Riemvasmaak Hot Springs, Northern Cape
Did you know?
The name Riemvasmaak, which means 'tie a piece of leather tightly', comes from the Khoi word 'konkaib', which also means ‘to tie leather thongs'.
The Riemvasmaak Hot Springs are located in a deep ravine bordered by 80m-high granite cliffs, north of the Augrabies Falls, about 60km from the small Northern Cape town of Kakamas.
The area known as Riemvasmaak spans 75 000ha of rugged and remote desert-mountain wilderness between the Orange and Molopo rivers and is very remote – it's an area known for its rugged wilderness.
The Riemvasmaak Hot Springs are the product of volcanic eruptions. Though these have long since ceased, deep underground activity still heats the waters of these springs.
The space in which the two pools are situated is made up of magnificent, lunar-like surroundings; unique vegetation that is marked by indigenous camel thorn and shepherd’s trees; and wildlife that includes creatures from hyraxes (also known as 'dassies') to antelope and baboon. Raptors such as the Verreaux and fish eagle breed here, while pale-winged starlings are prolific.
Accommodation is available in cleverly designed self-catering chalets that blend into the rocky surrounds and offer great views. Once without electricity, they are now equipped with power and hot water, but visitors are advised to bring drinking water, food and towels.
Arrangements can be made at the local tourism office for meals. One can also arrange to have a meal at a local home and spend time with the people of Riemvasmaak village.
Other than the natural hot springs, tourists are drawn to Riemvasmaak by its 4x4 trails and scenic hiking trails.
Under apartheid policies during the 1960s, the inhabitants of Riemvasmaak were split up and forcibly relocated to areas a long distance away, while their lands were taken by the then-South African Defence Force for use as a military training ground.
After democracy in 1994, the Riemvasmaakers reclaimed their lands, making history by lodging the first land-restitution case in the new South Africa.
Travel tips & Planning info
Who to contact
Tel: +27 (0)73 383 8812 or + 27 (0)83 873 7715 (Clarissa Damara)
Green Kalahari Tourism
Tel: +27 (0)54 337 2800
How to get here
From Upington take the N14 towards Keimoes and then Kakamas. It is well signposted. The distance is just over 100km, and should take around one to two hours.
Best time to visit
The winter months of May to August are recommended for their mild temperatures as the summers can be very hot.
Around the area
Visit the Augrabies Falls, where the Orange River thunders down a 60m waterfall.
Tours to do
The nearby town of Kakamas, built by stock farmers at the end of the 19th century, is interesting, with its old hydro-electrical power station resembling an Egyptian temple, a memorial shaped as an obelisk, and German war graves.
Having your own car will give you the freedom to move around. Hiring a 4x4 is a good idea as there are various rough-terrain trails in the area.
What will it cost
Rates are reasonable. Enquire at Riemvasmaak Tourism Centre for details.
Length of stay
Riemvasmaak is a two to three-day destination.
What to pack
You need to be well prepared to visit Riemvasmaak as there is limited access to facilities and amenities. Take along firewood, food and beverages, fuel and personal items as well as all drinking water (about four litres a day)
Where to stay
The conservancy has comfortable self-catering chalets or camping facilities, but you'll need to bring in most of what you need. The campsite is at the hot springs and you drive about 4km on a gravel road into the gorge. A 4x4 is not required.
What to eat
The community at Riemvasmaak can prepare a traditional meal – this needs to be organised in advance. For the rest, this is your chance to indulge in South Africa's favourite pastime: the braai (barbecue).
Check the listed Northern Cape website for events in the area during your stay.
Fresh and dried fruit from farm stalls in the area.