The /Ai /Ais-Richtersveld Transfrontier Conservation Area (ARTP) straddles the borders of South Africa and Namibia. It consists of the 1,625km2 Richtersveld National Park in South Africa and the 4,420km2 Ai Ais National Park in Namibia. Wander through even just part of its combined 6,045km2 and you will be mesmerised by some of the most spectacular arid and desert mountain scenery in southern Africa! The world's second largest canyon, the Fish River Canyon, meanders for 161km between the steep, spectacular cliffs dividing the Nama plateau. In some places the canyon floor is more than 550m below the plateau, exposing rock up to 260 million years old. Stare down at ancient history weathered by an eternity of sun, wind and strong river currents. Climb down, if you're an intrepid adventurer, and touch the passage of time.
The Orange River starts its journey in Lesotho's Maloti Mountains, where it is known as the Senqu River. The river mouth feeds a variety of endemic plants and is regarded as the sixth richest wetland in southern Africa, particularly during the summer months when it is home to a vast number of birds. A river adventure on the Orange River offers days of relaxation, visual beauty and incredible sunsets. Nights spent under a canopy of stars simply take your breath away.
The Fish River Canyon Hiking Trail, is unique. Meandering for 90km through the amazing landscape of the canyon, the trail starts at Hobas and finishes at the hot water spa resort of AiAis Resort. This resort is the perfect place to relax after a long day of hiking and exploring. Flanked by date palms, the springs here gush out of the earth at a constant temperature of 57˚C, making the water consistently hot and suitable for cold winter days. In the Nama language, /Ai/Ais means "burning water".
The leopard, caracal, brown hyena and black-backed jackal are some of the predators that can be found in the ARTP. You are also likely to come across klipspringer, Hartmann's mountain zebra, grey rhebok, kudu, gemsbok, steenbok and duiker, as well as baboons and smaller mammals such as the rock hyrax and mountain ground squirrel. The park has 56 species of mammals, including six species endemic to the southern African sub-region and at least 194 species of birds, 23 of them endemic to southern Africa. The only breeding pair of augur buzzards in the region is found here and the high cliffs make very good viewing sites for other raptors such as jackal buzzards and the African fish eagle.
The ARTP is widely believed to be one of the world's richest succulent plant areas. There are a number of specially adapted life forms such as the psammophorous plant, which will fix a protective layer of sand to its surface to protect it against the force of sand storms. Two trees particularly associated with the area are the quiver tree and the halfmens. The top of the succulent halfmens tree consists of a bunch of thick, crinkled leaves, reminiscent of a human head. The Namas revere the human-like trees as the embodiment of their ancestors, half human, half plant, mourning their ancient Namibian home.
The ARTP is home to an ancient people who are living examples of a culture and a way of livelihood that has survived in the isolation of this quiet place. The Nama people, both from South Africa and Namibia, lead a very nomadic and pastoral traditional life, moving homes, stock and family from high-country winter areas to lower summer areas in pursuit of grazing.