Upington, Northern Cape, South Africa

Augrabies Falls.

Upington is often described as a desolate, hot, southern Kalahari desert town. The fertile Orange River Valley which runs through this harsh landscape that surrounds Upington brings water from the distant highlands of Lesotho to the town.

This small town in the heart of the Northern Cape is not the most glamorous urban destination, but it is the gateway to the Kalahari. From here it's not far to the Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park and the Augrabies National Park with its spectacular waterfall and fun river rafting. Springbok, Klipspringers, Eland, Giraffe and Black Rhino are some of the mammals which can be seen in the Augrabies National Park together with a wide range of interesting bird life.

The town developed from a missionary station, founded here in 1871. Today, it houses a little museum, the Kalahari Oranje Museum. Upington is situated on the Gariep (Orange) River and is the centre of the date growing industry; the longest avenue of date palms in the world is here on an island in the river. Upington is the economic and traffic centre of the Northern Cape and the gateway to the Kalahari desert.

For travellers to the Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park, this is the last stop to do the shopping in supermarkets. The central business region bustles with business activities, the formal as well as the lively informal sector that is present in town. The busy, fast growing town of Upington has the fitting motto of 'Progressus' which translates as progress.

The Orange River also supplies irrigation water, which sustains enormous bright green vineyards on the edge of the desert. Upington is the hottest town in South Africa. In summer temperatures often rise to over 40 degrees.

Upington has a small airport with scheduled flights to Cape Town and Johannesburg. It is quite remote, about 800km from Cape Town via the N7 and N14, and 400km from Kimberley via the N8 and N10.

Those coming from the Kalahari can enjoy the green lawns and the luxury of a swimming pool after a dusty desert ride. This town boasts beautifully landscaped gardens, many rosebeds and large, graceful trees - all forming part of an atmosphere of peace and harmony. The water that Upington receives is cool and clear blue and of vital importance for the intensive irrigation in the area. Upington is the hottest town in South Africa. In summer temperatures often rise to over 40 degrees.

It is amazing to see what a vital role the Orange River plays with its never-ending supply of water. Irrigated fields and vineyards stretch for 280 km along the lower Orange River. The main crops are wine grapes, as well as citrus, wheat and vegetables. The grapes are exported to Europe as table fruits or used in the local wine production. You are welcome to visit the Cotton Ginnery, the SA Dried Fruit Co-operative where tons of raisins and sultanas are packed daily, and the Orange River Wine Cellars Co-operative - the second largest in the world - for cellar tours and wine tasting.

Game Parks Near Upington

Upington is also quite close to the Kalahari Gemsbok Park and the Augrabies Falls National Park. However, you can visit Upington's own park, the Spitskop Nature Reserve, providing sanctuary to herds of Gemsbok, Zebra, Springbok, Ostriche, Eland, Camel and Wildebeest - a perfect place for a day's outing, picnicking, game drives or even doing the hiking trails in the Reserve.

The Augrabies National Park also boasts a variety of wildlife, as well as a variety of hiking trails, night game drives, Black Rhino, Camel rides, canoeing, mountain biking and river rafting on the Orange River, below the awesome Augrabies Falls itself. This is also a land with various scenic attractions and 4x4 trails for the four-wheel drive enthusiast. 'Augrabies' name given by the Khoi people, meaning 'Place of great Noise'. It is really a magnificent sight to see the Orange River cascading 60m down in a mighty waterfall.

The Kalahari Gemsbok Park, is one of the world's most amazing unspoilt ecosystems. Its vast open spaces and beautiful dune horizons, its predators and stunning starlit night skies with the sounds of wild animals in the background creates a truly wonderful atmosphere.