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Natural & Cultural History

A Brief History of the Park

The name Augrabies was given to the Water Fall by a Swede, Hendrik Jakob Wikar, when he passed there in 1799.

The name is derived from the Nama word as the Khoi people would refer to “Aukoerebis” meaning the "Place of Great Noise." This refers to the Orange River water thundering its way down the 56 m spectacular main Water Fall.

In 1954 the Upington Publicity Association requested the National Parks Board to proclaim the water fall a national park. After the Minister of Lands approved the Park in principle in 1955, the Department of Water Affairs objected to the proclamation of a national park. After a series of negotiations, Augrabies Falls National Park was eventually proclaimed on 5 August 1966. The park currently consists of 55 383 hectares. The establishment was based on the following objectives:

  • To conserve and restore the biotic diversity of the Orange River Broken Veld with its associated flora and fauna
  • To maintain the Augrabies Water Fall and its surroundings in an unspoilt state
  • To provide opportunities for Environmental Education and
  • To provide opportunities for research of the fascinating flora and fauna."

Early Stone Age

The ancestors of modern history have inhabited the area surrounding the Orange River since the Early Stone Age. During this time, there is evidence that early man had developed weapons for hunting animal like hippopotamus. They knew to establish themselves near good water sources like the Orange River. During the Middle Stone Age man had created more formal work tools and began to utilise fire. The Late Stone Age, which dates back 22 000 years, is characterized by tools that are smaller from the previous periods. The most prolific archaeological features are the stone cairns or graves from the later Stone Age. Excavations have shown that not all the cairns contains human skeletal remains.


The area is inhabited by the Nama People who over the centuries have managed to adapt to the harsh conditions of the area.

A traditional expression from this area is that the traditional domed huts known as ‘matjieshuise’ and a direct translation would be ‘mat houses’. These houses are extremely well suited for the hot climate in this area. During the summer, the stems and culms from which the mats are mad up of shrink, allowing gaps to appear. This results in a breeze being able to flow through and cool the hut down. In winter the stems expand keeping out the cold winds and rain.

Traditional Food

Many delicacies unique to this area may be enjoyed here, like homegrown raisins and dried fruit. Traditional dishes like “puff adders” (named after the snake); are intestines with the fatty portion inward, stuffed with minced liver and skilpadje (tortoise) stomach net fat wrapped around a small piece of liver are always popular.

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Did You Know?

  • that the first European to "discover" the falls was a Swedish-born soldier in the service of the Dutch East India Company named Hendrik Wikar? Having deserted his post at the Cape, he came across the site and drew the first maps of the river