The Place Of Big Noises – Augrabies Falls, South Africa

We camped at Augrabies Falls National Park in the Northern Cape Province of South Africa in the middle of summer when the sizzling heat takes its toll on plants and wildlife.

An extraordinary experience to see Augrabies Falls and to hike along the rugged gorge.

While only the toughest plants survive the harsh conditions and water was at its lowest level in fifty years. Wildlife with antelopes, giraffes and birds was still surprisingly abundant.

Augrabies Falls National Park lies in the Norhtern Cape Province of South Africa. The cascades of the Orange River make the world's sixth largest waterfall.

I’d been curious about this place since I’d bypassed it after visiting the Kgalagadi National Park last time. Impressive cascades in the middle of the vast sun baked lands in the Northern Cape Province of South Africa? I had to see this proclaimed sixth largest waterfall of the world this time.

Augrabies Falls National Park in the Northern Cape of South Africa

Augrabies National Park lies 120 kilometers west of Upington, a town where the highest temperatures of South Africa regularly can be found. In the summer the thermometer gauge climbs easily over the 45° Celsius mark, leaving me dumbfounded that anybody might seriously consider to move here voluntarily.

Augrabies, South Africa
Morning glow over the semi-desert
Augrabies, South Africa
The day awakes over Augrabies Falls National Park

 Orange River, lifeline in the semi-desert

But then, there is the Orange River, the lifeline of this arid region and the biggest river in South Africa. Its source is in the Lesotho Mountains, from where it makes it’s two thousand kilometer journey through a major chunk of the country. If it weren’t for the Orange River South Africans and people worldwide wouldn’t be able to sip wine and munch sweet raisins of the Northern Cape Province.

Augrabies, South Africa
The morning sun hitting the edge of the gorge
Augrabies, South Africa
Gorge of the Orange River
Augrabies, South Africa
The water level of the Orange River at its lowest in fifty years.

Wildlife in Augrabies Falls National Park

The indigenous Khoikhoi people inhabited the land before others discovered the plains full of wildlife along the fertile riverbanks.

Augrabies, South Africa
Fertile despite the drought

In Augrabies Falls National Park you can still find various antelopes such as klipspringers, steenbok, springbok, gemsbok, kudu and eland among others.

Augrabies, South Africa
Giraffe in Augrabies Falls National Park
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Herds of Springbok

More difficult to spot are predators such as leopards, jackals and African wildcat. They might rather see you from their den on your hike along the gorge than the other way around!

Augrabies, South Africa
Dassie ( Rock Hyrax ) find their preferred habitat at Augrabies
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Plenty bird life ( here’s a Goshawk )

As anywhere else in South Africa and other parts of the World the indigenous people had to give way as soon as diamonds were discovered on the beach, where the Orange River meets the Atlantic.

Augrabies, South Africa
Klipspringer love the rocky surroundings

Diamonds in The Orange River

Decades of greed and piracy followed untill the government could restore law and order. The legend says that the biggest cache of diamonds in the world lies in the swirl-hole eroded into the granite at the foot of the waterfall by the thundering waters.

Augrabies, South Africa
Waterfall in the desert

The Khoikhoi had named the waterfall Ankoerebis, meaning the “place of big noises“. A suitable name after good summer rains, when the full might of the water thunders down the 56m-high falls. Only later early European settlers changed the expression to the more pronounceable name Augrabies.

Augrabies, South Africa
Maybe the biggest cache of diamonds


When to go to Augrabies Falls National Park

The water flow is the highest between November and April if there were good rains. The water level was very law when we visited but it was impressive anyway.

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Quiver Tree battling the drought ( Aloe dichotoma )

If you’d like to hike it’s better to visit between April and September for cooler temperatures.

Cape Province of South Africa. The cascades of the Orange River make the world's sixth largest waterfall.
Walkway leading from Augrabies Rest Camp to main falls and other view points
Augrabies, South Africa
There are several, easy accessible view points overlooking the gorge

Where to stay at Augrabies Falls National Park

We stayed at the camp ground which has well-shaded spots and is neat and tidy with green patches of grass in between despite the dry environment. If more comfort is desired there is plenty accommodation to choose from. Swimming pools provide coolness during the hottest hours of the day.

Augrabies, South Africa
Camping at Augrabies Falls National Park
Augrabies, South Africa
Cottages of Augrabies Rest Camp
Augrabies, South Africa
Four swimming pools to cool off during the sizzling heat of the day

What to do in Augrabies Falls National Park

Hiking along the falls and the gorge of the Orange River

There are several trails from the Dassie Nature Trail with only a few kilometers to the Klipspringer Hiking Trail of three days  with overnight stays in huts (closed from October to March due to heat).

Augrabies, South Africa
Hiking Trails in Augrabies Falls National Park
Augrabies, South Africa
Don’t forget water on your hike and leave as early as possible to avoid the midday heat.
Augrabies, South Africa
Hike along the Orange River

Mountain Biking in the National Park

A good way to experience wildlife is to hop on the mountain bike and explore Augrabies Falls National Park on two wheels. There were a few hardcore bikers even during our mid summer stay with sizzling heats of more than 40°C, but I can’t imagine this to be enjoyable.

Guided game drives or self-drive

94 kilometers of wilderness roads with viewpoints overlooking the magnificent gorge of the Orange River are accessible by 4×4 vehicle.

Augrabies, South Africa
94 kilometers of well-marked roads cross the national park

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Augrabies Falls National Park lies in the Norhtern Cape Province of South Africa. The cascades of the Orange River make the world's sixth largest waterfall.

Augrabies Falls National Park lies in the Norhtern Cape Province of South Africa. The cascades of the Orange River make the world's sixth largest waterfall.

Augrabies Falls National Park lies in the Norhtern Cape Province of South Africa. The cascades of the Orange River make the world's sixth largest waterfall.

Augrabies Falls National Park lies in the Norhtern Cape Province of South Africa. The cascades of the Orange River make the world's sixth largest waterfall.

Augrabies Falls National Park lies in the Norhtern Cape Province of South Africa. The cascades of the Orange River make the world's sixth largest waterfall.

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Author: Marcelle Simone Heller

I'm searching for natural beauty and wilderness, while I'm travelling relentlessly to find delightful places and encounters with wildlife. I try to capture the thrill of the moments in photography and words, hoping to inspire others with the love for animals and nature.

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