I recently enjoyed the privilege of a weekend in the Tankwa Karoo National Park along with 6 other W Coast HRs, hosted by the TKNP Park Manager, Conrad Strauss. The Park, which is not officially open to the public yet, as they are still in the process of buying farmland to add to the area of the Park before fencing it in, is already huge, and a fascinating place to visit. It is basically an arid Park for most of the year, covered in flowers when (if) it rains and is situated just over 100kms out of Ceres off the R46/R355.
I strongly recommend this wonderful new Reserve, and am sure it will become popular when opened.
We stayed in a revamped farmhouse named Paulshoek, about 5 kms from Conrad's office and home. Paulshoek is a revamped farmstead. The water in the homestead is good to drink, but we took our own anyway. Wood for braai and donkey boiler is supplied, but we took our own hardwood to supplement the braai. A walk around outside before your evening braai after the heat of the day is recommended. Looking back from the farmstead along the road you came in on and to the left up the hill, you might spot a concrete dam (like the one at Varsfontein, another old farmstead currently being renovated for the day the Park is opened) that supplies Paulshoek with water. It's worth a visit on foot, and see if you can spot the amateur rock etchings (most are just scratchings, some are really good) on the black basalt rocks up the rise a little from the dam. They were made last century and early this one by the people who lived in Paulshoek. Just below these rocks in the direction of the road, you might notice small holes in the ground. These are gecko holes, living examples of which may be seen on the Paulshoek walls on your first night.
Places to visit include Varsfontein and the Gamamma(sp?) Pass, both of which provide wonderful Karoo vistas, strange plants and weird rocks. A 4X4 is recommended during the "rainy season" (sorry Conrad!). Vehicles with high ground clearance will survive longer than ordinary sedans.
The area has aardvark and porcupine in great abundance. Look out for these early morning and late afternoon. They can be heard at night outside the homestead grubbing for food. The area also has caracal (rooikat or lynx), both foxes - Cape and Bat-eared, as well as Black-Backed Jackal. Birds abound if you are into birds (look out for the most common birds of prey in the area, the Pale Chanting Goshawk, the Black Eagles in the pass, the Rock Kestrel and the Black Shouldered Kite). There are millions of LBJ's that defy identification! There are Mountain Zebra, a few Oryx (Gemsbok) and lots of Springbok, but you need to stop every now and then to spot them in the distance unless you are very lucky to come around a corner and catch them right in front of you. A program will be started as soon as the fences are complete (dependent on the purchase of another few farms - talk to Conrad for more info) to bring back all the game shot out by the previous tenants or farmers.
On your way home, I strongly recommend that you go back to Ceres via the Koue Bokkeveld turnoff (to your right on your way back along the R355 to Ceres) and up the mountain where, on looking back regularly, magnificent views of The Tankwa and the Klein Karoo are sights worth seeing. Also, the scenery is fantastic along that route, taking in the Kattebak Pass - so named for its steepness and the need in the old days to use reverse gear up and down the pass in order to have the power! Two T-junction left turns bring you back into Ceres via the village called "Hamlet" just outside town. Turn right back onto the R46 in Ceres.
Thanks, Conrad for a wonderful weekend. You will be seeing more of us!
Almost everything comes from almost nothing.
Henri Frederic Amiel (1821-1881)
Philosopher and writer