Wide open spaces in an ancient thirst land
In South Africa’s Western Cape Province, near the historic town of Beaufort-West, lies the Karoo National Park: 88,113 hectares of semi-desert plains and towering mountains.
Inside the Park, altitudes vary between 840 meters above sea level in the valleys to over 1900 meters on top of the Nuweveld Mountains, the average annual rainfall is only 236mm and temperatures can range between -5°C on winter nights to 41°C on summer days.
The wide range of habitats in the park, from scrub- and grasslands to dense riverine thickets, provide a safe haven to 202 bird species, 59 kinds of mammals (including lion, buffalo and black rhinoceros), 66 types of reptiles and, surprisingly for such an arid region, 8 species of frog.
Accommodation and camping is available at the award-winning rest camp, opened in 1989, complete with a well-stocked little shop, restaurant and meeting venue. Visitors can enjoy bird-watching from a hide near the camp, guided walks, two beautiful picnic areas, an interesting information centre in an old barn, a swimming pool, and 4×4 trails. Guided and self-drive game viewing is possible along a well-maintained network of scenic roads, the routes having been given delightful names such as Klipspringer Pass, Potlekkertjie Loop and Lammertjies Leegte.
The Karoo is rich in fossils dating back as far as 255 million years ago, and visitors can explore this fascinating aspect of the park along the fossil trail (a 300m paved walkway) in the camp.
The Karoo National Park is easily accessible, lying as it is along South Africa’s main North-South highway (N1) and is often used as a stop-over by weary travellers. It is however a fascinating and rewarding destination in its own right, worthy of more than just a passing glance.