In the very far corner of the Northern Cape, the Richtersveld is mountainous desert landscape characterised by rugged kloofs, sandy plains and high mountains that harbours astonishing biodiversity. The place is barren. Temperatures can reach up to 50 degrees Celsius and rain is largely a foreign concept. Despite and because of this, the Richtersveld is regarded as the only Arid Biodiversity Hotspot on Earth. In June 2007, the “Richtersveld Cultural and Botanical Landscape” was named a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Humans have occupied the area for thousands of years, with early inhabitants surviving by hunting animals like Springboks and gathering berries and bulbs. About 2000 years ago the first pastoral (animal farming) inhabitants arrived from northern Botswana, bringing with them sheep and cattle. The Nama people are descendants of them. Moving home and family in search of better grazing for stock, the Namas are traditionally nomadic people. Matching the harsh environment, the move their livestock between areas of better grazing with the changing of seasons. This rotation of pastures also helps to preserve the land from overuse. The Richtersveld is the last place in South Africa where pastoral people live on communal lands the last remaining example of the nomadic Nama way of life.
The Richtersveld supports a unique and diverse ecosystem and there is a more extensive range of succulent species (vetplante) than anywhere else in the world. Interesting plants include the giant quiver tree, kokerboom and halfmens. More than 60 animal species including the rare mountain zebra, jackal, leopard and black-backed rock hyrax also inhabit the park.