The harsh desert environment of Richtersveld Transfrontier National Park is actually a trove of beautiful desert flora. Although the treaty to combine Richtersveld in South Africa and the Namibia Hot Springs Game Park has made it a major attraction, tourism in the park is limited due to the delicate ecosystem. However, Richtersveld National Park does have several accommodations for visitors, who are admitted in small groups.
Like the Kgalagadi National Park, which shares its border with Botswana, Richtersveld in South Africa crosses the boundary between two countries. In 2003, a treaty was signed between South Africa and Namibia that created an open border between Richtersveld and the Hot Springs Game Park. Tourists covet a visit to this vast expanse of desert and hot springs, but entry is limited in order to protect the fragile environment in which desert plant life is abundant and the Fish River Canyon cuts through the arid terrain.
The desert flora lends a charming character to the Richtersveld Transfrontier National Park. The legendary half-mens dot the sparse grounds, with their crinkly tops reaching up to the sun and collecting what little water they can from the morning fog that rolls in from offshore. Half-mens are cactus-like plants with a mop of furrowed leaves at the very top; they resemble a small person from a distant point of view. Other succulent plants grow between rocks all over the park; spring is an especially marvelous time to view the flora, especially after a fine rainy season.
Animals in the Richtersveld National Park include small reptiles, dozens of birds, and other desert fauna from the rock hyrax, ground squirrels, the jackal buzzard, and the mountain zebra. Delightful antics are displayed by these animals, and guests are always charmed with wonderful opportunities for photographs.
Although entry is limited, small groups of tourists are allowed into the park for safaris. These safaris cover several driving trails meandering through the park and last up to four days. Guided hiking trails are also available for guests. Other activities are under development by management, including river rafting, canoeing, horse and camel trails and tours, and other specialized tours such as botanical and cultural tours.
During the safaris at the Richtersveld National Park, tourists will stay at the provided accommodations. The Sendelingsdrift rest camp provides comfortable amenities at each cabin with a view of the Orange River, and guests of Sendelingsdrift will also enjoy access to the on-site swimming pool.
Wilderness camps are more in line with basic needs for an enhanced nature experience. Campsites are another option for those looking for a close encounter with nature; most of these campsites feature cold shower units. An important thing to note is that in many cases, the water is unsuitable for drinking, so it is advisable to carry a good supply of drinking water during a visit to the Richtersveld Transfrontier National Park.
Richtersveld in South Africa features a great deal in the way of an unexpected abundance of life. Many of the plants grow in surprising locations as they soak up all the sun they can and every ounce of water that touches the earth nearby. Tours of the park are a wonderful experience and should be included on your list of things to do in South Africa, especially if you are interested in visiting the country's many national parks and reserves.