Park to enhance Namibia tourism

Chief Warden of the South in the Ministry of Environment and Tourism, Patrick Lane, told The Southern Times: “We’re in the final stages before we start building the Sendelingsdrift and Namibia border posts. We are looking forward to start early November so that by March next year, we can open them to the public.”

He said an estimated R2,5 billion was expected to be used for the construction of the border posts at the park.

Lane said the project was expected to create employment for Namibians as his department would use the local community during the construction work.

“The local community will benefit immensely from this construction as we are going to use them in the construction of the border posts. In fact, the whole project will bring economic development in the form of tourism facilities,” he said.

The international treaty was signed on August 1, 2003 between the Ai – Ais Hot Springs Game Park in Namibia and Ai – Ais Richtersveld Park in South Africa, resulting in the establishment of the Ai – Ais/Richtersveld Trans-Frontier National Park.

The park lies in a harsh and unpredictable land, where water is scarce and life sustaining moisture comes in the form of morning fog ‘ called “‘huries” or “Malmokkies” by the local people ‘ 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, are found here with gnarled quiver trees, tall aloes and the quaint “half mens” (Pachypodium namaquanum) keeping vigil over this inscrutable landscape.

The park is only accessible by means of a 4×4 vehicle, but vehicles with high clearances such as combis do travel in the park. Sedan vehicles are not permitted.

One of the main features of the combined park is the world’s second largest canyon, the Fish River Canyon.

The Ai – Ais Richtersveld National Park is a very good example of one of the most interesting mega – ecosystems of the world, the succulent Karoo. There is no desert flora possessing similar species, richness and individuality of flora. On a surface area of one square kilometre, more than 360 plant species of flowering plants (angiosperms) are found at a site with an average rainfall of only 68 mm per year.

The National Park includes two floristic kingdoms.

A magnificent variety of dwarf shrubs with water-storing leaves belongs to the succulent Karoo region of the Greater Cape Flora, while its western portion forms part of the East Gariep Centre, the most important centre of the Nama Karoo Region.

The Ai – Ais /Richtersveld is divided into two portions belonging to two major climatical systems, the temperate winter rainfall region with its high air humidity and the inland region with higher temperatures as well as important summer rains and low humidity respectively.

Both units are closely placed against each other, separated by a narrow transition zone of about 10 to 20km.

The Ai – Ais /Richtersveld is widely reckoned as one of the world’s richest succulent areas. It is estimated that 50 genres out of a total of 160 from the Mesembryanthemaceae family occur here.
<BR> A number of endemic plant species only occur in small colonies on the highest peaks. About 30 percent of the total floristic composition is endemic to the park.

There are four main landscape units: the Orange River and adjacent floodplains, gentle undulating plains (distributed in the summer / all year round rainfall area), rolling hills and rugged mountains.

Two trees are particularly associated with the Ai – Ais Richtersveld – the bastard quiver tree (Kiewiet April 2001) and the half-mens (half human).

The half-mens (Pachypodium namaquanum) is a succulent with an unbranched, cylindrical stem, 1.5 to 2.5m and sometimes up to 4m in height.

Near the top, it has a tuft of branches, which lean northwards at an angle of 20 – 30 degrees.

The Namas revere the human-like trees as the embodiment of their ancestors, half human, half plant, mourning for their ancient Namibian home.

July 2006
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