Latest News30 November 2012
2012 Desert Knights Mountain Biking Tour
The October full moon provided the perfect send-off for a group of intrepid mountain bikers on their journey of approximately 300 km through the stark, desolate areas of the /Ai/Ais-Richtersveld Transfrontier Park. The tour is not for the fainthearted, as it entails five days of gruelling cycling up and down canyons, along gravel roads, and, most punishing of all, the sand dunes which tested the cyclists' skills to the utmost. → read more…
On 1 August 2003 a new era for desert tourism and conservation unique succulent biodiversity dawned when the treaty on the establishment of the /Ai /Ais-Richtersveld Transfrontier Park was signed by the presidents of Namibia and South Africa. The park measures 6 045 km² and spans some of the most spectacular arid and desert mountain scenery in southern Africa. The Transfrontier Park lies in the Succulent Karoo biome, an internationally recognized biodiversity hotspot and the world's only arid hotspot. It also features the world's second largest canyon - the Fish River Canyon. The 350 million year old and erosion-rich Orange River gorge abounds with history, folklore and grandeur and the Richtersveld is one of the last regions where the Nama people's traditional lifestyle based on nomadic pastoralism has been preserved.
The heads of state of Namibia and South Africa signed a treaty establishing the transfrontier park on 1 August 2003. Since then then joint management, tourism and financial protocol plans have been completed. In 2007 the pontoon at Sendelingsdrift was refurbished and customs and immigration offices as well as staff housing were built on both sides of the Orange River. The pontoon opened at the same time as an entrance gate to Ai-Ais Hot Springs Game Park.
In August 2009, Namibia Wildlife Resorts reopened the newly refurbished Ai-Ais Hot Springs Resort for business. The spa complex is situated at the southern tip of the Fish River Canyon, one of the main tourist attractions of the Transfrontier Park. The Resort owes its name to the sulphurous Ai-Ais hot springs, which means ‘burning water' in the Nama language.
To better control access from the south to the Namibian section of the Transfrontier Park, an access control facility was opened at Gamkap. Offices in the mining town of Rosh Pinah now also provide a nearby base for the Transfrontier Park's administrative activities.
The /Ai/Ais-Richtersveld Transfrontier Park Managers’ Committee, comprising park managers supported by an intersectoral management and development task group, was also established. It has since successfully jointly managed daily operations, thereby allowing joint management board meetings to serve as strategic work sessions for decision making at policy level.
In April 2011 the /Ai/Ais-Richtersveld Joint Management Board (JMB) approved the Transfrontier Park’s integrated development plan and joint operations strategy. The latter outlines joint activities at an operational level that include joint patrols for monitoring and law enforcement, management of joint assets like the pontoon at Sendelingsdrift, joint research and the identification and implementation of cross-border tourism products.
The Namibian Ministry of Environment and Tourism approved N$1.5 million for a concrete landing slab for the pontoon on the Namibian side of the Orange River, while the Namibian Roads Authority agreed to upgrade the bridge over the Fish River, which presently floods in the rainy season. Work on both has begun.
Following the successful Desert Knights Mountain Bike Adventure event of October 2010, the JMB decided to schedule it as an annual event. A second mountain bike reconnaissance, funded by the two governments, was therefore undertaken in October 2011. With professional cyclists and event organisers as participants and Peace Parks Foundation providing technical assistance, the focus of the reconnaissance was to prepare a request for proposals from private sector operators.
A training programme aimed at broadening the capacity of frontline staff working in the Transfrontier Park was undertaken by 18 staff members, including gate guards, receptionists, housekeeping supervisors, restaurant staff, field guides and tourism managers of both countries.
To improve communication between the various sectors of the Transfrontier Park, a technical assessment for a joint radio network was undertaken, identifying the need for four repeater stations.