Richtersveld World Heritage Site
While many people already know about the Richtersveld National Park, more and more people are catching on about its equally large southern neighbour, the Richtersveld Community Conservancy
10 years ago, the historically disadvantaged people of the Richtersveld united, reclaimed title to their traditional land, and set aside this conservancy to be forever conserved for research and tourism. It offers some of southern Africa’s finest hiking, 4x4 driving, camping and cultural experiences.
The Richtersveld Community Conservancy is also the last refuge of Nama people living what is known as the transhumance lifestyle - to migrate seasonally with their livestock from mountains to the river and so make sustainable use of the fragile succulent ecosystem.
In recognition of this vanishing lifestyle, and of the rare botanical diversity it helps protect, the Conservancy has been declared the core of a new World Heritage Site.
What better way to explore and uncover the secrets of a remote area than being guided by the local people? Situated in the mountains south of the giant bend of the Lower Orange River, the Heritage Site is owned and managed by the local people. Home to semi-nomadic sheep and goat herders, this remote and dramatic desert landscape has over the years welcomed only the bravest explorers and the most curious researchers.
Unique flora, nowhere else to be found
In the rugged landscape of the Heritage Site, all three biomes of the Richtersveld are represented: Desert, Succulent Karoo and even a small patch of Fynbos in the Stinkfonteinberge. The succulents of the Richtersveld are undoubtedly one of its major features warranting a visit. This area falls within the !Gariep Centre, one of the five centres of endemism of the Succulent Karoo biome. More than 350 plant species are endemic. The Succulent Karoo biodiversity hotspot is one of Earth’s 34 richest and most threatened reservoirs of plant and animal life. It has more than 5,000 plant species, 40% of which are endemic. In the Heritage Site alone, there are 33 plants that cannot be found anywhere else in the world.
Being a biodiversity hotspot means that it has rich biodiversity but also that it is threatened with destruction. 18% of the Succulent Karoo plant species are threatened due to overgrazing, mining and illegal harvesting of plants. The absence of mining activities in the Conservancy makes it a unique area in the Richtersveld to preserve the local flora and fauna. The World Heritage Site is especially important for the conservation of one of the world’s most endangered plants, the Baster Quiver Tree.
Trails to rocks, plants and legends
Hiking, 4x4 driving, camping and cultural experiences are on offer in more than 160 000 ha of dramatic landscapes. Within the World Heritage Site is Cornellsberg, the highest point in the Richtersveld (1 377m). Cornellskop is the home of the legendary giant snake and of virtually all known specimens of the endangered Baster Quiver Tree.
Hiking, 4x4 driving, and cycling: Unique routes to watch birds, rare succulents and the rugged landscape of the Richtersveld. There is access to the Orange River near Modderdrift and to demarcated camping areas on the banks of the river, next to mining ruins, or next to a cave.
Cultural experiences: Rock engravings or petroglyphs, traditional Nama huts (matjieshuise) and Nama stock posts, as well as a myriad of legends to tell.
See more: online video clip
Look here to see a 2 minute video clip of the Richtersveld World Heritage Site.