape Nature Reserve captures the beauty of the Augrabies Falls and the Orange River Gorge in a unique rocky landscape.
Moon Rock is a massive exfoliation dome or “whaleback.” The summit offers some of the best views of the park and its surroundings.
The foreboding black hills of Swart Rante are quartz-poor igneous rocks which form a natural border between the harsh environment of the gorge area and the more lush, fertile area on the other side. Swart Rante offers a spectacular view of the two contrasting landscapes.
The viewpoints from Oranjekom and Ararat give visitors the best opportunity to observe the massive gorge area as well as the surrounding wildlife. Look out for Verreaux’s (Black) Eagles which prey on the abundant rock hyrax populations, and keep an eye out for the Cape Clawless Otter which are sometimes spotted below in the river in the morning or late afternoon.
Furthest from the rest camp, the drive to Echo Corner offers some of the park’s most stunning scenery. This is the starting point for the Gariep 3-in-1 Adventure.
Guests to the park can explore the craggy outcrops and scrub-dotted plains on game drives, hikes, mountain bikes and a 4x4 trail.
- The Orange River Gorge provides an impressive example of erosion into a granitic basement.
- There are many deposits of alluvial diamonds along the Orange River and legend states that the biggest cache of diamonds in the world lies in the granite swirl-hole at the foot of the waterfall.
- When the quiver tree flowers in the winter flocks of birds are attracted to its copious nectar and baboons can be seen tearing the flowers apart to get the sweet liquor.