Riemvasmaak, Northern Cape
Did you know?
Riemvasmaak (pronounced 'reem fuss mark') got its name, the story goes, when a clan in the area stole the livestock of another clan. They were caught and tied (vasmaak in Afrikaans) to a large rock in the nearby Molopo River with thongs or rieme.
If King Dawid, king of the Riemvasmaak people in the early 1900s, was alive today, he would be proud of the initiatives his people have taken to invite visitors from all over the world to experience their desert wilderness, hot springs, hiking and 4x4 trails.
‘People come here to find peace, meaning and adventure – the 3 go together out here in our mountainous desert wilderness,' says Clarissa Damara, the tourism information officer in remote Riemvasmaak, in the Northern Cape province.
Riemvasmaak lies in the far north-west of South Africa, 170km from the Namibian border. Situated between the Orange and Molopo rivers, the village of Riemvasmaak has about 800 inhabitants, most of whom are stock farmers, while the wilderness area (which you enter 4km from the village) is home to oryx (known locally as gemsbok), kudu, springbok and many bird species including the Namaqua dove, spotted eagle owl and Verreaux’s eagle.
You can feel the spiritual beauty and power of this region, born of violent volcanic activity millions of years ago. ??‘Imagine sitting in our hot springs with 80-metre high granite cliffs rising above you or preparing coals for your braai outside 1 of the self-catering chalets looking down into the Riemvasmaak granite canyon,' continues Damara, whose parents were born in Riemvasmaak – 1 of the 1st areas in which land was restituted to its owners driven from it during apartheid after South Africa's transition to democracy in 1994. 'Your soul can soar with the black eagles here,’ she adds.
Damara is part of the Riemvasmaak Ecotourism Project – a community-based project ‘by the people for the people’, aimed at providing employment through tourism.
An exceptional quality of the Riemvasmaak people is that they have retained much of their traditional wisdom, including their indigenous medicinal plant knowledge. The elderly villagers still know and use the local plants and share their knowledge with visitors. The best known amongst these is ghaap or hoodia, a cactus-look-alike with flesh-red, rank smelling flowers that was traditionally used as an appetite suppressant on long hunts.
Traditional storytelling and dancing is also offered to visitors, who should book performances at the tourism information office in the village.
‘I celebrate our culture and I have never wanted to live anywhere else,' says Damara. ‘Instead, I wanted to help bring people from all over the world to us, to experience our rich cultural heritage because we descend from the 1st people in Africa.’
Travel tips & Planning info
Who to contact
Clarissa Damara – tourism information officer
Mobile: +27 (0)83 873 7715 or +27 (0)73 383 8812
Green Kalahari Office in Upington
Tel: +27 (0)54 337 2800