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Richtersveld Cultural and Botanical Landscape*
UNESCO World Heritage Site

Tylecodon paniculatus-PICT2534.jpg
Richtersveld-Nationalpark, Northern Cape
State Party South Africa South Africa
Type Cultural
Criteria iv, v
Reference 1265
Region** Africa
Inscription history
Inscription 2007  (31st Session)
* Name as inscribed on World Heritage List.
** Region as classified by UNESCO.

The Richtersveld is situated in South Africa’s Northern Cape province, a mountainous desert landscape characterised by rugged kloofs, high mountains and dramatic landscapes. It is full of changing scenery from flat sandy plains, to craggy sharp mountains of volcanic rock and the lushness of the Orange River, which forms the border with neighbouring Namibia. The park ranges in altitude from less than 60m (less than 200 feet) in its far North, along the Orange river, to 1377m (4518 feet) at Cornellberg somewhat South of centre.

Located in South Africa's northern Namaqualand, this arid area represents a harsh landscape where water is a great scarcity and only the hardiest of lifeforms survive. Despite this, the Richtersveld is regarded as the only Arid Biodiversity Hotspot on Earth, with an astonishing variety of plant, bird and animal life (much of which is endemic).

A favourite amongst nature travellers to South Africa, the landscape is sometimes described as "martian". Though barren and desolate at first glance, closer examination reveals the area to be rich in desert lifeforms, with an array or unique species specially adapted for survival.

Temperatures are extreme, and in summer can reach over 50°C. Rain is a very, very rare event.

The northern part of the area was proclaimed as a National Park in 1991 after 18 years of negotiation with the local Nama people, who continue to live and graze their livestock in the area. It has an area of 1,624.45 square kilometres.

In June 2007, the "Richtersveld Cultural and Botanical Landscape", just to the south of the National Park and an area of equivalent size and beauty, was named a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Unlike the National Park, the Richtersveld Community Conservancy [1], which forms the core zone of the World Heritage Site, is not subject to diamond mining and is as a result the more pristine of the two areas.



The climate here is harsh with temperatures of up to 53 °C having been recorded in mid-summer. Nights are cool and bring with them heavy dew. This unique climate is what has fostered such a unique ecosystem.



With water so scarce, life in the Richtersveld depends on moisture from the early morning fog. Locals call it 'Ihuries' or 'Malmokkies' and it makes survival possible for a range of small reptiles, birds and mammals.


The park boasts excellent bird watching opportunities, as well as a diverse range of animals including grey rhebok, duiker, steenbok, klipspringer, kudu, Hartman’s mountain zebra, baboon, vervet monkey, caracal and leopard.

Plant life

Home to an impressive 650 plant species, this park boasts the world’s largest diversity of succulents and represents a prime example of one of the most interesting mega-ecosystems in the world, the Karoo.

Odd vegetation

The area is home to a number of rather unusual plants, many of which are found nowhere else on earth. Chief among these is the "Halfmensboom" (Pachypodium namaquanum Welw.). Literally translated, this means "half-person tree" and the name comes from the tree's resemblance to the human form; its top consists of a grouping of thick, crinkled leaves, which can make it look almost like a human head.

These trees are revered by the indigenous Nama people as the embodiment of their ancestors, half human, half plant, mourning for their ancient Namibian home.

Also found here are gnarled quiver trees, tall aloes and a variety of other succulents.

Cultural Value

The area is inhabited by Nama and other peoples. The local community, which owns the entire area, manages the National Park in conjunction with South African National Parks and is entirely responsible for management of the World Heritage Site. Both areas are used by traditional nomadic herders to practice their ancient lifestyle and culture. It is the last place where the traditional way of life of the KhoiKhoi (of whom the Nama are the surviving clan), who once occupied the entire south-western part of Africa, survives to any great extent.

Travel & Accommodation

Getting around inside the World Heritage Site and National Park is difficult and an all-wheel drive vehicle is required. Tourist accommodation is available in the National Park, at the villages of Eksteenfontein and Lekkersing on the edges of the World Heritage Site and at Rooiberg inside the World Heritage Site.

See also

External links

Coordinates: 28°17′24″S 17°08′11″E / 28.29°S 17.13639°E / -28.29; 17.13639


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