Category Archives: Augrabies Falls National Park

Augrabies Flat Lizard

Platysaurus broadleyi

The Augrabies Flat Lizard, or Broadley’s Flat Lizard, is a South African endemic occurring in a tiny piece of the Northern Cape Province, centered on the Augrabies Falls where they are extremely common (one of the highest densities of any lizard anywhere on earth) and a familiar sight to visiting tourists. They grow to a length of around 8cm, excluding the tail, and their exceptionally flat bodies allow them to escape predators by hiding in the narrowest of crevices.

Preferring arid, sparsely vegetated, rocky habitats, Augrabies Flat Lizards follow an omnivorous diet that includes mainly insects (often caught by jumping into the air!), ripe Namaqua figs and pieces of food dropped by tourists. Augrabies Flat Lizards are active throughout the year and do not hibernate in winter, though they are active for shorter periods then. In the hot summer of their arid environs they will hide in the shade during the heat of the day. Their breeding season stretches from spring to early summer, during which the colourful males will display to the drab females and each other, and get involved in serious territorial disputes if need be. Females may produce two clutches of eggs in a season, the first young emerging from late December.

Augrabies Flat Lizards featured in a terrific clip on a BBC Wildlife programme presented by Sir David Attenborough. The IUCN considers the Augrabies Flat Lizard to be of least concern.

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Hartmann’s Mountain Zebra

Equus zebra hartmannae

With stallions weighing around 300kg and standing 1.5m high at the shoulder, the Hartmann’s Mountain Zebra is slightly larger than its close relative, the Cape Mountain Zebra. They share a similar liking for arid, broken terrain, though Hartmann’s Mountain Zebra will also exploit sandy plains adjacent to their preferred rocky, hilly abodes. Mountain Zebras are almost exclusively grazers and require regular access to a reliable water source – Hartmann’s Zebras have been known to dig wells in dry riverbeds to access clean water.

Hartmann’s Mountain Zebras occur in small family groups consisting of a dominant stallion, up to 5 mares and their offspring of various ages that may roam over vast areas. Unattached adult males come together in bachelor groups until they can establish a group of their own. Hartmann’s Mountain Zebras are diurnal animals and will rest in the shade during the heat of the day. Foals may be born at anytime of year, though there is a peak in births during the wetter summer months.

The Augrabies Falls National Park (where this herd was photographed) is one of only two national parks in South Africa where a small population of the Hartmann’s Mountain Zebra can be seen – the other is the Richtersveld National Park. Small herds can also be found in a handful of provincially managed reserves and private farms in South Africa (the latter also outside the natural range of the Hartmann’s Mountain Zebra, posing a risk of crossbreeding with the Cape Mountain Zebra). The total population of the subspecies was estimated at around 25,000 (of which 8,300 mature animals) in 1998, with the majority of these occurring in neighbouring Namibia. The IUCN considers the Hartmann’s Mountain Zebra to be vulnerable, siting a probably declining population.

Augrabies Falls National Park

The Orange River, South Africa’s biggest and longest (running 2,200km from its source in Lesotho to its mouth at the Atlantic Ocean) is, for the most part, a lazy, slow-flowing waterway. That changes however when it is forced through a narrow granitic channel in the arid Northern Cape, plunges 56m over the impressive Augrabies Falls and continues through a dramatic gorge for another 18km before again returning to its more placid ways.

After years of political wrangling, a small 5,400 hectare area around the Falls was proclaimed the Augrabies Falls National Park in August 1966. Subsequently surrounding areas have been incorporated, and today the Park covers over 51,000 hectares.

Visitors can enjoy the best views of the Falls from several vantage points connected by easily negotiated boardwalks.

Consider that these photos taken during our visit in June 2018 saw the river flowing at a below average 38 cubic meters per second, and then imagine what it must look like when a flood of approximately 7,800 cumec, as happened in 1988, thunders down the Falls, to understand exactly why the Khoi named this place “Aukoerebis“, meaning “the place of great noise“!

Although the Falls is a worthy focal point of the National Park, there’s still lots more to see further afield when exploring this arid rocky desert landscape (the Park receives only about 120mm of rain annually). Places like Oranjekom, Ararat, Echo Corner and the Moon Rock are well worth the visit for spectacular views and fascinating geology. Quiver Trees and Namaqua Porkbush, both of which we’ll feature in more detail soon, are conspicuous plants and brilliantly adapted to life in this harsh environment. Rocky hills and arid plains where animals and birds abound add to the attraction.

Among the fauna finding protection in the Augrabies Falls National Park counts 49 species of mammal, 181 recorded bird species, around 50 species of reptile, 6 kinds of frog and 12 species of indigenous fish.

Guests can be accommodated overnight in the rest camp’s chalets or the very neat camping area, all within easy walking distance from the Falls (illuminated until 10pm each evening). At the camp there’s four swimming pools (including one for day visitors), a shop, restaurant, fuel station and a little bird-watching hide. The Oranjekom Gorge Cottage is located about 10km from the main camp, and offers privacy and magnificent views over the ravine and river. Provision is also made for day visitors with picnic sites in the camp and along the game viewing loop. Visitors are welcome to explore the Park’s roads in their own vehicle (some roads are only accessible to 4×4 vehicles) or on mountain bikes, and there’s several hiking trails to choose from ranging in length from 2 to 33km (the latter being the Klipspringer Trail which includes two overnight stops). Guided drives (both day and night) in open vehicles can be booked at reception.

The Augrabies Falls National Park is in one of the remotest corners of South Africa’s Northern Cape Province; roughly 930km from Pretoria and 870km from Cape Town. The nearest major airport with daily flights is at Upington, about 125km away. We enjoyed a wonderful two-night visit to Augrabies at the end of June 2018, during which all these photos were taken.

Location of Augrabies Falls National Park

Back from the Kalahari

We’ve just arrived home after a little more than a week spent exploring two of South Africa’s most remote national parks – the Augrabies Falls National Park and the Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park. Here’s a little selection of the thousands of pictures we came back home with for you to enjoy while we work at answering all the comments you left for us on the scheduled posts that published during our absence. Of course there’ll be many more pictures from these two magnificent destinations in the weeks to come!