Experience the Northern Cape, South Africa

Main centres: The route takes the traveller into one of the most interesting and beautiful areas of South Africa’s Northern Cape province and embraces the towns and settlements of KeimoesKanoneilandKenhardtAugrabiesUpington and Marchand.

Region: Where the Kalahari and the Nama-Karoo deserts meet, the Great Gariep River (Orange River) flows, bringing life to the typically arid worlds on both sides, and turning the area into an oasis. It is here that travellers can experience the Quiver Tree Route.

The route is located in an arid zone, with stifling hot summers (up to 45°C) and chilly winter nights. The Great Gariep, known more commonly as the Orange River, winds through the landscape and brings it life. This river was once called "God’s gift to the Southern African thirstland". The greenbelt along the river’s banks contrasts sharply with the rising rocky cliffs. Irrigation schemes have stretched the greenbelt into the desert, making acres of vineyards and other agriculture possible. 

The Quiver Tree Route highlights some of the attractions that can be found along the stretch of the Orange River, including activities, accommodation, restaurants and sightseeing. Ten percent of South Africa’s vineyards are found in the Orange River valley and southern Kalahari.

Things to do on the Quiver Tree Route

This tourism route was aptly named for the eponymous quiver tree, one of this region’s most arresting botanical symbols. Stretching along the Gariep (Orange River), the Quiver Tree Route includes towns such as Upington, Kakamas, Keimoes, Augrabies, Marchand, Kanoneiland, Kenhardt and Riemvasmaak, and takes in part of the Green Kalahari region.

Natural splendour

An easy amble from the main camp in the Augrabies Falls National Park will take you to where the Gariep or Orange River thunders nearly 60m into the gorge below. Wooden decks offer excellent vantage points from which to take in the spectacular view.

Adventure and adrenaline

A number of adventure operators offer white-water kayaking and rafting trips on the Gariep/Orange River – from full-day to multi-day trips. If you prefer to stay on terra firma, saddle up and go on a 30km bike ride in the Augrabies Falls National Park, pedalling past Moon Rock, Ararat and Echo Corner.

Culture and leisure

Riemvasmaak is located north-west of Augrabies, within a mountain desert landscape shaped by volcanic activity millions of years ago. Visit the residents and experience their traditional dancing and food, or laze in the hidden mineral spring in the gorge. There are also 4x4 and mountain-biking routes, covering a total distance of almost 160km.

Eat and sleep

Orange River Wine Cellars is said to be the biggest wine cooperative in the southern hemisphere, and no trip to the Green Kalahari would be complete without a tasting along this wine route. Also pop in at Bezalel and Die Mas cellars. Accommodation options include the luxurious African Vineyard Guesthouse, where you can enjoy excellent slow food and lose yourself in the rural tranquillity.

Highlights on the Quiver tree Route

Augrabies Falls

Called Aukoerebis (place of great noise) by the Khoisan people, the 56-metre high Augrabies Waterfall is a spectacle in this region. When the mighty Orange River is in full flood, the sound of water thundering down the rockface is deafening. It’s an awesome experience at any time of year. Besides the falls, there are great sites to visit here, including Moon Rock, Ararat and Echo Corner. A diversity of species also exists at the Augrabies Falls National Park and its spectacular granite gorge offers visitors great birding, some small game, reptiles, springbok, gemsbok and giraffe.

Riemvasmaak Hot Springs

The Riemvasmaak Hot Springs are one of the many natural wonders along the Quiver Tree Route. Located between the Orange and Molopo rivers in Riemvasmaak, the hot springs are surrounded by granite cliffs, and offer spectacular views of the mountain desert and wilderness. 

The naturally warm spring waters and the rocky terrain are a result of volcanic eruptions that occurred aeons ago. The volcanoes are no longer active but the underground activity still heats the spring water, providing gloriously warm swimming pools all year round. 

Hiking and MTB trails

The annual Trans Augrabies MTB race takes place in the Northern Cape every year and covers a total distance of more than 247km. The three-day stage competition takes mountain bikers through the spectacular Augrabies Falls National Park and surrounding areas, including Riemvasmaak, Kakamas, Keimoes and Kanoneiland.

Download the Open Africa 'Cape of many Routes' write-up below