At the beginning of December we made a spur of the moment decision to go to the Karoo National Park for a few days. We were both impressed with the park when we stopped over there for a night on our way back from Mana Pools in 2013. It was really nice to finally be able to go back to explore some of the park and do a bit of game viewing!
The Karoo National Park is near Beaufort West and only about 500km from Cape Town. It’s an easy drive along the N1 highway. We left home late in the morning and arrived there after an uneventful drive later that afternoon. We had no problems with the Landy…in fact, it went beautifully! 🙂
The rest camp is built below the Nuweveld Mountains and offers beautiful views from the chalets and cottages. We stayed in one of the wheelchair enabled chalets which was very comfortable, clean and well maintained. The view from the verandah looking out over the plain towards the mountains was stunning!
There’s a very nice restaurant in the rest camp but we chose to self-cater (except for breakfast which was included in the accommodation tariff). We thoroughly enjoyed the evenings sitting out on the verandah with a fire going for a braai and with drinks in hand. The beauty and tranquility of the Karoo was very special.
Mornings were spent enjoying breakfast at the restaurant and then exploring the facilities in and around the rest camp.
We had an anxious moment when parking outside the restaurant on our first morning. I couldn’t get the key out the ignition! I tugged and pulled, turned the ignition on and off and tugged and pulled again…no go. There are no pearls of wisdom to be found in the vehicle manual about stuck keys so I phoned Philip from Twin Landy. He suggested I start the car, shift the gear selector into Drive and then back into Park. Problem solved…why didn’t I think of that? 🙂
The paved fossil trail is a 400m circular route which has various interesting exhibits showing the evolution and development of the Karoo. Well worth a visit!
We also went to have a look at the bird hide but it’s unfortunately not accessible in a wheelchair. A pity…I’m sure it wouldn’t be too difficult for SanParks to build a stilted boardwalk up to the hide. Pippa had a look though. Lots of Weaver and Red Bishop nests in the reeds but not much else on display during the short time that she was there.
There are 2 main game viewing routes in the park, neither of which require a 4×4 vehicle. On the eastern side (between the park entrance and the rest camp) is the Lammertjiesleegte plain, a relatively short drive across flat and open terrain. We saw a variety of animals on this route but not in vast numbers.
The more interesting route (in our opinion) is on the western side of the rest camp. It’s a 49km circular route called Potlekkertjie Loop which takes at least 2 to 3 hours to do. The first section towards the Afsaal Loop (and Afsaal Cottage) is across the flat plains of the Karoo. It’s a gravel road which is a bit corrugated and uncomfortable. Once past the Afsaal Loop turn-off the road turns in towards the mountains with a fairly easy ascent up towards Klipspringer Pass.
The scenery changes quite dramatically as you start climbing up towards the plateau. The vegetation next to the Gamka river is far more lush with thorn trees lining the river bed. Lions that have been re-introduced into the park in recent years are often sighted in this part of the park. Sadly, we weren’t lucky enough to see any of them. In fact, we didn’t see much game at all during the drive, only the odd Oryx and a few Mountain Zebra. We also saw a few Verreaux’s Eagles at the top of the pass near the Rooivalle View Point but too far away across the gorge for any photographs.
A view from the plateau
To be fair though, we didn’t spend a lot of time on game drives so the relative lack of game wasn’t because there isn’t a decent variety in the park. We chose not to go on the longer 4×4 route which might have offered better sightings. Quite honestly, we were more than happy to just enjoy the views and ambience of the Karoo.
Our final morning started early with flashes of lightening and booming thunder reverberating through the valley. A great start to the day with lovely early morning light reflecting off the clouds as the sun rose above the mountains.
We only had a brief shower of rain but it was enough to wet the ground and perk up the thirsty vegetation.
And so, after another pleasant breakfast on the verandah of the restaurant, we came to the end of another short but very welcome break from the city.
2017 was a frustrating year for us. For the first time since 2012 we weren’t able to get away for a decent bush break. Thank goodness though for the opportunities we had to go to Rocherpan, Vrolijkheid and finally the Karoo national Park. Sanity was at least partially preserved!
We look forward to a much better and more exciting 2018!
Karoo National Park Gallery here.