Onseepkans is a small settlement on the banks of the Orange River in Northern Cape Province, South Africa. It is a border post with Namibia for traffic between Pofadder in South Africa and Keetmanshoop in Namibia. The name, translated literally from Afrikaans, means “(an) opportunity to rinse (off) soap”.
Onseepkans was established in approximately 1916 by missionary settlers and relies today on the irrigated lands which are supplied with water from the Orange River. In recent years, table grape farming for export has become the leading type of agriculture in the area. Ecotourism is growing with the establishment of a riverside campsite and various farm cottages. Onseepkans is the entry point for visits to the Ritchie Falls, the second highest waterfall on the Orange River, after the Augrabies Falls. The Ritchie Falls are in a pristine wilderness area, only accessible after a two-day hike or by rafting down from Onseepkans. Guided hikes and rafting trips are available. The falls (both Augrabies and Ritchie) are threatened by the development of a hydro power station proposed by a consortium between Hydo Tasmania and Hydro South Africa, despite the fact that only 10% of the Orange River is considered to be pristine wilderness.
There are small communities on both sides of the Orange River in one of the most remote and beautiful parts of the country. The Quiver tree (Kokerboom in Afrikaans) forest between Pofadder and Onseepkans is stunning and is the largest forest of its type in the Southern Hemisphere. It is undoubtedly one of the natural highlights in the area which is dominated by the stark desert landscape and unusual granite outcrops.
The area is very hot, and anyone deciding to risk the journey should be well prepared with plenty of water and adequate protection against the sun. Summer temperatures can exceed 50 C while in the middle of winter temperatures in the high 30’s can still be experienced. To reach the settlement one has to travel 49 kilometers along the R358 from Pofadder.