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 Post subject: Spring visit to Karoo
Unread postPosted: Tue Sep 21, 2010 9:17 pm 
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Planning to leave 06:30 tomorrow morning. The caravan is packed and everything is ready to hit the road to one of our most favourite destinations - Karoo National Park for 5 nights (visit No 43). I notice on the website that the park is fully booked for the long weekend. I'll report back. Hope to find this fella again.

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 Post subject: Re: Spring visit to Karoo
Unread postPosted: Tue Sep 21, 2010 11:22 pm 
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Enjoy Stoffel looking forward to a TR!? I've never been to Karoo NP but it's on my to-do-list! :thumbs_up:


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 Post subject: Re: Spring visit to Karoo
Unread postPosted: Tue Sep 21, 2010 11:27 pm 
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Wishing you a wonderful journey, Stoffel & Co. Enjoy! :mrgreen: :mrgreen: :mrgreen:

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 Post subject: Re: Spring visit to Karoo
Unread postPosted: Mon Sep 27, 2010 9:46 pm 
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I'm back from a wonderful 5 night break in Karoo National Park. As soon as time allows, I'll report back on a great visit.

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 Post subject: Re: Spring visit to Karoo
Unread postPosted: Mon Sep 27, 2010 9:48 pm 
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:popcorn: :popcorn: :popcorn:

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 Post subject: Re: Spring visit to Karoo
Unread postPosted: Mon Sep 27, 2010 11:09 pm 
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:popcorn: Looking forward to it Stoffel!!! :dance:


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 Post subject: Re: Spring visit to Karoo
Unread postPosted: Tue Sep 28, 2010 11:07 am 
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We arrived at the park's main gate @ 13:15 on a very nice sunny Spring day. I expected to meet Daniël Hollander (the friendliest gate guard in South Africa) at the gate, but was welcomed by a kind lady who informed us that Daniël was off for two days. Only yesterday (leaving the park) we saw Daniël for the first time - as friendly and warm as ever, and got to know the reason for his absence on our arrival. Daniël attended a function at Camdeboo National Park where he received an award for his great service as gate guard.

We have been visiting this jewel of South African National Parks since 1990 on a very regular basis. But I can't remember seeing the Karoo as dry as it is at present. On different occasions we experienced the park in full bloom, faced some heavy thunder storm and rain, and walked the former Fonteintjieskloof trail while the river was flowing and everything was lush and green. But now - you wonder how the animals can survive. And yet, every single animal we saw seemed to be in excellent condition.

Arriving at the camp site, we opted for Plot 9 (our favourite No 8 was occupied).
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Plots 1 - 7 and 22 - 25 was recently re-grassed with sods of lawn. No's 8 - 14 will be done in the next week or two. Full points to management to try and keep the camp site in the immaculate condition we have come to known over the years. The late Jacob Esau did a great job as camp supervisor, but his successor, Renier, can also be proud of himself for a job well done.

The ever-present leopard tortoises were especially greatful for the newly laid lawn. Every morning they would make their appearance ± 09:30 and stay until about 16:00 before they silently disappear into the surrounding veld for their beauty sleep. The males surely needs a lot of rest every night, because 50%+ of their days are occupied by chasing each other away from the few available females or doing their "thing" which can last for more than half an hour at a time (while the female is grazing peacefully).

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More to follow.

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 Post subject: Re: Spring visit to Karoo
Unread postPosted: Tue Sep 28, 2010 12:17 pm 
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The 'lion proof' electric fencing around the main camp and the camp site is near to completion. However, I have not noticed any signs of similar fencing around the personnel quarters. I believe this is still to be done.

I expressed my personal view about the introduction of lions to Karoo National Park on another thread on this forum. To repeat: "I am not in favour of this decision." I cannot help to get the impression that some of the decisions taken in the past were not well thought-out. A few years ago buffalo was released in the park. Then a decision was taken to release cheetah in the park. The perimetre fence of the park was electrified quite a while ago for this purpose. Then suddenly the cheetah release project was somehow slightly "put onto ice" as it was realised that the population of the cheetah's main prey (springbok) was not suitable for such a release. (I heard some stories from a very reliable source that something went wrong with the management of the springbok population, but Megan Taplin assured me on another thread that it was not the case). Nevertheless, it was decided to postphone the cheetah release with more or less two years. This proofs to me that the original decision was not well thought-out. The next moment we heard that SANParks is going to release lions in the park. And now (once again heard from a very reliable source) the buffaloes had to be removed as they might become lion prey. I apologize if my information is wrong.

The Fonteintjieskloof Trail was a beautiful trail through a very nice part of the park. We have done the trail (which took about half a day) on numerous occasions. It used to climb up to the middle plateau from where you had a magnificent view over the camp and surrounding areas. With the introduction of buffalo and black rhino the trail was closed because it passes through area favoured by both species. But in the place of it The Pointer Trail was opened. Another great walk with hardly any risk of bumping into the mentioned two species. With the introduction of lion this trail will either have to be closed or you will only be allowed to walk it together with an armed guide.

We walked the short circular trail at the top of Klipspringer Pass on Friday as I said to my SO that it will probably be the last time we'll be able to do that because of the introduction of lion. I wonder if the new Doornhoek picnic site will also be fenced with lion proof fencing. It is situated in a rather remote "bushy" area where lots of kudu keep. I will be very cautious to get out of my car at this wonderful spot, knowing that lions might be around.

In my opinion there are parks where you go to to find "big game". And then there are parks that are conserved to protect certain habitats and fragile eco-systems and/or certain species. For some or other reason I have always put Karoo National Park in this category. But I am obviously wrong. The Mountain Zebra National Park (MZNP) was proclaimed to protect the Cape mountain zebra from extinction. The numbers of these beautiful animals have increased rather dramatically - thanks to the park. But if I am correct, the Cape mountain zebra is still regarded as one of the world's rare large animals. In order to prevent some or other disastrous disease put the animals in MZNP under threat, SANParks started moving some viable breeding groups to other areas and parks - like Karoo. We all know that lions are very fond of zebra. Will the release of lions in Karoo not put this rare species under threat in the park? The same applies for the uniquely coloured Burchells' zebra in the park. Or will the two zebra species also be removed? I just wonder.

Sorry, but I just had to voice my concerns about the release of lions in the park as I believe it will take away a lot of the present peaceful character of this beatiful park. The next posting will be again about our positive experiences during this last visit.

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 Post subject: Re: Spring visit to Karoo
Unread postPosted: Tue Sep 28, 2010 5:01 pm 
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To come back to the present drought situation in the park - the borehole supplying water to the Bulkraal picnic site has dried up. The picnic site, popular amongst local day visitors, had to be closed because of this.

In the past the Klipspringer Pass has lived up to its name on about every occasion we travelled it. Klipspringers are normally abundant. However, with this trip (driving the pass 4 times) we only saw a pair of klipspringers once - rather low down in the pass. The last few years it seldomly happened that you do not see kudu in the lower part of the pass. But with the sweet thorn trees standing naked without leafs, there is no reason for kudu to be in that area.

We kept our eys open for the breeding pair of Verreaux's Eagle (African Black Eagle) that normally keeps in the vicinity of Rooivalle - but no luck. We hoped to see them breeding in the nest on the rocky ridge below the Rooivalle viewpoint (as we've seen them some years ago), but it does not look as if that nest is used anymore.

We had some beautiful sightings of Pale Chanting Goshawk and Rock Kestrel. We saw a pair of Secretarybird, three Stanley's Bustard and quite a few Karoo Korhaan on the eastern side of Potlekkertjie Loop. The ostrich population in that part of the park has surely increased dramatically - probably enough for a cheetah or two already. It was also a hopeful sign to see quite a lot more springbok than 2 years ago.

Red Hartebeest and gemsbok were abundant. We saw one antelope which could not be positively identified as it was against the sun - but it was either a Mountain Reedbuck or Grey Rhebok. We have not seen Eland on many occasions in the park, but we were lucky to find two females on the middle plateau during one of our drives. Both zebra species are quite regularly seen. Most of the Burchell's zebra in the park are exceptionally light coloured on the rumps and legs. The core population originally released in the park was derived from Cape Nature's project to try and breed the Cape Quagga "back". They (Cape Nature) started off with animals selected for characteristics which corresponds more or less to that of the extinct Cape Quagga.

This time the black rhino eluded us. We found fresh tracks on the first part of the Afsaal 4x4 Loop (around the drinking hole), but no other signs of them. I am pretty convinced that the two we found in the Doornhoek valley (nearly two years ago) are not in the area anymore as the valley is also very dry with hardly any leafs on the trees and shrubs.

The old "house" at Afsaal is a rather cute building. We stopped there and (against the rules) walked to the "house" where we enjoyed a nice cold beer under the veranda on the stoep. My SO (who grew up on a nearby Karoo farm) became very nostalgic while there and wished that SANParks will make it available as an overnight facility for visitors to the park. I believe it is presently only used by SANParks officials.

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 Post subject: Re: Spring visit to Karoo
Unread postPosted: Tue Sep 28, 2010 9:19 pm 
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I struggle to understand why some (or rather 'so many') people have such an obsession about seeing the predators or the so-called Big 5. When you read posts on various threads on this forum, and listen to conversations in rest camps (whether it is Kruger or KTP or wherever), you get the impression that many people (if not most) regards sightings of predators as the one and only criteria to be used whether they had a successful day in a park or not. Just listen to conversations at the communal kitchens and/or ablutions. Someone will ask: "What did you see today?" And the reply will be one of two things. It will either start with the great sightings of predators they saw - even if it was a few lion sleeping in the shade of a tree, 200 yards away from the road and twitching and ear every now and then or pitching their tails. Or it will be mentioned that they actually did not see much except for the general type of game.

I overheard the conversations of various visitors in the camp site of Karoo National Park this past weekend. One guy said to my neighbour that they visited Addo and Mountain Zebra without seeing any rhino. And in Karoo they even saw less game, nevermind rhino. It is at times like that, that I feel so sorry for people who cannot see the beauty of nature in the smallest little things. Or just to appreciate the fact that you can tranquilize yourself in the peacefulness of a place like Karoo - even if you stay in camp for the whole day.

To be enchanted by the omnipresent bird-life (Southern Masked Weaver, Southern Red Bishop, Cape Sparrow, House Sparrow, African Redeyed Bulbul, Bokmakierie, Redwinged Starling, Cape Robin, Cape Wagtail, Cape Turtle Dove, Laughing Dove, etc) in the camp, or the antics of the leopard tortoises, or listening to the cry of jackal at night, or to be woken by the beautiful repeated "kwa-ha-ha" of zebra - all of it is proverbial heaven to me as a nature lover. I am just wondering if the "lion-proof" fencing will also keep my beloved leopard tortoises out of the camp. It will surely keep the zebra and the eland out who comes into the camp at night and wake you with the sounds of their hooves on the circular road through the camp. It will probably also succeed in keeping the porcupine (who's been a regular visitor to the camp for many years) out - what a pity that all these wonderful things will fall in battle for the sake of a few lions to be released in this Karoo paradise.

I will miss the Karoo National Park as it used to be up till now.

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 Post subject: Re: Spring visit to Karoo
Unread postPosted: Wed Sep 29, 2010 11:10 am 
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I agree with you, it is such a pity that the Parks Board wants to introduce the big five where ever they can. I love to see lions and all the other big five but I also want to see the flowers birds insects etc. The biggest problem I have is driving around in a car and not being able to really enjoy nature by walking in the footsteps of the animals but cooped up in a car with the aircon on because it is hot (wife wants aircon) we need more access to the parks not more restrictions.


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 Post subject: Re: Spring visit to Karoo
Unread postPosted: Wed Sep 29, 2010 11:38 am 
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Quote:
I struggle to understand why some (or rather 'so many') people have such an obsession about seeing the predators or the so-called Big 5.
I can assure you that you are not alone. I would rather watch squirrels than lions :thumbs_up:

Regarding introduction of lions in the Karoo Park, I should not have a opinion as I have never been to the park and do not know its history, but it does not sound as a logical choice to me and if it is only done to increase the number of visitors well then conservation is not taken enough into consideration. Actually I thought the Karoo National Park was a park where you can go hiking :hmz: but I must be mistaken.


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 Post subject: Re: Spring visit to Karoo
Unread postPosted: Wed Sep 29, 2010 2:18 pm 
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Micetta wrote:
Actually I thought the Karoo National Park was a park where you can go hiking :hmz: but I must be mistaken.


Micetta

One of the first "developments" in the park was the three-day 'Springbok Trail' for hikers. The short 'Fonteintjieskloof Trail' was also popular amongst people not geared for overnight trails but who wanted to experience the park "hands-on". Both trails have been done away since (buffalo & black rhino). The relatively new 'The Pointer Trail' still exist but will either disappear too, or visitors will have to do it with an armed guard. The nearby 'Bossie Trail', where you can learn about the medicinal and cultural uses of the Karoo plants, will probably also disappear as it is outside of the 'lion proof fence'. Fortunately the 'Fossil Trail' falls within the perimetre of the 'fence'. The very beautiful 'View Trail' (offering great vistas over the ravine at the top of Klipspringer Pass) should also be closed because of the 'lion danger'.

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Last edited by Stoffel on Wed Sep 29, 2010 3:21 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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 Post subject: Re: Spring visit to Karoo
Unread postPosted: Wed Sep 29, 2010 2:48 pm 
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Sounds as if the characteristics of the park are going to change completely :?


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 Post subject: Re: Spring visit to Karoo
Unread postPosted: Thu Sep 30, 2010 7:45 pm 
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Beautiful report Stoffel :clap:

I agree with your concerns completely. And I had never even thought about what the camp fencing will do to to movements of animals in and out of camp :( Watching the tortoises mow the lawn was something I absolutely loved about that camp.


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