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Africa Geographic Travel

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I’ve been to the Richtersveld National Park a few times, but I never get tired of going. The scenery is unique – desert mountains that surround massive sandy plains, and of course the Orange River (or Gariep, as it’s known locally by the Nama) that flows through the gorge. If it wasn’t for this river, then I imagine the Richtersveld would be almost impossible to visit in summer time. Park manager Nick de Goede says his record high is 62 degrees celsius.

Looking northwest towards Namibia across the Gariep River.

My own is 57 degrees celsius, recorded in January a few years ago. Without the river to drink from and to cool off in, the heat is too intense. The river makes human habitation possible (the local Nama community are allowed to graze their goats in the park – in fact, the park’s land actually belongs to these communities, and SANParks rents the land from them for conservation purposes).

Nevertheless, the weather can be fickle. One morning, while staying at the beautiful Tatasberg Wilderness Camp, ranger Seth Domrogh and I left early to walk up Tatasberg mountain itself. This is a 1 000 metre high granite pluton, with thousands and thousands of massive granite boulders piled on top of each other. We left before sunrise to drive to the bottom of the mountain, and at that stage there was not a cloud in the sky. As we started walking up, the wind picked up, and we could see the fog bank rolling in from the cold Atlantic Ocean situated 150 kms to the west.

Looking west, towards the fog bank rolling in.
The view from half way up Tatasberg.
Waiting for the fog to clear.

Within half an hour, the mountain was shrouded in mist and we battled to keep our balance in the howling wind. We waited it out and after a few hours, the clouds lifted enough for us to see the stupendous view.

The fast moving clouds made for some cool landscape photography.
As the sun rises, the fog burns off pretty quickly.

The cold Atlantic is the reason for the desert conditions. The heavy air hardly ever gets a chance to rise, making condensation and rain cloud formation difficult. The only moisture comes from the fog which rolls in every now and then.

Ranger Seth Domrogh with a particularly fine specimen of a giant quiver tree.
Double banded sandgrouse… these birds are so well camouflaged.
Nothing quite like a full moon rising in the desert.
This swallow-tailed bee eater was cooling off in a tamarisk tree.
The road into the Richtersveld… still very much a frontier atmosphere to this region.

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Photojournalist Scott Ramsay focuses on exploring the national parks, nature reserves and community conservancies in Southern Africa, taking photographs and interviewing the experts who work in these protected areas. Through his work, he hopes to inspire others to travel to the continent's wild places, which Scott believes are Africa's greatest long term assets. For more, go to or Partners include Ford Ranger, Goodyear, Cape Union Mart, K-Way, EeziAwn, Frontrunner, Hetzner and Globecomm.

Africa Geographic Travel
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