Ai-Ais/Richtersveld National Park, South Africa and Namibia

If you are looking for total solitude in the wild, you will love the Ai-Ais/Richtersveld National Park! The cross-border park between Namibia and South Africa attracts with a deserted mountain desert and a surprisingly diverse flora and fauna.

The Ai-Ais/Richtersveld Transfrontier Park between Namibia and South Africa is one of our top 10 sights of South Africa and our top 10 most beautiful national parks of South Africa. The transfrontier peace park was created in 2003 from the merger of the Richtersveld National Park in South Africa and the Ai-Ais/Hunsberge area in Namibia. The Orange River, the border river between the two countries, runs right through the middle of the national park.


The mountain desert in the Ai-Ais/Richtersveld National Park is characterized by wild, pristine scenery, dreamlike tranquility and absolute desertedness. The routes that lead through the national park are sometimes quite adventurous and absolutely require a vehicle with four-wheel drive.

Flora and Fauna in Ai-Ais/Richtersveld National Park

Due to the sparse settlement, an impressive diversity of animal and plant species has been able to develop in the Ai-Ais/Richtersveld National Park despite the aridity. In the plant kingdom, which at first glance seems sparse, the succulents, low ground plants that also thrive on rocks, are particularly well represented, many species of which are found nowhere else in the world. Here, for example, one finds the whimsical "half-man," an approximately 4m high mixture of cactus and tree, whose short branches and curled leaves at the top resemble a head.

Larger animals include mountain zebra, springbok, roe antelope, steenbok, baboon and klipspringer, with the shy leopard as the largest predator. The lunar landscape of the Ai-Ais/Richtersveld National Park is therefore considered the most species-rich desert in the world.

Tip: Especially at the end of the dry season from January to February, the animals retreat to the life-giving water vein of the Orange River, where they can be ideally observed.

Best time to visit Ai-Ais/Richtersveld National Park

The desert-like climate in the Ai-Ais/Richtersveld National Park is subject to high fluctuations. In summer, from October to February, it is hot and dry, with extreme temperatures of up to 50°C. At night, on the other hand, it is cool and in winter from April to September there can even be ground frost. The life-giving humidity comes mainly from the morning fog that moves across the mountain desert from the cold Atlantic Ocean.

The best time to visit the hot springs from March to October, the rest of the year is simply too hot for a swim. If you want to hike in the Fish River Canyon, you can only do so in the coolest months from May to August, otherwise the canyon is closed. Also the animals are best to be observed then.

What is the best way to get to the Ai-Ais/Richtersveld National Park?

Wild, original landscape, dreamlike peace and absolute desertedness one finds in the Ai-Ais/Richtersveld national park in Namibia - © FRASHO / franks-travelbox
© FRASHO / franks-travelbox

The Ai-Ais/Richtersveld National Park is anything but mass tourism. This is due to the fact that the relatively remote area is best reached by plane. From Cape Town in South Africa or Windhoek in Namibia it takes almost a whole day by car (9-10 hours). The wild and romantic slopes of the nature reserve are mainly roamed by naturalists and South Africa connoisseurs.

The round trip through the Ai-Ais/Richtersveld National Park is best done by off-road vehicle, which must be equipped with four-wheel drive and high ground clearance on the sandy to stony tracks. Normal cars are not allowed to drive in the national park at all. Soft sandy riverbeds and steep mountain passes require some experience in off-road driving.


Tip: Especially off-road beginners should not venture onto the adventurous tracks of the Ai-Ais/Richtersveld National Park alone, but only in a convoy or at least with a second vehicle. There is no cell phone reception in the entire park!

Sights in Ai-Ais/Richtersveld National Park

The park entrance and the park office are located in Sendelingsdrift near the Namibian border. Here there is also a last opportunity to shop and refuel. However, fresh fruit and vegetables should have been obtained beforehand.

At nightfall, every vehicle must either have left the national park or have stopped at one of the campsites, night drives are strictly prohibited. Possible campsites are Sendelingsdrift (right at the western park entrance and really luxurious with air-conditioning and swimming pool), Tatasberg and Ganakouriep. Only campsites without cabins are Potjiespram, De Hoop, Richtersberg, Kokerboomkloof, Hakkiesdoring and the Hiking Trails Base Camp.

Tip: In the camps in the Ai-Ais/Richtersveld National Park there are no stores, drinking water, provisions and firewood must be brought along. In Sendelingsdrift there are snacks, drinks and fuel - but not on weekends.

Fish River Canyon

View into the Fish River Canyon in the south of Namibia - with a length of 160km and up to 27km width it is the second largest canyon in the world - © FRASHO / franks-travelbox
© FRASHO / franks-travelbox

The main attraction of the Ai-Ais/Richtersveld National Park is the second largest canyon in the world, a spectacular 350 million year old gorge. Several viewpoints offer sensational views over the Fish River Canyon. In the course of guided tours, which can last up to several days, this breathtaking natural site can be explored. However, a certain level of physical fitness is a prerequisite for this.

Ai Ais - thermal bath in the desert

In the village of Ai Ais, in the southern valley of the Fish River Canyon, a thermal bath uses the hot springs found there. The water in the pools is about 60°C hot, which is not very tempting in summer with outside temperatures of 45-50°C. In winter, however, from April to September, the outside temperatures can be inviting. In winter, from April to September, however, the outside temperatures can be inviting.

For example, the state-run thermal baths, whose mineral-rich water is effective against rheumatism, are mainly used as a recreation center in the South African winter. The hotel premises and the camping site also function as a starting point for tours to the Fish River Canyon or the Hunsberg Mountains.

Richtersveld cultural landscape - home of the Nama people

To the south of the Ai-Ais/Richtersveld National Park is the Richtersveld Cultural Landscape, home to the Nama, the indigenous people of South Africa. They still live in traditional huts that look like igloos. Once made only of wood and rushes, they are now properly weatherproofed with canvas and plastic sheeting.

The last retreat of this nomadic people has been a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 2007, so that the Nama can lead their cattle unhindered from pasture to pasture. The migratory herds of goats, donkeys and sheep help to preserve the vegetation, a balance that has developed over the last two thousand years.

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Booking option for campsites in Ai-Ais-Richtersveld National Park