The !Gariep, or ‘Great River’.
!Gariep, meaning ‘Great River’, is its Nama name. The Orange River is the only perennial river in the region. It traverses almost the entire continent to end in what feels like an oasis in the desert region of the Karoo and Southern Namib. Its rich biodiversity and the shelter it provides for threatened bird species have made it a Ramsar Site - a Wetland of International Importance. A series of conservation efforts are underway to bring the wetland back to full life, after poor management practices, diamond mining and a reduction in the water flow from the interior have threatened it.
Waterbirds of about 60 species roost, breed and feed in the shallow sheltered waters, islands and beach. The wetland regularly supports 14 South African and Namibian Red Data waterbird species, and important populations of Hartlaub’s Gull, Damara Tern, Cape Cormorant, Curlew Sandpiper, and Caspian Tern.
The river mouth supports 33 mammal species including the Straw-Coloured Fruit Bat and the Cape Clawless Otter. The local people often mistake the ripples that the otter makes in the water for those caused by the legendary Big Snake that roams the area.
Abundant reptiles have elicited interest far and wide and include the water iguana and the coastal legless skink, whilst the amphibians (16 types recorded to date), although few in species, represent one of the highest diversities recorded. In the waters there are three endemic species of freshwater fish - the largemouth yellow fish, rock catfish and Namaqua barb.