Spectacular Karoo

Excellent game viewing and challenging off-road drives

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The Karoo National Park is situated in the Great Karoo just before Beaufort West on the main N1 from Cape Town to Gauteng. Originally used as a stopover for weary travellers on the N1, the park has now become a popular tourist attraction.

The dramatic Karoo landscape enhances the experience and makes this a truly exceptional national park. Looking from the top of the Great Escarpment in the park towards the Lower Karoo, visitors can get a feel of the greatness of this arid semi-desert landscape. The flat-top dolerite hills or Karoo koppies as they are also called are iconic of the Great Karoo.

On entering the park at the gate just 12 km from the town of Beaufort West, it is a short drive to the main rest camp, which boasts eight fully serviced Cape Dutch style family units, each with two bedrooms and en-suite bathroom, DSTV and as well as an open-plan lounge and fully equipped kitchen. There are also 19 chalets, with an open-plan layout, with two single beds, double sleeper couch and kitchenette. Both of these options have a chalet specially adapted for guests with limited mobility. There are a further 10 cottages with a double bed, bathroom and shower as well as an open-plan kitchen. No bush experience would be complete without the South African braai. All chalets feature a braai area on the veranda.

For guests who would rather camp or caravan, there are 24 award-winning sites all with communal ablutions and kitchen facilities. All have 220v power points. A laundry is also on site for guests’ convenience.

Guests have many options to explore the park and enjoy the environment and the many species of game that abound. There are 60km of tourist roads where guests can enjoy game viewing. The Klipspringer Pass just outside the main camp is spectacular and guests are guaranteed to see a multitude of game from eland to kudu to baboons, and of course klipspringer. Lions and hyena are also often seen. At the top of the pass is the spectacular Roopville lookout point. At least 60 different species of mammal make the Karoo National Park their home, including the highly endangered riverine rabbit. The sparse vegetation provides excellent game viewing conditions, so guests are never disappointed.

Those guests who are a little more adventurous and wish to explore the park in 4x4s have a choice of four such trails. By taking the Nuweveld and Afsaal trails, visitors can explore the remoteness of the park.

By diverting off the Potlekkertjie Loop one can take a circular route back to the camp. This route is approximately 91 km and can be done in a day or guests can stay over in the Embizweni Cottage. Huge herds of gemsbok, mountain zebra, kudu and red hartebeest can be seen along the route. The Kookfontein and Sandriver loops branch off the Nuweveld and Afsaal trails. The Klipplaatsfontein route connects to the Nuweveld route, and because of its remoteness requires a free permit to monitor access. The Pienaars Pass is the first 4x4 trail of its kind within SANParks and takes visitors to the middle plateau of the park. There is a charge of R280 to access the pass, which is not for beginners.

Guided game drives are also available for visitors from the main camp, and can be booked at reception.

The famous Fossil Trail within the main camp is a 400m walk that makes use of genuine fossils and petrified wood to explain the ancient makeup of the park and the Karoo millions of years ago, even before the dinosaurs.

The Sylvester Single Track is named after the famous lion Sylvester, who made himself famous in 2015 for escaping from the park, only being recaptured a week or so later. He has since been relocated to another national park. This track is designed in the main camp area for mountain bikers and joggers to enjoy.

All in all, the Karoo National Park is a fantastic gem in the fold of SANParks and one that once visited will always be on the travel list to return to.

John Elford

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