Richtersveld World Heritage Site
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Water is so scarce in the Richtersveld that small animals depend on early morning fog to survive.
In a deceptively sparse, strangely beautiful mountainous desert of the Northern Cape, lies the Richtersveld National Park, declared a South African World Heritage Site in 2007. Here live the Nama, a semi-nomadic group of people, who have followed the same seasonal migratory pattern for tens of thousands of years.
Descended from the Khoi-khoi, a long-gone indigenous people, the Nama are pastoralists. Dispossessed of their land during the apartheid years, they have fought hard to reclaim its ownership which were recently successful in their efforts. This makes the operation of this World Heritage Site distinctive, in that it is owned and managed by the Richtersveld community.
And sustainably so. States UNESCO: ‘The extensive communal grazed lands of the Richtersveld Cultural and Botanical Landscape are a testimony to land management processes which have ensured the protection of the succulent Karoo vegetation and thus demonstrates a harmonious interaction between people and nature.' The Ricthersveld flora, is valuable from a medicinal point of view and includes some oddities, like the strange ‘halfmensboom' or ‘halfperson tree' which is topped by a bunch of leaves resembling a human head.
To facilitate their annual migration cycle between stockposts in the Richtersveld National Park, the Nama simply take their houses with them, keeping alive a practice that was once widespread in Southern Africa. Their domed huts, constructed of rush matting are portable, and can be struck down for re-erection somewhere else.
More permanent communities live in former mission stations, outside the proclaimed World Heritage Site, in villages such as Lekkersing, Eksteenfontein and Kuboes.
This park adjoins a recently-formed cross-border national park that binds the country with Namibia across the Orange River. Called the |Ai-|Ais/Richtersveld Transfrontier Park, it contains some comfortable rest camps and offers river-based activities.
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Who to contact
Richtersveld National Park
Telephone: +27 27 831 1506