The Kuboes Landscape in Alexandra bay, Richtersveld Transfrontier Conservation  Park. Picture: Thobeka Ndabula
The Kuboes Landscape in Alexandra bay, Richtersveld Transfrontier Conservation Park. Picture: Thobeka Ndabula
A donkey-drawn cart carries people from the Richtersveld area in the North Western Cape.
A donkey-drawn cart carries people from the Richtersveld area in the North Western Cape.

Travel writer Toast Coetzer went on a 4x4 trip with well-known guide Rey Janse van Rensburg through the Richtersveld earlier this year and discovered just how big it is. Rey is from Namaqualand and has been leading tours into the Richtersveld since the 1970's. He shares his priceless knowledge...

Vastness, openness, mountain desert, steep hills, pointy rocks and narrow gaps... The Richtersveld is the rugged bad boy of 4x4 destinations.

You won't find any tented camps and quaint little lodges in this part of the world when you are undertaking that long awaited Richtersveld 4x4 adventure.

A lot of people think the AisAis section is the main destination but there is so much more to this mountain desert. A 4x4 is, of course, essential for driving here.

According to South Africa Nation Parks (SANParks), a startling discovery awaits as the mirage dissolves into human like half mens (half person) and the fauna proves to be a treasure chest of discovery. Half mens is the name of the type of tree that take on human stances as they grow “arms” and their tops look like heads. The top consists of thick, crinkled leaves, that looks a lot like the human head, the unusual appearance being the inspiration for its name.

Towns in the Richtersveld

Alexander Bay, Eksteenfontein, Kuboes, Lekkersing, Port Nolloth, Sanddrift and Steinkopf are the towns in the Richtersveld and each one proves to be a great destination to park the 4x4 and stretch some legs. Below is a map to give an idea of where each town lies.

Nestled in the hills of the Richtersveld, Lekkersing is on the road to Kuboes and offers many interesting finds for the discerning traveller. Discover how tombstones are cut to quartzite or take a guided tour to the Skurwehoog caves. Learn how to make “riempies” chairs, “velskoene” (shoes) and dresses and “kappies” at “Rusoord” the local craft and community workgroup.

Kuboes, lying on the periphery of the Richtersveld National Park, is situated in the heart of the Richtersveld and is described as an arid wonder. Here you might find the elusive klipspringer, a Smith's red rabbit or a majestic Gompou on the sand plains. There is a guest house if you want to take a break from the old two man tent.

Campsites are like gems you find a long the way and each one has something special to offer. You need to traverse a couple of passes to get to the Richtersberg campsite, but according to those who have camped there, it is totally worth it. Other equally great camps are Pootjiespram, De Hoop, Sendelingsdrift and Kokerboomkloof.

Things to keep in mind while camping on your Richtersveld 4x4 trip:

Don't camp right on the riverbeds. There is a terrible sandlouse that comes out at night and the flash floods is said to be very dangerous.

Mind the extreme temperature changes.

Richtersberg is the best campsite in the summer because there is less wind than most of the other campsites.

Kokerboomkloof is the place to camp in the winter. There are granitic structures which are best experienced when temperatures are cool.

According to Richtersveld National Park, the best view in the park is from Tatasberg, a relatively easy climb.

You don't go to the Richtersveld to see wildlife. It is more about the small things. The guides offer a lot of interesting facts about the fauna and flora of the dramatic landscapes of the Richtersveld. Here are a couple of things you have to see and take photos of on your Richtersveld 4x4 trip.

Five things to look out for in the Richtersveld:

1. Rock Hyrax

2. Ground Squirrel

3. Jackal buzzard

4. Half mens (half human)

5. Hartmann's Mountain Zebra

Millions of years of exposure to elements have caused the AisAis/Richtersveld Transfrontier Park's landscape to be harsh and not for the hesitant. The park stretches into Namibia, which means visitors can cross from South Africa. Quiver trees and mountain desert as far as the eye can see awaits. Just when you start to get tired of the aridness, the shimmering waters of the Orange River, which meets you as the road meanders to and from it, cools the eye down. Wild animals roam the plains. Likely to encounter are springbok, klipspringer, grey rheebok and steenbok. The cunning baboon also roams this part and you might also encounter the Hartmanns's Mountain Zebra (a protected species) which are also inhabitants of this fascinating desert. The AisAis National Park is managed by Nama people and the South African National Parks. - Discover Africa