Augrabies Falls National Park
Augrabies Falls National Park is a national park located around its main attraction, the Augrabies Falls, about 120 km west of Upington in the Northern Cape Province, South Africa. The park covers an area of 820 km² and stretches along the Orange River. The area is very arid. The waterfall is about 60 metres high and is awe-inspiring when the river is in flood. The gorge below the falls averages about 240m deep and runs for 18 kilometres. The gorge provides an impressive example of erosion into a granitic basement.
Established in 1966, the original Khoikhoi people named the waterfall Ankoerebis, meaning the "place of big noises". The Trekboers who later settled in the area derived the name Augrabies. The name is sometimes spelt Aughrabies.
A prominent landmark in the park is Moon Rock, a large exfoliation dome measuring around 700 metres (2,300 ft) by 100 metres (330 ft) and 30 metres (98 ft) high.
Flora and fauna
The most characteristic plant in the park is the giant aloe (Aloe dichotoma) known locally as the quiver tree or kokerboom. It is perfectly adapted to the dry semi-desert rocky areas found in the Nama-Karoo, able to withstand the extreme temperatures and the infertile soil. This tree, which grows up to five metres high, gets its name from the fact that the Bushmen (San) used the soft branches to make quivers for their arrows. The eye-catching silhouette of the quiver tree is typical of this part of Northern Cape landscape. When the tree flowers in the winter flocks of birds are attracted to their copious nectar, and baboons can be seen tearing the flowers apart to get the sweet liquor.
Fauna include giraffe, leopard, kudo, eland, steenbok, dassie, and an exceptionally high concentration of lizards. Vervet monkeys and baboons have become habituated to humans and will take any unattended food.
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Extremely hot in summer, with the December maximum averaging 36 degrees. Rooms are air-conditioned, but camping can be unpleasant, and many of the walks are not advisable in the heat.
From Cape Town, take the N7 north. Either take the R358 for a more direct route (about 10.5 hours in total, albeit along a dirt road much of the way), or continue north to Springbok, taking the N14 east to Augrabies village (11 hours in total).
Alternatively, fly to Upington airport, and drive the remaining 120km.
Base rate for chalets range between R600 and R1400 per night. Base rate for camp site is R180 per night for up to 2 people and R62 for each additional adult and R32 per child under 12 years.
Conservation fee entrance for South African citizens is R30 per day, SADC nationals pay R60 per day and all others pay R120. Children under 12 years of age pay half price and children under 2 have free entry.
Walkways lead from the restaurant to the observation decks at the main falls.
Take an easy walk to the waterfalls from the park reception area. There are a number of lookout points. The falls are also lit up until 10pm for a spectacular (and much cooler) night view.
Hot-air ballooning (in the cooler months only) and white-water rafting are available outside of the park.
There are also a number of short hikes, and the 3-day Klipspringer hike (closed in summer) available.
An ATM and petrol station is available at the main camp. The small shop next to the reception sells curios and some food supplies.
There is a restaurant in the park serving mostly meat dishes, with limited vegetarian fare. The small shop also sells some food items.
Visiting in the summer, you will need to drink a lot! The restaurant has a bar area, and the shop also sells alcohol Monday to Saturday.
All booking is done through the Sanparks website.
Air-conditioned and comfortable chalets and cottages are available.
The campsites are shaded and well-situated, but the area gets extremely hot in summer, so come prepared or rent an air-conditioned chalet.
Most of the risks are of the wild variety, with baboons and vervet monkeys likely to steal unattended food (or raid a cottage left with its windows open). Care also needs to be taken to avoid scorpion stings and snakebites when walking in the park.
The park also falls into a marginal malaria area, but the risk is low and most visitors don't bother with prophylactics.