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 Post subject: avon vosloo Three Frontier parks - starting with MZNP Oct'12
Unread postPosted: Tue Oct 09, 2012 5:55 pm 
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Location: Kempton Park
I recently had the opportunity to visit three of our four Frontier parks, missing out only on Addo because I was going nowhere slowly and could not find an available campsite whilst in the area.

Started off on my lonesome self with a four night visit to Mountain Zebra - long story short - my wife was in Jeffries at her sister that was recovering from a heart operation. I would meet up with her later, spend a few days in Jeffries (I don't like the place at all) and then continue our round trip. We did indeed discover quite a few gems inside as well as outside Sanparks where we camped, sometimes out of necessity (no available campsites) and sometimes just because we wanted to spend a night or two. So many undiscovered beautiful places in the mountains yet to be visited.

OK, Mountain Zebra - what can I say that has not been said before? Different from Kruger? Obviously. Well maintained grassed campsites with very friendly staff? Definitely. Beautiful loops on the grassy Karoo plains and through Soetdoring thornveld and a mountain pass up to where the Wilgerboom River originate (Ubejani, Rooiplaats and Kranskop). I also did one of the 4x4 loops to Juriesdam and was pleasantly surprised by how well designed and maintained the road were. This must be the best effort that I have seen that resulted from the Working for Water Project; let me quickly add that I had the opportunity to go on foot on the cheetah tracking and thus saw areas not normally seen by the general public. Evidence of what they are doing to rehabilitate the park can really be seen everywhere if you know what to look for.

As I type this I am still in two minds about the cheetah tracking and it's got nothing to do with the fact that our ranger for the day took us on a few kilometers walk up a mountain only to see some female kudu running "getting signals bouncing back" so he could not pinpoint the first female cheetah, hehehehehe - :) Howzit Richard :thumbs_up: On the one hand I want to recommend going on this walk to anyone that can spare the money to do so. You are guaranteed to walk to within a few meters of a cheetah - other than the Kruger walks where you only see what you see on the day.

Richard picked up the signal of the second female and we started walking in her direction. He picked up another signal whilst we were still approaching her - she must have been fast asleep behind a rather smallish tree with hardly any shade. She got up when she noticed us and moved away, slowly but deliberately. Richard followed the third female' signal and walked right past her, not seeing her in the ditch we had to go through as he was looking for a way up the other side. I walked a few meters behind him and saw her about six meters to my left. She sat up, crouched and then snarled at me (a sound I will cherish for the rest of my life). I just froze and called Richard - as he turned around she must have recognized him and she calmed down immediately allowing us great photo opportunities.

I said I'm in two minds about this - is this the way it will become in future? In other words will our children still be able to find "wild" cheetah or any animal for that matter without making use of tracking technology. I sincerely hope they do, but have my doubts. In all my visits to many parks I have yet to see a black rhino other than one running away in the distance..........

A few phodies of some funny looking species I ran across and a few of the collared cheetahs mentioned above.

Springbok in pajamas
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Double ended blesbok
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Horned male ostrich
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Richard our ranger
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Female no 1
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Female no 2
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She snarled at me
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 Post subject: Re: TR - Three Frontier parks - starting with MZNP
Unread postPosted: Tue Oct 09, 2012 8:13 pm 
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Location: Cambridge, MA (and home from home in Darling, WC)
I also love MZNP and I HAVE done the cheetah tracking — do you remembr the names of your cheetah, AV? I think it's a brilliant activity, not to replace seeing cheetah on your own, but as an addition to the other experience. They're NOT collared merely to provide an interesting activity for visitors; rather, the activity grew from the fact that the park's cheetah are collared so that SANParks may study many aspects of their life at MZ.

So NO, I do not think that this is the way of game viewing for the future, at least not for SANParks (no telling what use private reserves might make of tracking collared animals to provide views for visitors — altho those top-of-the-range visitors might complain that photos of collared animals were not sufficiently 'wild' or 'natural').


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 Post subject: Re: TR - Three Frontier parks - starting with MZNP
Unread postPosted: Wed Oct 10, 2012 4:27 pm 
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arks - I have a bad habit of not remembering names, specially animal ones :) but I'm glad you are so optimistic about the future - still have that nagging thought at the back of my mind though....

MM - do the tracking, wear sunscreen and a hat, grin and bear it, your daughters will thank you that very same evening after sunset and will talk about it for a long time.

CV 8) :)

Thanx for the response from all

After spending a few days in Jeffries we slowly worked our way to the Karoo National Park near Beaufort West. I will briefly mention a few places not Sanparks related that we visited on our route (no names of actual campsites).

First stop a road I have always wanted to try out but never had the opportunity to do so. Close to the town of Kareedouw a dirt road took us towards the "sea-side" of the Baviaanskloof - I'm not aware of roads that have access into the Baviaans from the Eastern side, the ones I do know just runs up close to the border of the reserve. Next stop was on the Kouga-Wilderness route and a campsite close to Prince Albert - magic place's that we did not want to leave. PM if you want details.

OK - Karoo National Park. Again a breath of fresh air - reception, very neat campsite and ablution facilities, friendly staff, etc. etc. We spent some time doing the fossil trail one afternoon - what an eye opener - I never realised how little we do know about the buried treasures that can be found in the Karoo. I am sure there are a lot better phodies of the exhibits on show than mine, so I'm not posting any of those. We did some of the 4x4 loops - with names like Nuweveld, Potlekkertjie and Afsaal that rolls so easily off the tongue. From flatland that seems to stretch past the horizon to the Klipspringer tarred road that provides breathtaking views from the mountain we slowly tried to cover as much area as we could in a couple of days.

The park is IMHO about animals and plants that can survive this harsh environment. Don't go there if you expect to have Kruger like sightings, but you will be rewarded with something just as if not more special than Kruger. Forget about finding the lions or black rhino - methinks they have them tied up in a far corner of the reserve where nobody can get to them :) . But look out for eland, Cape mountain and plains zebra, springbok, numerous red hartebeest, klipspringer and koedoe (notice how dark the kudu are when compared to the ones in Kruger?). We had a late brekkie one morning at the restaurant and can give it a hearty thumbs up.

Weather wise - hot and windy and then some more hot and windy. Only three phodies this time round.

Automated entrance gate to the campsite late afternoon
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Our home away from home
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A few of the cottages/chalets with the mountain as backdrop
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 Post subject: Re: TR - Three Frontier parks - starting with MZNP
Unread postPosted: Fri Oct 12, 2012 5:05 pm 
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Waiting for the page to turn - in the meantime -

Let me share my perception of how two different couples camping experienced the new Nqweba Campsite at Camdeboo.

We already had our campsite for the night and were relaxing in the shade of the Soetdoring trees. It was hot and windy even though we could still see a tiny bit of snow on top of the Naude and Lootsberg passes that had fallen only five days previously. A vehicle approached and the driver asked us if there are power points available at the site next to us and I answered in the affirmative. They couple drove around all the campsites and then exited the gate. I forgot about it and went for a walk enjoying the sunset, with waterbirds sounding in the background.

A while later I walked to the ablutions and saw the same couple pitching their camp for the night. It was now getting rather dark so I started our braai of Karoo choppies and wors - what else. My wife went to the ablutions to find the door left wide open, with plenty mozzies and miggies inside - seems to her that they could not read the sign to please keep the doors and windows closed. :twisted: The lady complained bitterly to my wife about the mozzies and miggies, the location of the campsite, the whereabouts of the campsite (because you have to drive through town to get to the game viewing area and/or the valley of desolation), the weather, the vehicle noise from the main road and apparently a whole lot more - leaving the door wide open when she left.

Our visit started earlier the day with a chat to the very friendly reception staff that explained a lot to us because we were newbies to Camdeboo. My wife mentioned that the first animal we saw inside the gate was a stray black mongrel dog and jokingly asked when and where we could see some wild animals. :wink: One of the rangers told us about a 4x4 route that is a must-do and that he had spotted a herd of buffs and a large herd of eland on that route a while ago. He also told us about another 4x4 route that we could try, we only had to get the keys to the gate from reception. I saw him a while later around the campsite area where I complemented him about the general layout and facilities. Turned out he did the design himself (after getting no response from local caravanners) and he was quite chuffed with my comments.

Later during our first afternoon we decided to go for a drive to the general game-viewing area (on the other side of town) and stopped at reception again to get directions. We were told that it's not going to be a problem should we be a bit late, they will arrange with security to open the gate for us. You cannot drive across the river to get to the mentioned area on the other side of the dam, because the bridge on the river washed away. During our stay we also met at least four different security guards that worked 12 hour shifts and we saw them walking around and chatted to them regularly.

Now I'm just pondering..............

Saffies in general do not listen very well even though they may ask questions.
Seems to me that we can either be pleased easily, or is it because we listened to the locals that we experienced a rather great couple of days at Nqweba :thumbs_up:


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 Post subject: Re: TR - Three Frontier parks - starting with MZNP
Unread postPosted: Sat Oct 13, 2012 8:07 pm 
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I must admit that I find it kind of amusing that with the current fun and games in Kruger and KTP there is so little interest in the Frontier parks. If I have to travel a bit further to get the peace and quiet that the Karoo Parks has to offer, I'd be doing so gladly. Been there, done that has never been good enough for my wife and I - the more we know about an area, the more we want to know - meaning a return visit if finances and health allows.

Many gems around Camdeboo remain hidden after our trip - we had spent way too little time to really appreciate what the park has to offer. Nqweba campsite is missing just one thing IMHO - a bird-hide next to the dam - so that visitors can take a walk down from the campsite early morning or late afternoon. I could identify a number of waterbirds coming in to roost for the night and during the day (including Blue Crane) and would have loved to be able to see them as well.

View of the town of Graaf Reinet from the Toposcope - Nqweba dam can be seen on the left hand side.
Walking the short distance to the edge of the Toposcope is worthwhile - the view down below is breathtaking.
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The famous Valley of Desolation (I should have tried a panorama shot)
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When walking along the Valley Nature Walk we spent quite a few hours just drinking in the views and the different smells of the clearly marked Karoo Shrubland species. Did I say it was hot and windy up there - never mind, we loved it.

Letting the vehicle cool down a bit after going up through the Koedoeskloof 4x4 route at the picnic spot under two ancient Wild Olive trees. Only the last five or six hundred meters of the route were very rocky and required careful driving.
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I must admit that I got out of the vehicle a few times to remove a number of large rocks from the little used track. Baboons frequent the area (even though we never saw them) turning over rocks onto the track looking for scorpions - meaning no people friendly baboons. Just look at the pristine vegetation around the site - looks like a little known undiscovered gem to me. We did have an interesting experience on the way down, being a one way up, one way down route - finding a spot where two vehicles could pass each other tested our driving skills. (may I suggest a key or booking system?). On my GPS Koedoeskloof still falls outside Camdeboo - maybe time to upgrade my maps again. At the start of the track we saw staff clearing what was left of sisal plants - probably part of the Working for Water project - well done!

A View across the Camdeboo from the top of the Koedoeskloof loop.
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Another view to the right - it's going to be fun removing the alien vegetation up here though.
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Our campsite (No 1) at Nqweba (Coolpix shot)
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A pair of Cardinal Woodpeckers just finished their new home in the dead tree on the right. Keep an eye out for them if you can get there soon.

I hope you enjoyed my musings about these lovely Karoo Parks and that you will also be able to visit them one day. If I could do it all over again, I would spend at least ten days in each of them.


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