Augrabies is a tiny town located in the Green Kalahari Desert in the Northern Cape Province. The town is a short distance from the Augrabies National Park and along the fertile banks of the Orange River that separates South Africa from its northerly neighbours.
Most people identify the word Augrabies with the waterfall that lies in the Augrabies National Park. South Africa’s first nation, the Khoi people, call the waterfall Akroerabis, meaning the place of great noise, and Augrabies is the accepted distortion of the word, simply because of the complex clicks and consonant pronunciations in the Khoi word. The waterfall is 56 metres high, however, water travels downward for a total of 185m before reaching the pool below. By the time the water hits the visible 56 meter mark, a spurt jets outward in a magnificent display of hydro power.
The town is rather sparse but has all the necessary conveniences (banking, fuel, groceries, etc.) to meet traveller’s needs. The surrounding area is rich in unique fauna and flora and is a prime producer of sweet table grapes. Aside from the waterfall, game viewing, birding, hiking and local culture are some of the exciting attractions in Augrabies.
Top 6 reasons to visit Augrabies
1. For interesting oral history and lively storytelling, speak to the locals to find out about the legends and mysteries that surround Augrabies and whether or not the pools below the waterfall are filled with diamonds.
2. Drive to the Augrabies National Park to view the waterfall, take a game drive to see the black rhino, climb Moon Rock for incredible vistas and shout your name out at Echo Corner, a valley so vast that echoing sound takes a few seconds to be heard.
3. Hikers will enjoy the 3-day Klipspringer Hiking Trail. The trail follows the Orange River for 8km before veering off into the wilderness. Some of the landscapes are highly unusual and likened to the moon’s surface.
4. Visit the massive 960000ha Kgalagadi Transfrontier National Park that spans 3 countries, to see big cats such as the lion and leopard. The park has over 250 bird species and 2 of the heaviest, the kori bustard and secretary bird, are resident.
5. Spend time at the natural hot springs in Riemvasmaak. The springs are located deep in a gorge and the area has good hiking, mountain bike and 4x4 routes. The town’s unusual name means to ‘tighten the belt’.
6. The nearby town of Kakamas has ancient waterwheels designed by the Egyptians that are used by local farmers to water their fields. Be sure to buy the famous Kakamas peaches, raisins and table grapes from the town before departing.
The nearest airport is Upington International Airport, 110km away and for flights via the main centres of Johannesburg, Cape Town and Durban. The Upington airport and Upington town centre has a few car rental agencies, otherwise order a rental online. Augrabies does not have public transport, the only means of travel is a hired car or organised tour.
Did you know?
In 1775, a Dutch East India Company (DEIC) employee deserted and made his way up to the Orange River. The DEIC treated desertion as a serious crime, and if caught, the deserter would face the most torturous punishment that mostly led to death. He spent 4 years travelling and documenting the area. The DEIC found his work invaluable and he was pardoned and allowed to return to the Cape. His journal was only published in 1916.
In flood, the water gushing over the Augrabies waterfall can be heard for miles around and many Khoi descendants revere the falls, treating the entire area as a place of folklore.