This superb tour combines the stark beauty of the vast mountain desert known as the Richtersveld with several highly desirable South African endemic birds. It also provides a juicy taste of the floral splendour of springtime Namaqualand and the rugged beauty and mystique of the Diamond Coast.
- Trip Outline
- Trip Includes
- Trip Excludes
15 to 25 August 2022
This fantastic trip is centred around the Richtersveld, a spectacular mountain desert in the north-western corner of South Africa. The Richtersveld is one of the remotest and least explored regions of South Africa; it is also one of the richest in terms of both biological and mineral wealth. The isolation of the Richtersveld and its enigmatic beauty make it an increasingly attractive destination for adventurous travellers and for those seeking out Earth’s final frontiers.
The tour also provides a juicy taste of the floral splendour of springtime Namaqualand and the rugged beauty and mystique of the Diamond Coast.
The Richtersveld region stretches from Steinkopf and Port Nolloth in the south up to the Orange River and from Alexander Bay to Vioolsdrif. The Ai Ais Richtersveld Transfrontier Park is a small part of this, in the loop of the Orange River. This park is in one of the most undeveloped and inaccessible areas in South Africa.
The Richtersveld is a desert of ever-changing vistas-contorted mountains with awe-inspiring names like Mount Terror and Devil’s Tooth, narrow valleys, wide plains and rocks fashioned into bizarre shapes by wind, rain and extremes of temperature. The mountains of the Richtersveld are truly awe-inspiring and lovers of remote places will find endless pleasures in its richness.
Namaqua National Park
As if by magic a tapestry of brilliant colours unfold enticingly along the winding roads of the Namaqua National Park. Butterflies, birds and long-tongued flies dart around among the flowers, seemingly overwhelmed by the abundance and diversity. Every turn in the road paints an unforgettable picture: valleys filled with Namaqualand daisies and other spring flowers that pulse with sheer energy and joy.
The Diamond Coast
Situated in the north-western corner of South Africa’s rugged Northern Cape is the stretch of pristine coastline aptly named The Diamond Coast. These shores have remained virtually unknown to the public at large as it is within the restricted and previously forbidden diamond mining areas. The valuable mineral treasures hidden within its sands are not the only treasures of the area. The Sandveld has been jealously guarded and is home to many indigenous plants, animals and insects.
We depart from Johannesburg on an early morning flight and head for the “Fairest Cape of All” at the start of what promises to be a memorable and rewarding trip.
We travel via Citrusdal and Clanwilliam to our first overnight stop, a beautiful guest farm, overlooking the Gifberg, near Vanrhynsdorp
The Gifberg Pass connects Vanrhynsdorp with the top of the Matsikamma Mountain, some 20 km south of the town. The Pass breasts a flat-topped mountain called Maskam that forms part of the Matzikamma mountain range. The Gifberg is so-called because it is the only place in the world where the highly poisonous ‘gifboom’, Hyaenanche globosa, is found. Its fruit is highly toxic and was used by the San on their arrowheads and by local farmers to kill hyenas.
The Gifberg also has some of the most well-preserved rock art in the whole of the Western Cape.
After some early morning birding and a hearty breakfast, we continue our journey northwards.
We travel via Springbok, the magnificent Spektakel Pass and Kleinsee to our next overnight stop, a charming guesthouse at MacDougalls Bay, near Port Nolloth, on the Diamond Coast.
Kleinsee is surrounded by Namaqualand’s coastal plain, known as Strandveld. The coastal strip consists of white sand and rocky outcrops. Vegetation grows to an average height of 30 cm and includes a variety of succulents and hardy shrubs.
Birding includes walks along the coast, around an estuary and in the nature reserves. Approximately 115 bird species have been recorded. Top birds for the area include Kori and Ludwig’s Bustard, Southern Black Korhaan, African Black Oystercatcher, Karoo Scrub-Robin, Cape Penduline-Tit, Cape Long-billed Lark and Black-headed Canary. The Buffels River estuary’s wetland area teems with aquatic birds, waders, warblers, weavers and more.
The Kleinsee Cape Fur Seal colony is situated just north of the town There are an estimated 300 000 to 400 000 animals, and the site is the largest on-land seal colony in South Africa.
Port Nolloth is a small town, originally built to provide an export harbour for the copper from Okiep. The town has a strange desert atmosphere as it is on an arid and barren coastal plain, yet it holds some fascination for the visitor.
We spend one night in a charming guesthouse on the seafront at MacDougalls Bay, a stones-throw away from Port Nolloth..
Our primary birding targets for Port Nolloth are Barlow’s and Cape Long-billed Larks. Both species occur in dunes around Still Bay, a few kilometers north of Port Nolloth.
Birds along the coastline include Bank and Crowned Cormorant, African Black Oystercatcher, and various species of waders.
We take our leave of Port Nolloth and head northwards towards Alexander Bay, en route to the Richtersveld wonderland. Alexander Bay, some 90km north of Port Nolloth, is a diamond mining town belonging to Alexkor and one passes through a security gate before entering the town. We visit the Orange River mouth and its associated wetlands. The river mouth, mudflats, marshlands, islets near the mouth, and adjacent pans provide a sizeable area of sheltered shallow water suitable for concentrations of wetland birds, which use these habitats for breeding purposes or as a stopover on migration routes. The bird population can be as high as 20000-26000 individuals. Lesser and Greater Flamingos, Black-necked Grebe, Chestnut-banded Plover, Caspian and Damara Terns, Little Bittern and Maccoa, and African Black Ducks are some of the more interesting species which may be found. We spend one night in a charming guesthouse on the seafront. Our primary birding targets for Port Nolloth are Barlow’s and Cape Long-billed Larks. Both species occur in dunes around Still Bay, a few kilometers north of Port Nolloth. Birds along the coastline include Bank and Crowned Cormorant, African Black Oystercatcher, and various species of waders.
The Richtersveld is a harsh and unpredictable land where water is scarce and life-sustaining moisture comes in the form of early morning fog which rolls in from the cold waters of the Atlantic Ocean, sustaining a remarkable range of small reptiles, birds and mammals. A staggering assortment of plant life, some species occurring nowhere else, is to be found here, with gnarled quiver trees, tall aloes and quaint “halfmens” keeping vigil over this inscrutable landscape.
Birding in the Park is very rewarding and many of the dry western specials can be found. These include Ludwig’s Bustard, Bradfield’s Swift, Cinnamon-breasted Warbler, Namaqua Warbler, Orange River White-eye, Karoo Eremomela, Grey Tit, Cape Penduline-Tit, Tractrac and Sickle-winged Chat and Stark’s, Sabota and Karoo Long-billed Lark. Raptors are well represented, with Booted Eagle, Black-chested Snake-Eagle, Jackal Buzzard, Lanner Falcon and Southern Pale Chanting Goshawk occurring regularly. A night excursion into the hills surrounding the camp may yield Cape Eagle-Owl if we are very fortunate.
We spend our first two nights in the Park in fully equipped chalets in Sendelingsdrift rest camp, overlooking the Orange River. Our second night is spent at the stunning Tatasberg Wilderness Camp beside the Orange River, a place that is difficult to beat for its virtuoso setting. From the camp, one gets a broad view of the river and some mountains on the Namibian side.
Built in a similar style to the chalets at Tatasberg, Gannakouriep Wilderness Camp is situated within a rocky valley in the south-west of the park. The camp is situated in the dry interior and has an outlook just as soulful as at Tatasberg, though completely different. Here we spend two nights in glorious isolation, far from the madding crowd.
We say a fond farewell to the Richtersveld and start our journey southwards. Our routing takes us through the Richtersveld Community Conservancy, and we travel via the little towns of Eksteenfontein and Kuboes to Naries Namakwa Retreat, a beautiful hideaway on the edge of the Spektakelberg between Springbok and Kleinsee.
Our next overnight destination is Naries Namakwa Retreat, a beautiful hideaway on the edge of the Spektakelberg between Springbok and Kleinzee.
Using Naries as our base we pay a visit to Namaqua National Park, near Kamieskroon. Our route takes us into the heart of spectacular spring floral displays that provide such a colourful, yet ephemeral façade to a fascinating region. Within a radius of 60km one finds four different regions, each with its characteristic rock formations and natural flowers, developing at their own pace during the flower season to eventually display a kaleidoscope of colour – multi-coloured carpets stretching as far as the eye can see. We spend two nights at the superb Naries Namakwa Retreat in charming cottages, offering a unique experience amid spectacular scenery.
After an early morning walk around Naries, we proceed to our final overnight stay, a farm guesthouse situated on a working farm near Piekenierskloof, between Citrusdal and Clanwilliam.
Unfortunately, all good things must come to an end, and after an exhilarating and soul enriching experience we must head for Cape Town and our return flight to “civilization”.
This 11-day tour departs from Cape Town. We travel in an air-conditioned Double Cab 4-wheel drive vehicle.
Date : August 15, 2021
Depart on early morning flight from Johannesburg to Cape Town.
Travel via Clanwilliam and Springbok to the Gifberg, near Vanrhynsdorp.
Afternoon flower watching and birding.
Overnight at Maskam Guest Farm.
Date : August 16, 2021
Early morning birding on farm.
Depart after breakfast for Port Nolloth.
Travel via Springbok, Spektakel Pass and Kleinsee to Port Nolloth.
Late afternoon birding around Port Nolloth.
Overnight at guesthouse in McDougalls Bay.
Date : August 17, 2021
Port Nolloth-Sendelingsdrift, Richtersveld NP
Early morning birding in the dune fields near Port Nolloth
Depart after breakfast for the RIchtersveld, via Alexander Bay.
Visit the Orange River mouth at Alexander Bay, en route to the Park.
Arrive late afternoon and overnight at Sendelingsdrift Rest Camp.
Date : August 18, 2021
Day spent birding and sightseeing in the Sendelingsdrift area.
Afternoon visit to Potjiespram for birding and sundowners
Overnight at Sendelingsdrift Rest Camp.
Date : August 19, 2021
Early morning birding around camp.
Depart after breakfast for Tatasberg, via Akkedis Pass and De Hoop
Early afternoon arrival and overnight at Tatasberg Wilderness Camp.
Date : August 20, 2021
Early morning birding around camp
Depart after breakfast for Gannakouriep.
Arrive early afternoon and overnight at Gannakouriep Wilderness Camp.
Date : August 21, 2021
Day spent exploring area, including visit to Kokerboomkloof.
Overnight at Gannakouriep Wilderness Camp.
Date : August 22, 2021
Early morning birding and exploring around camp.
Depart after breakfast for Naries Namakwa Retreat, via Helskloof Pass
and the Richtersveld Conservancy.
Afternoon birding and overnight at Naries Namakwa Retreat.
Date : August 23, 2021
Early morning walk around Naries.
Depart after breakfast for Namaqua National Park near Kamieskroon.
Rest of day spent birding and flower watching in Park.
Late-afternoon return and overnight at Naries Namakwa Retreat.
Date : August 24, 2021
Early morning walk around Naries.
Depart after breakfast.
Visit Goegap Nature Reserve and the Knersvlakte en route to Piekenierskloof area.
Afternoon birding in Kransvlei Poort, en route to overnight accommodation.
Overnight at farm guesthouse.
Date : August 25, 2022
Piekenierskloof-Cape Town International
Early morning birding around farm.
After breakfast depart for Cape Town International airport for afternoon flight to Johannesburg.
Ground transport (in double cab 4*4), all meals and accommodation, guiding, conservation fees and entrance fees.
Return flights between Johannesburg and Cape Town.
Alcoholic beverages, gratuities and items of a personal nature.