Category Archives: Mountain Zebra National Park

Summertide Diary: Departing Mountain Zebra

3 January 2021

Today we had to leave Mountain Zebra National Park early, for we had a long way to get back home to Pretoria and had to beat the government-imposed curfew at that. It may have been only 12km from the camp to the gate, but still there was loads to see!

Very near the gate there’s a nice waterhole where even this early in the morning a procession of game was already congregating. The serenity of the scene was shattered when a mountain zebra love triangle got out of hand, but calm soon settled again.

During our time in Mountain Zebra National Park we were very lucky to come across a Black Rhinoceros cow and calf. For their protection I won’t be able to share where or when it was that we saw them, but being able to see more of these magnificent creatures was a privilege we were very grateful for.

And with that our summertide ramble came to a halt, if temporarily, as I had important start-of-the-year work to attend to back in Pretoria. As it would be some weeks still before the schools were due to reopen we did have another reservation in the offing, but with South Africa in the midst of a serious second wave of COVID-19 infections we weren’t at all certain that we would be able to take it up…

We posted a special feature about Mountain Zebra National Park following a previous visit, if you’d like to learn more about this special destination.

Map of Mountain Zebra National Park from the SANParks website (https://www.sanparks.org/images/parks/mountain_zebra/mznp-map.jpg)

 

Summertide Diary: Exploring Mountain Zebra (part two)

2 January 2021

When dawn found the Mountain Zebra National Park under heavy skies this morning we were already underway along the Kranskop Loop.

When we arrived at the start of Rooiplaat Loop we found a male lion lying there, flat on its right-side. We sat there as the minutes passed, studying it through cameras and binoculars and finally coming to the sad conclusion that this lion was dead – there wasn’t even a twitch of an ear or any movement of its stomach to indicate a breath being taken. Disheartened, I started the car to drive off.

King Roy, fast asleep

The sound of the Duster’s engine had a miraculous effect. The lion lifted his head, sleepily. He rested his head on his paws for a while, then gave a mighty yawn before getting up, stretching his legs and then lying down again to look at us in irritation. He is magnificent, known as Roy, and despite his advanced age one of the ruling coalition of lion males here at Mountain Zebra National Park, along with Nomad whom we saw at a distance the day before .

When the next vehicle arrived at the lion sighting we moved of so that those visitors too could have a private audience with The King. The skies have cleared and it’s turning into a glorious day. On our way back to camp we passed Roy again, and he was fast asleep again.

With it being our last afternoon at Mountain Zebra we opted to visit all our favourite spots along the Ubejane and Rooiplaat Loops and the Link road between them again. There’s just something so indescribably peaceful about driving around wild Africa as dusk approaches.

We posted a special feature about Mountain Zebra National Park following a previous visit, if you’d like to learn more about this special destination.

Map of Mountain Zebra National Park from the SANParks website (https://www.sanparks.org/images/parks/mountain_zebra/mznp-map.jpg)

Summertide Diary: Bat-eared Fox puppies

Our new year got off to a great start when we encountered this lovely family of Bat-eared Foxes along the Link Road in the Mountain Zebra National Park on the 1st of January. At the den there were three very lively puppies and four adults who did everything they could to get the pups to hide away from the enamoured humans, without much success!

Summertide Diary: Exploring Mountain Zebra (part one)

1 January 2021

As soon as the gates opened on New Year’s Day we headed for the Rooiplaat Loop, the sightings board at reception having indicated that Lions and Cheetahs were seen there the previous day. And we did not wait long – right where the road skirts the Park’s boundary fence we came across a big male lion, known as Nomad, patrolling his territory.

We supposed that it was the proximity of the big predator that made these Black Wildebeest so jittery!

It’s early morning in the Mountain Zebra National Park and there’s so much to be seen!

It was on the link road between Rooiplaat and Ubejane Loops that we happened upon these cute little Bat-eared Fox pups and their elders. More photos of them tomorrow!

Bat-eared Fox pups

Along the main road, between the two junctions with the Ubejane Loop, we saw this pair of unusually tolerant Secretarybirds – they’re normally quite nervous and move away from the road the moment a vehicle approaches, so this was a great opportunity to watch them in action.

At the southern junction of Ubejane Loop with the main road there’s a small earth dam filled with rainwater. By the time we arrived there at mid-morning Cape Mountain Zebra families were arriving from all corners, along with some other wildlife, to slake their thirst and it was wonderful to watch their social interactions before heading back to camp.

Back at camp there was time to kill either side of lunchtime, and thankfully there’s very much of interest around the accommodation and camping area.

Our route for the afternoon would first take us into the mountains along the Kranskop Loop before taking another jaunt around the Rooiplaat Loop.

A real highlight of our afternoon drive was an encounter with a group of three Cheetahs – one adult and two youngsters – on the Rooiplaat Plateau, just half-an-hour before we had to be back in camp.

 

We posted a special feature about Mountain Zebra National Park following a previous visit, if you’d like to learn more about this special destination.

Map of Mountain Zebra National Park from the SANParks website (https://www.sanparks.org/images/parks/mountain_zebra/mznp-map.jpg)

Summertide Diary: Arriving at Mountain Zebra

31 December 2020

It’s a 210km drive from Addo‘s Main Rest Camp to the gates of the Mountain Zebra National park, and we arrive just after 13:00. The rest camp lies about 12km into the Park, but it’s hot and most animals are hiding from the midday summer sun and we don’t see much of them before reaching the camp.

After checking in we make our way to our allotted unit, cottage 20, and while Marilize and I unpack the car and settle into our accommodation Joubert is already out exploring and enjoying the birdlife in camp.

Time to go exploring as a family, and off we go to the Rooiplaat and Ubejane Loops before returning to camp three hours later.

2020 draws to a close with a beautiful sunset over the hills of the Mountain Zebra National Park

The last sighting of the year: a Raucous Toad next to the swimming pool in camp.

We posted a special feature about Mountain Zebra National Park following a previous visit, if you’d like to learn more about this special destination.

Map of Mountain Zebra National Park from the SANParks website (https://www.sanparks.org/images/parks/mountain_zebra/mznp-map.jpg)

Summertide Rambles 3 January 2021

Sadly that horrible day arrived when we had to depart for home. Thankfully, as we were on our way to the Park’s gate this morning, Mountain Zebra National Park sent a delegation of buffalo to wish us well on our journey .

Summertide Rambles 2 January 2021

This morning we were treated to a very special audience with the King of the Mountain Zebra National Park at his residence on the Rooiplaat loop road.

Summertide Rambles 1 January 2021

Happy New Year, everyone!

We kicked off 2021 by spending time with the most adorable family of Bat-eared Foxes here at Mountain Zebra National Park. We have lots more photos of the 3 cute pups and the 4 adults watching over them to share when we’re back home.

Summertide Rambles 31 December 2020

This morning it was a sad farewell to Marilize’s parents who joined us for the 4 nights we spent at Addo Elephant National Park. They headed home to Jeffreys Bay while we travelled in the opposite direction to the final stop of our 2020 summertide ramble – the beautiful Mountain Zebra National Park (please click on the image for a clearer view).

Mountain Zebra National Park

Historically, the Cape Mountain Zebra occurred widely in the mountainous areas of what today is South Africa’s Eastern, Western and Northern Cape Provinces. With the settlement of Europeans in these areas, and the consequent increase in competition for grazing with their livestock as well as uncontrolled hunting, the numbers of the zebras started plummeting. With their plight finally brought to public awareness, the National Parks Board (today SANParks) proclaimed the farm Babylons Toren in the Cradock district the Mountain Zebra National Park in 1937. At 1,432 hectares in extent, the newly established Park was hopelessly too small, and the founding herd of 5 stallions and 1 mare entirely inadequate to save the species from certain doom, and by 1950 the world population of Cape Mountain Zebra had dwindled to only 91 animals, of which only 2 were in the national park that carried their name. That same year a local farmer donated 11 zebras to the park, but it was only in 1964 that the Park was expanded to 6,536 hectares with the addition of neighbouring properties. This proved very much to the zebras’ liking, and by 1969 the Park’s herd stood at 98 head and by 1978 had grown to 200. Today, the Mountain Zebra National Park protects around 500 of these beautiful animals, and several hundred more have been reintroduced to areas in their historic distribution range.

The Mountain Zebra National Park lies at the transitional zone between the arid western Karoo-scrublands and the moister, eastern grasslands, and protects a wide variety of habitats and landscapes within its borders. Given its amazing topographical diversity it should come as no surprise that over 700 plant species occur in the Park. With the future of the Cape Mountain Zebra secured, the focus of the Park could be shifted to biodiversity conservation, and with the help of wildlife artist David Shepherd and several corporate sponsors, enough funds were collected to enlarge the Park to over 28,000 hectares, which allowed the introduction of several large game species – notably lion, cheetah, buffalo and black rhino – to their former haunts.

Sharing the Mountain Zebra National Park with its most celebrated inhabitants is 65 other kinds of mammals…

… and to date 257 bird species have been recorded in the Park.

There’s also a multitude of smaller, less noticeable animals in the Park, including 45 kinds of reptiles, 10 species of frogs, and giant 4m long earthworms!

In recent years, Mountain Zebra has become one of South Africa’s most popular national parks, and recently the number of accommodation units at the Park’s rest camp (which also boasts a small shop, restaurant and swimming pool) had to be substantially increased to cater for the demand. Doornhoek Guest House is a historic homestead restored to its former glory and now converted to luxurious overnight accommodation in a secluded corner of the Wilgerboom River valley. There’s also a terrific camping site, two picnic sites, an extensive network of game-viewing roads, three 4×4 trails, a guided hiking trail and guided game drives available to visitors. A unique attraction at Mountain Zebra is the “cheetah tracking” where guests accompany researchers and rangers to find radio-collared cheetahs in their natural habitat.

Mountain Zebra National Park was the eighth and penultimate stop on our December 2017 tour through eight of South Africa’s national parks. It is located just outside the small town of Cradock, on the R61-road to Graaff-Reinet.