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The Northern Cape, the largest and most sparsely populated province in South Africa, is defined by large arid plains with random rock piles surrounded on the western side by the Atlantic Ocean. The Northern Cape has a multitude of rock art, unsurprising since the first people to take up residence in the area were the San people. Today, the area is home to the last remaining true San bushmen.
The Northern Cape incorporates a number of National Parks and nature reserves which give visitors to the area an insight into this entrancing area.
The newest National Park in South Africa, Mokala is a mixture of hills and open plains. The Camel Thorn Tree is abundant in this area and is an incredible resource for both wildlife and people. The gum and bark of the trees are often used for medicinal purposes with the seeds acting as a substitute for coffee.
The park is also home to a variety of birds as well as black and white rhino, roan antelope, giraffe, zebra and a number of other antelope species.
Cycling and hiking trails are available within the park.
Although the Witsand Nature Reserve covers only a relatively small area, the amount of bird and animal life found within it’s confines is great. The reserve contains a sunken bird hide which offers visitors the opportunity to try and spot some of the 170+ bird species which have been identified in the reserve. The reserve has some endemic plants and insects which mean it is of true conservation significance.
Lying in both South Africa and Botswana, the Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park covers an area of 3.6 million hectares. Meerkat, ground squirrel, gemsbok, black maned Kalahari lion and pygmy falcons are all synonymous with the park which also plays host to a number of other mammal species as well as nearly 300 bird species.
The Kalahari Trails Nature Reserve, is run by the biologist Prof. Anne Rasa, it gives visitors the opportunity to walk amongst the beautiful harsh landscape of the Kalahari and to get a close up view of the desert. Having a biologist leading the guided walks offers an unparrelled insight into the animals and plants of the region.
The centrepiece to this park is the Augrabies Waterfall, which when the Orange River is in full flood is a magnificent (and deafening!) sight.
There are a number of viewpoints from which to see the falls, as well as a number of both day and overnight hiking trails and cycling routes.
The remote |Ai-|Ais/Richtersveld Transfrontier Park stretches across South Africa and Namibia. It is at its most beautiful between the months of June and November when flowers appear within the park offering an amazing technicolour splendour.
Hiking is the main activity in this park with a number of different options on offer. Much of the hiking is fairly demanding as the terrain is quite diverse and involves ascending jagged peaks and traversing rock formations and ravines.
The park is not accessible in a saloon car, but requires a high clearance or 4WD vehicle.
The Goegap Nature Reserve has over 500 plant species, some which are not found outside of the reserve. The Hestar Malan Wild Flower Reserve is sited within the reserve and in spring is a kaleidoscope of colour.
© ecoTravel Africa 2011