Ai-Ais Richtersveld Transfrontier Park Safari Guide

safarigo   Namibia  

|Ai-|Ais/Richtersveld Transfrontier Park spans both South Africa and Namibia and has some of the most spectacular desert mountain scenery in Africa. The park is mainly a scenic wilderness destination. Although it’s the world's only area classified as an arid biodiversity hotspot, densities of large animals are low. In Namibia, it features the extraordinary Fish River Canyon, the world's second largest canyon.

Pros & Cons

Stunning desert scenery and great photographic opportunities
The world's richest area for succulent plants
Off-the-beaten-track destination with great wilderness appeal
Adventurous destination for 4WD and hiking enthusiasts
Little variety and low density of large animals
Far away from major tourist attractions
Very hot conditions and harsh environment
Accessible by 4WD and high clearance vehicles only

Wildlife & Animals

|Ai-|Ais/Richtersveld Transfrontier Park is a wilderness destination home to a big variety of species, but very few large mammals. Several antelope species can be spotted, including klipspringer, grey rhebok, steenbok and common duiker. Vervet monkey and chacma baboon are present as well. Leopard are rare to see, but their tracks are proof of their presence.

Wildlife Highlights

The Hartmann's mountain zebra is the star species that can be encountered in the park. They live in small groups of seven to 12 individuals, and they are agile climbers. Suricate are also well-adapted to the arid environment and groups of them can be seen scanning the environment while standing on their hind legs, before scurrying off into their burrows. The elusive caracal is quite common but rarely seen.


The |Ai-|Ais/Richtersveld has over 200 bird species recorded with 23 species restricted to southern Africa. The only breeding pair of augur buzzards in the region occurs here, and the high cliffs are very good viewing sites for other birds of prey, such as jackal buzzard and African fish eagle.

Best Time to Visit

|Ai-|Ais/Richtersveld is not a prime wildlife destination. Since it can get extremely hot during the summer months of October to April, the milder winter months of May to September are a much more preferable time to visit. If there is enough rain, the spring flowers will be in bloom from August to September.

May to September – Dry Season

Comfortable weather
August and September might bring spring flowers
You need warm clothing for cold mornings and evenings
It is high season on the Namibia side, and the Fish River Canyon viewpoint can get busy

October to April – Wet Season

The presence of migrant birds makes for prime birding conditions
It is warmer in the night and early morning
The weather is very hot in the middle of the day

Weather & Climate

|Ai-|Ais/Richtersveld has summer and winter at opposite times compared to the seasons in Europe and North America. The climate is harsh and dry, and although the average daytime temperatures are pretty mild, it often gets extremely hot. Temperatures of up to 53°C/127°F having been recorded in mid-summer.

Dry Season – May to September

It is dry throughout the year. Days are moderate in winter, but nights can be very cold. It is important to take along warm winter clothes. Days are rarely cloudy, with sunshine and bright skies being typical.

May – The end of summer comes with temperatures ranging from 9°C/48°F in the morning to 22°C/72°F in the afternoon.
June, July & August – Be sure to wear warm, winter clothing for the cold mornings that average 6°C/42°F. Sometimes it drops below freezing. Afternoons will be mild with temperatures around 20°C/69°F.
September – Temperatures increase to an average of 22°C/72°F in the afternoons and a still chilly 8°C/46°F in the mornings.

Wet Season – October to April

Although the average daytime temperatures are relatively mild, it often gets brutally hot during summer. Temperatures may rise to 45°C/113°F and higher in the afternoon, making the heat difficult to cope with. Nights cool off and are pleasant. Rainfall is rare.

October & November – Temperatures are on the rise, ranging between 12°C/53°F in the morning and 25°C/77°F in the afternoon.
December, January & February – Temperatures can exceed the average of 28°C/82°F by far. Early mornings are cool, approximately 15°C/58°F.
March & April – The high temperatures decline to a more tolerable level with a daytime average of 26°C/80°F. Nights cool to a comfortable 13°C/55°F.

Getting There

The |Ai-|Ais/Richtersveld Transfrontier Park spans two countries: South Africa and Namibia. The Sendelingsdrift pontoon takes cars across the border, crossing the Gariep (Orange) River from the Richtersveld in South Africa to the Fish River Canyon and Ai-Ais hot springs on the Namibia side. It acts as a proper border crossing, so you'll get your passport stamped.

The |Ai-|Ais/Richtersveld is primarily a self-drive destination (especially on the South African side) although organized tours are available. The park is not accessible with an ordinary 2WD car. A 4WD vehicle is preferred, but high clearance pick-ups or 2WD SUVs can also enter the park. Driving in convoy is recommended. On the Namibia side, fly-around-tours with chartered planes are common, and the Fish River Canyon can be part of the itinerary.


South Africa Side

There are two options available to those visiting 
|Ai-|Ais/Richtersveld on the South Africa side. Upon flying into Johannesburg – O.R. Tambo International Airport (JNB), you can hire a car and drive to the park. You can also take a connecting flight from Johannesburg to Upington Airport (UTN) or Cape Town International Airport (CPT) and rent a car there. The park is 1600km/994mi away from Johannesburg, 885km/549mi from Cape Town and 720km/447mi from Upington.

Namibia Side

Generally, visitors to |Ai-|Ais/Richtersveld in Namibia fly into Hosea Kutako International Airport (WDH) located 40km/25mi east of Windhoek, where you can rent a car. The park is located approximately 650km/403mi away. You can visit the canyon as a day trip, or you can go deeper into the park to Ais-Ais Hot Springs. A 4WD vehicle is only necessary when venturing deeper into the park (including the hot springs).