Ai-Ais Hot Springs

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Ai-Ais Hot Springs
IUCN category II (national park)
Map showing the location of Ai-Ais Hot Springs
Map showing the location of Ai-Ais Hot Springs
Map of Africa
Location Namibia
Coordinates 27°55′43″S 17°29′0″E / 27.92861°S 17.48333°E / -27.92861; 17.48333Coordinates: 27°55′43″S 17°29′0″E / 27.92861°S 17.48333°E / -27.92861; 17.48333
Area 5,900 km2 [1]
Established 16 March 1971[2]
Governing body Ministry of Environment and Tourism

Ai-Ais Hot Springs meaning 'burning water' in the local Nama language, refers to the sulphurous thermal hot water springs found in the area. Pronounced "eye-ice", the natural hot-spring oasis is situated at the base of the mountain peaks at the southern end of Fish River Canyon, in the Karas Region of southern Namibia and forms part of the Ai-Ais/Richtersveld Transfrontier Park.


Local legend goes that the hot springs were discovered in 1850 by a nomadic Nama shepherd rounding up stray sheep.[2][3] The springs originate deep under the riverbed and form an oasis in the extremely arid area.[4]

During the Nama uprising of 1903–07 the hot spring was used by German military forces as a base camp. In 1915, the area was also used as a base by South African troops who were recovering from wounds during the South West Africa Campaign.[2] In 1962, the spring was leased to a local entrepreneur and were subsequently proclaimed a national monument. In 1969, the springs became a conservation area and on 16 March 1971, the camp was officially opened.[2] The thermal water has an average temperature of about 60 °C.[5] The water is piped to a series of indoor pools and jacuzzis.[4]

Entrance to Ai-Ais Hot Springs in 1996

Severe floods in 1972, 1974 and 1988 caused the camp to temporarily close. With the exception of one building—which was situated on higher ground—the 1972 flood totally destroyed the camp.[3] The Fish River Canyon Conservation area was enlarged in 1987 by the addition of state land west of the canyon. Significant renovations to the Ai-Ais camp were carried out in 1987–88.

An international treaty, signed in 2003, incorporated the Ai–Ais Hot Springs and Richtersveld National Park in South Africa, resulting in the establishment of the Ai-Ais/Richtersveld Transfrontier National Park.[6][7]

The springs are located approximately 200 km south of Keetmanshoop or about 120 km west of Karasburg.

Present day[edit]

The springs are a popular holiday destination for Namibian, South African and international holiday-makers. The thermal waters are rich in sulphur, chloride and fluoride, and are reputedly good for anyone suffering from rheumatism.[3] The resort waters are also home to a number of species of fish, including yellowfish and barbel.[4] Ai-Ais is closed over the summer months from November to mid-March.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Namibia Tourism Board (2009). Ai-Ais/Richtersveld Transfrontier Park. Retrieved on 19 May 2009.
  2. ^ a b c d Namib Web (2009). Fish River Canyon, Ai-Ais Resort and Hobas. Retrieved on 19 March 2009.
  3. ^ a b c Swaney, Deanna (1995). Lonely Planet: Zimabawe, Botswana & Namibia. 2nd Edition. Published by Hawthorn, Vic.
  4. ^ a b c Swaney, Deanna (1992). Lonely Planet: Zimbabwe, Botswana & Namibia. 1st Edition. Published by Hawthorn, Vic.
  5. ^ Namibia Travel (2009). Ai-Ais/Fish River. Retrieved on 19 May 2009.
  6. ^ Department of Environmental Affairs & Tourism (2003). Ai-Ais/Richtersveld Transfrontier Conservation Park. Retrieved on 19 May 2009.
  7. ^ Southern African Places (2009). Ai-Ais/Richtersveld Transfrontier National Park. Retrieved on 19 May 2008.