Have you ever driven through the Karoo en route between Cape Town and Johannesburg in South Africa. Right on Beaufort West’s doorstep lays the Karoo National Park, definitely a gem worth spending a couple of nights at, surrounded by the beautiful Nuweveld Mountains.
Vast open plains and lofty mountains are accentuated by pastel colours of pink and blue as dusk falls. On cloudless nights, thousands of stars illuminate the landscape while a roar of a lion in the distance reminds you that survival is possible, even in these harsh conditions.
The area may seem devoid of life, but wildlife has adapted to survive in this unforgiving environment and many species are slowly being re-introduced to the area where they once roamed. These include Cape mountain zebra and predators such as lion and brown hyena. Other species to search for include Verreaux’s eagle and a variety of antelope species, including the klipspringers on the rocky surroundings of Klipspringer Pass.
This mountain pass is carved into the mountainous surroundings, stretching over eight kilometers. The rocks covering 3,2km of the pass were all meticulously packed by hand. This scenic drive takes you past the Rooivalle viewpoint, just one of the beautiful spots park to marvel at the scenery.
Adults and youngsters alike can learn more about the days’ dinosaurs roamed the region by walking the 400m fossil trail in the rest camp. Displays depict the geology and paleontology of the Great Karoo with genuine fossils to add to the excitement.
Accommodation options will suit everyone from couples looking for a romantic escape to larger families looking to spend time together.
At just over 90 000 hectares, there is plenty of exploring to do. This park lies 3km northwest of Beaufort West with the nearest airport in George 335km away.
Apart from the lion, other special animals in the park include black rhino, but these are rarely seen. Numerous antelope species are found in the park and include springbok, gemsbok, red hartebeest, kudu, and eland amongst others. The park also offers a haven to Cape mountain zebra. Aardwolf, Cape fox, Bat-eared Fox, and Brown Hyena also call the park home.
The Karoo National Park is rich in reptiles with five species of tortoise recorded in the park. Also found is a terrapin species, Agama, two chameleon species, a monitor, 18 snakes and several geckos, skinks and lizards.
Birding in the Karoo can be extremely rewarding. Look out for Karoo Korhaan, Ludwig’s Bustard, Namaqua Sandgrouse, and numerous raptor species which include Booted Eagle, Pale Chanting Goshawk, and Rock Kestrel. The park is also home to Verreaux’s (Black) Eagle. Regional specials include Karoo Eremomela, Namaqua Warbler, and Pririt Batis. The rest camp and camping site delivers species such as Acacia Pied Barbet, Red-eyed Bulbul, Karoo Scrub-Robin, Cape Robin-chat, and more.
The Karoo is a place of extremes. Summer temperatures can easily reach 40 degrees Celsius while winter temperatures can easily drop to below 0 degrees. Snow is sometimes visible on the peaks of the Nuweveld Mountains. Annual rainfall ranges between 100 and 500mm and summer rainfall is often associated with thunderstorms. There is no malaria in the region.
Go on a game drive in your vehicle and explore the various areas of the park. There are approximately 60km worth of tourist routes. Allow the expert guides to share their knowledge of the area by joining a guided game drive in an open safari vehicle.
There are also numerous 4x4 routes in the park for offroad enthusiasts, most of them free of charge.
Furthermore, there is a bird hide near the rest camp and a fossil walking trail within the rest camp to explore. The youngsters will love the fossilised creatures.
Rest your head in a beautiful Cape Dutch inspired chalets or camp under the stars in the main rest camp. There are units to accommodate families and they are fully-equipped.
The more adventurous traveler can choose the Afsaal cottage, a rustic old shepherds hut approximately 35km from the main rest camp, truly isolated. The unit can accommodate two guests on two single beds. Cooking can be done on a fire, or a two plate gas stove outside.
The Embizweni cottage on the Nuweveld 4x4 route is a great option for 4x4 enthusiasts and also offers accommodation far from the crowds.