Where time stands still – the Karoo National Park

This park is often a stop-over between the Western Cape and Gauteng, but you’re selling yourself short. I’ve never been able to fit everything I want to do there in, but if I could try again, my stay would look like this:

Day 1

Start the perusal for game as soon as you enter. The road from the gate to reception is a couple of kilometers long.

Seeing that you’ve probably been driving for a while, walk the short and fun Fossil Trail after you’ve booked in and unpacked. It’s only 400m long, and depicts the geology and palaeontology of the Great Karoo. It will give you some insight into the landscape that you are about to explore. Just down the road, the Ou Schuur Interpretation Centre is fascinating and while you’re there, stop by the nursery.

Legs sufficiently stretched, head back to the chalet and relax a bit before you tackle a guided night-drive. While not as jam-packed with potential sightings as a place like the Kruger National Park, this activity in the Karoo delivers special sightings. It’s still the only time I saw an aardvark in the wild. The drive is around an hour and a half, so plan an easy dinner for this night.

Day 2
This park offers guided morning walks free of charge to visitors. I love these – the route takes you all the way up to a spectacular viewpoint at the end of the Pointer Hiking Trail. I prefer the early morning option to the mid-morning one, as the sun can get cheeky early-on in this part of the world. If you stay in the rest camp, breakfasts are included and you would have worked up a nice appetite by now.

This is the clincher: Try and book the second night at Afsaal Cottage. If you have, you might need to get your things together now before starting to take it slow. Head towards the Bulkraal picnic site, stopping first at the bird hide on the right as you exit the rest camp. If you continue towards the picnic area, look out for lots of plains game, and perhaps even a lion or two if you’re lucky. The rest camp has a pool too, but Bulkraal is really beautiful. Soak up some holiday atmosphere reading next to the pool, stick around for a lunch braai and remember your binocs and bird book.

Finish the loop towards Lammertjiesleegte and head back in the direction of the rest camp for an afternoon of self-drive game viewing on the way to Afsaal. Take the longer route over the Klipspringer Pass and follow the signs.

Spend the night waiting for wildlife to turn up at the lighted waterhole in front of the cottage, take your time making dinner and stay awake for some star gazing. The night sky is incredible from this location. Or, howl at the moon – nobody will hear you from here.

Day 3
Almost time to go! But first, a last drive through the park before you exit and hit the N1 again. This time, drive towards the main gate via the Potlekkertjie Loop for a last try to spot those lions if luck hasn’t struck yet.

More information at www.sanparks.org

Karoo National Park fact file:
How old is it? It was proclaimed in 1979.
Why was this national park proclaimed? Outstanding biodiversity and landscape elements. Protecting a representative sample of the Great Karoo landscape, of unrivalled importance for understanding the evolution of the oldest known complex ecosystems on land.
-How big is it?
What is it famous for? Geology and palaeontology, petrified fossils, reintroducing lions into the Karoo.

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