Karoo National Park - Wildlife Oasis in the Karoo Desert
If you’ve ever driven the endless stretch of N1 highway that goes between Cape Town and Joburg, you may have noticed a sign for the Karoo National Park flashing past. Just over 5 hours drive from Cape Town and a few kilometres outside of Beaufort West, you literally turn off the highway straight into the main gate. What better way to spend an overnight stop than taking in some wildlife and pausing to enjoy the magnificent Karoo landscape?
The main rest camp is well equipped with chalets of various sizes and to make life easy, breakfast is included in the accommodation costs, with the exception of campsites. There is a shop onsite for basic provisions, and if you don’t feel like cooking, then there is the option to use the restaurant for your evening meal.
The chalets at the main rest camp
Before our visit I’d always been a little skeptical about how much game we’d actually see in the park, however I was pleasantly surprised. Just in the drive from the gate through to the main camp we encountered Cape mountain zebra, springbok, gemsbok, kudu, red hartebeest and even a couple of skittish steenbok. It was looking to be a very promising few days!
One of the many herds of Gemsbok
Cape Mountian Zebra and her foal
The shy Steenbok
Bright and early the next morning with high hopes for some good game viewing, we set off with our travel mugs of steaming coffee along the Klipspringerpass to drive the 45km loop back to camp. The scenery is nothing short of spectacular and we felt for a while like we were alone in a rocky desert, just sharing it with the klipspringer and baboons.
Klipspringers are often seen when driving the aptly named Klipspringerpass
At the top of the pass we got out to stretch our legs and check out some of the rocky cliff faces for further signs of life other than the dassies warming themselves in the morning sun.
I knew that the park has a high concentration of Verreaux’s (Black) eagle and this looked like a perfect spot for catching a glimpse of one. And we were not disappointed. Perched on the ledge across from us was a male Verreaux’s eagle guarding his dassie breakfast and screeching for his mate. She was busy guarding the eggs and so they had to adopt the “shift system” for eating, one I’m sure many parents are familiar with!
The park is now home to several lion, which were reintroduced in November 2010, and I was keeping my fingers crossed for a sighting on our evening drive. At over 80,000 hectares of park, it was a little like looking for a needle in a haystack. After a fruitless 2 hours we had to make a turn back for camp – gates close at 6pm in the winter and 7pm in the summer. However, our lucky steak was still going strong for the day and ahead of us on the road was none other than the very elusive aardwolf, my first ever sighting of one! Sadly it didn’t hang around for long, after marking its teritory it quickly disappeared from view. What a great sighting, I was riding high on the adrenaline all the way back to camp!
Lucky sighting of an Aardwolf!
Even though we didn’t manage to see the lions, my few days in the Karoo National Park were extremely rewarding. There is something for everyone from game viewing to birding, walking trails to 4x4ing and with fossils dating back to more than 250-million years ago; the 400m long trail is well worth a look too. So, next time you are driving past think about pulling in for a night or two.
On the fossil trail...
Southern double-collared sunbird
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