- You are here:
- Countries & Parks
- South Africa Parks
- Augrabies Falls National Park
- Expert Reviews
Expert Reviews – Augrabies Falls NP
Stephen is a travel writer and avid conservationist whose work appears in prestigious magazines such as Africa Geographic and Travel Africa.
3 people found this review helpful.
Big Skies and an Impressive Waterfall
The name Augrabies actually comes from a corruption of the Khoi-San word meaning ‘Place of Great Noise’: an apt description for the deafening roar produced by the water as it thunders down the 56m high Augrabies Waterfall, especially when the Orange River is in full flood. Wildlife is sparsely distributed in this arid realm with klipspringer, springbok, gemsbok and giraffe being the most commonly viewed species. Although there are a couple of black rhinos resident here, most safari-goers coming to Augrabies with a desire to see Africa’s big charismatic wildlife would end up leaving disappointed. For me, the overnight Klipspringer Hiking Trail is the park’s premier attraction; this self-guided multi-day walk allows visitors to escape the car and really appreciate the park’s picturesque geological attractions like Moon Rock, Ararat and Echo Corner, not to mention the 18km Orange River Gorge carving its way through the centre of this arid park.
Lucy is travel writer for a range of publications, including Lonely Planet's guides to Africa, Southern Africa and South Africa.
2 people found this review helpful.
Waterfalls and wildlife
The main attraction of this arid park is of course the waterfall for which it is named. The main falls thunder 56m into a narrow, rocky chasm and are easily accessed by wooden walkways leading from the main rest camp. Look out for vervet monkeys and scurrying dassies – small furry animals that look like rodents but are in fact distantly related to the elephant. For many, this is where Augrabies' wildlife ends, but in fact there is a separate section of the park where antelopes, zebras, giraffes and jackals roam. Outside of school holidays, you're likely to have every viewing to yourself, and I have the fondest memories of an early morning breakfast in my rental car with only a lone male giraffe for company. I switched off the engine and could hear his gentle munching as he breakfasted on camelthorn trees just metres from where I chomped on cereal bars and fruit.
Lizzie is a reputed guidebook writer and author of the Footprint guides to South Africa, Namibia, Kenya, Tanzania, Uganda and Zimbabwe.
2 people found this review helpful.
A rocky desert environment with a raging waterfall spilling into a granite gorge
The primary reason for visiting this park is to admire the impressive waterfall. The Orange River passes over a series of cataracts before dropping 56 metres into a narrow gorge of steep, smooth rock; the water churning below. On our visit, which followed heavy rains, we also saw a number of smaller waterfalls along the sides of the main falls; a sight which I understand is quite rare. The surrounding landscape of moulded granite formations appeared barren, but it was rich in wild plants, and I enjoyed watching a number of comical ground squirrels foraging between the rocks. Other wildlife in the park includes klipspringer, eland, kudu, gemsbok and springbok, but these all tend to be fairly elusive. You only need an hour or so to see the falls themselves, so a visit can be worked into a longer itinerary – in our case en route to the Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park.
Philip is an acclaimed travel writer and author of many guidebooks, including the Bradt guides to Uganda, Tanzania, Kenya and South Africa.
1 person found this review helpful.
Place of great noise
This would rank high on my list of South Africa’s most-underrated gems, despite its rather remote location and limited game viewing opportunities, and a visit is strongly recommended as an addendum to any safari to the Northern Cape’s game-viewing showpiece, Kgalagadi. The park is named after Augrabies Falls – derived from the traditional name Aukoerebis, meaning ‘place of great noise’ – where the Orange, South Africa’s largest river, thunders spectacularly over a 50m-high cliff into a deep, narrow gorge containing several secondary falls and cataracts. Away from the waterfall, the park protects a stunning lunar landscape of rounded granitic protrusions inhabited by giraffe, greater kudu, bat-eared fox and other wildlife and birds associated with the arid Karoo biome. The park’s most memorable animal residents are the garish Cape fold lizards that sun on the rocks above the main falls.
We really enjoyed the spectacular circular day trail that runs along the gorge downriver from the rest camp, then returns inland via the extraordinary Moon Rock. Daytime game drives can be slow in terms of wildlife sightings, but guided night drives are highly recommended, as they offer an opportunity to see localised nocturnal creatures, such as brown hyena. Another highlight are the rafting excursions that follow the river above the falls.
Ariadne is a renowned African wildlife photographer whose work is featured in many well-known guidebooks and magazines.
1 person found this review helpful.
Augrabies Falls: a Spectacular Rush of Water in the Desert
Augrabies Falls is a sight to behold. A well-designed walkway and several platforms create great photo opportunities of this thundering waterfall. This is where the Orange River crashes down a 56m-high cliff to continue its meandering journey in a deep gorge surrounded by a stark lunar landscape. The park isn’t very big, but definitely worth a couple of drives. I was particularly charmed by the many klipspringers standing in pairs on the gigantic boulders that dominate the dramatic scenery. I also saw giraffe, springbok and gemsbok. I didn’t see any predators, but leopard, jackal, caracal and bat-eared fox are all present. Easier to spot are the very localized Augrabies flat lizards; they love to bask in the sun on the rocks surrounding the falls. If you’re feeling adventurous you can book a rafting trip on the Orange River. The grade 2 and 3 rapids, with evocative names such as Rollercoaster and Blind Faith, are very manageable, but they didn’t fail to give me a great adrenaline rush.
Christopher is a British travel writer and has contributed to various Fodor's guidebooks and a range of travel magazines.
Waterfalls and arid wilderness
Found in South Africa’s Northern Cape on the fringes of the Kalahari Desert, Augrabies Falls National Park is a starkly beautiful and desolate wilderness which centres around the impressive cataract that gives it its name. From the park’s main reception area, it’s an easy walk down to the various platforms that offer different perspectives of this impressive natural wonder, best seen during the wetter months, roughly between December and February.
The inhospitable landscape away from the falls means that wildlife is fairly scarce here, but you’ve got a good chance of spotting Oryx, giraffe and other plains game, as well as predators such as bat-eared fox, jackal, and if you’re really lucky, African wild cat.
When I visited this park, a large part of the appeal was the ease with which I could get away from the crowds, but you’ll need a 4x4 as some of the roads are rough. I found myself stopping regularly to just take in the silence and the vast, open vistas. Being able to go on bush walks without a guide is always a real treat for me too, but be sure to take lots of water!
James is a travel writer and author of many Lonely Planet guides, including senior author of the guide to South Africa, Lesotho and Swaziland.
Behold nature's raw power
The centrepiece of this park in South Africa's wild Northern Cape is the world's sixth-highest waterfall, which plunges 56m between towering cliffs. Looking down on the thundering spectacle from the viewing platforms, which are periodically destroyed by floods, gives an awe-inspiring glimpse of nature's might.
The waterfall is fed by the Orange River, which flows through this harsh environment like a lifeline, feeding the vineyards and fruit farms of the Green Kalahari. A great way to see the park is on a half-day trip over the river rapids by boat, kayak or raft, finishing 300m above the main falls. Other activities include walking and driving trails, guided night safaris, and a canoeing, mountain biking and hiking circuit; all make the most of a park where most people just visit the waterfall. Animals such as klipspringers, giraffes and Hartmann’s mountain zebras roam the rocky landscape, feeding on camel thorn trees and the giant aloes known as kokerbooms (quiver trees).
Paul is a travel writer, author of the Bradt guidebook to Zimbabwe and is closely involved in promoting tourism to Zimbabwe.
Birds or Bats?
The clue to this park is in its name as the main focus here is the magnificent 56-metre waterfall and the gorge carved out by the Orange River. In full flood it’s a tremendous, thundering experience and in the dry season you can peer right down into the abyss to the river below. Despite the beautiful rocky landscapes, the park doesn’t appear on many peoples’ game viewing itineraries. There are springbok, gemsbok, giraffe and mountain zebra here with predators including jackal, caracal, bat-eared fox and African wild cat but the latter are largely nocturnal.
My favourite memory here was having sundowners on the rocks by the waterfall and watching literally clouds of feeding swifts and swallows in and above the gorge. But a few minutes later we looked up and we saw they were bats, not birds! How could we have got it so wrong? The next evening we watched more carefully and saw the imperceptible change from bird to bat as one completely different animal took over from the other in the space of no more than five minutes.
Mike is an award-winning wildlife writer, former editor of Travel Zambia magazine and author of the Bradt Guide to Southern African Wildlife.
Rocks and waterfalls
The focus of in this park is, unsurprisingly, the great cataract of Augrabies Falls, where the Orange River – South Africa’s largest – plunges 56m down a gorge on its journey west towards the Atlantic. In full spate during January/February this is a spectacular sight. Otherwise the reserve has a specialised appeal, which may not be everybody’s cup of tea. Its desolate landscape, characterised by domed rock outcrops and statuesque quiver trees, is reminiscent of much of Namibia. Wildlife introduced into the broader reserve includes black rhino, giraffe and oryx, but I found as much interest in the smaller stuff – from flat lizards and rock hyrax to lovebirds and black eagle – and enjoyed the rock-hopping agility of the abundant klipspringers. Caracals are often seen on night drives and the river downstream of the falls is reputedly a good spot for cape clawless otter – though the only predator I encountered was black-backed jackal. Otherwise enjoy the unique scenery, the desert flora and the clear night skies.
Alan is a travel writer and author of over 20 Lonely Planet guidebooks, including the guides to Southern Africa and Zambia & Malawi.
Rock Dassie delight
If you’ve never seen a rock dassie sprawled out on a boulder in full sunshine squinting lazily as you approach, then make your way here immediately. It’s sooooooooo cute! In a deep rocky ravine, with stunning scenery, this park is named after the world’s sixth longest waterfall and is an impressive sight after a wetting in rainy season.
The 10km Dassie Trail, involves scrambling over rocks and oohhhing and aaahhhing every time one of the little furballs is in sight. Apparently they are related to elephants although I have no idea how this is possible as it’s like saying a hippo is related to a dung beetle. You’ll most likely spot some antelope too, especially the klipspringer which loves bounding around this rocky landscape.
Average Expert Rating
- Bush Vibe