The eight months I've spent here in the park have taught me a valuable lesson: Augrabies Falls National Park is much more than just a waterfall. We even have a poster that says just that, and it is completely true.
Many people come for just one day or stay one night, see the waterfall, and drive on to either Kgalagadi or Namaqua. That's such a shame, really, because we offer some quite fun things to do here which would take a couple days to fully experience: the Dassie Interpretive Hiking Trail, Game Drive, Night Drives, the Gariep 3-in-1 Adventure, and the Klipspringer Hiking Trail. And these are just eco adventures in the park itself! Outside the park, you can enjoy horseback riding, rafting, canoeing, 4x4ing, hiking, and relaxing in the local hot springs. To do all (or even just a couple) of these things takes several days so I encourage folks to plan for more than just a quick day visit if they have the time.
Dassie Interpretive Hiking Trail. The Dassie Trail is a 5km, self-guided, FREE, interpretive hiking trail loop which starts and ends at the Rest Camp. Brochures are available at reception which provide information in numbered paragraphs corresponding to numbered sites along the trail. Though the trail is only 5km, you should plan for at least two hours to complete the hike. Because the hike includes climbing over boulders and rocks, sturdy hiking shoes with good soles are highly recommended. A hat, sunscreen, insect repellent, sunglasses, and water are also highly recommended, and a camera and binoculars are a big plus.
Game Drive. A trip through our game drive area offers some fabulous views of the incredible geology in our park and the Orange River in the gorge. Don't be intimidated by the low water crossing when initially entering the game drive area: the water is usually not higher than 35cm and I haven't heard of anyone's getting stuck in the water. (This is not a guarantee, though, so decide once you see it. BTW, the road is cemented in that area without any potholes or such, so it's a completely smooth surface under the water.) Based on the different types of beauty, I recommend following this order of view points (as listed on the map distributed at Reception): Moon Rock, Echo Corner, Oranjekom, and Ararat. Expect only beautiful scenery, as that's what we're most well-known for, and then if you get to see some of our fabulous game along the way, that's just an added bonus! The game drive area is open at different times during the winter and summer, so ask at Reception when the gates open and close. The earlier in the morning you enter the game drive area, the better the chances are of seeing game along the way.
Night Drives. Night Drives must be reserved in advance at Reception no later than 4pm the same day. At least four people are required to have a Night Drive. We have quite a few nocturnal creatures in the park which are often seen during the Night Drives: black-backed jackal, bat-eared fox, small spotted genet, rabbits and hares. Often, some of our herbivores are also seen on Night Drives: gemsbok, giraffe, zebra, etc. A very nice bonus during our Night Drives is stopping at the highest point along the Swart Rante (Black Ridges) for some star gazing when the Ranger points out some of the constellations found here in the Southern Hemisphere.
Gariep 3-in-1 Adventure. This is a fantastic way to see some parts of the park which cannot be seen during a game drive. It involves a canoe trip down the Orange River (starting at Echo Corner), hiking up a dry river bed out of the gorge, and riding a mountain bike back to the Rest Camp. You should plan at least three hours for the entire trip. This adventure must be reserved at Reception the previous day and at least two people are required
Klipspringer Hiking Trail. For the highly adventurous and fit, the Klipspringer Hiking Trail is a must at some point! This 39.5km, 3-day hiking trail must be reserved in advance through Central Reservations (+27 (0)12 428 9111). A maximum of 12 people and a minimum of 2 people are allowed on the trail each day. The two overnights are spent in rustic 12-person huts with fresh water, matresses on the bunks, and FLUSHING TOILETS! (No showers, though.) In addition to the fresh water, the following is also provided: fire wood, braai grill, a pot for boiling water, and a small potjie pot. We're currently working on improving the signage along the trail, and we should have a very well-marked trail as soon as the new signs are finished at the print shop. (Many folks have hiked the trail this year without problems, but the signage has been the biggest complaint.)
Now you have some ideas of how to spend more than just a day at Augrabies Falls. For info on things to do outside the park, ask me or at reception upon arrival. Hope to see you soon in our beautiful park!
Mara le Mahieu
GVI Volunteer 2008