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Karoo National Park

Karoo National Park

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Introduction

Towards late afternoon, the great, unyielding canopy slowly softens its fierceness, and from pastel shades of pink and blue, the colours deepen, setting the endless Karoo canvas ablaze with glorious hues of orange and red.

The Great Karoo is a vast and unforgiving landscape of which the Karoo National Park is but a small portion. Being the largest ecosystem in South Africa, the Karoo is home to a fascinating diversity of life, all having adapted to survive in these harsh conditions. Karoo National Park is dominated by the lofty Nuweveld Mountains and rolling plains, where many species that originally occurred here now occupy their former ranges.

The Karoo National Park has a wide variety of endemic wildlife. Many species have been relocated to their former ranges - such as brown hyena, lion and Cape mountain zebra. Over 20 breeding pairs of black eagle find sanctuary within the park. There is also a wide diversity of succulent plants and small reptiles.

Note to Travellers

  • Please note that tourist roads may be closed at times during heavy or prolonged rainy conditions or as a result of road maintenance.


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Accommodation

Main Rest Camp

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  • All accommodation is serviced daily and equipped with bedding, towels and soap.
  • Breakfast in included in the acccommodation costs, with the exception of camp sites.
  • 8 Cape Dutch style family units, each with two bedrooms (six beds in total), en suite bathrooms (bath and shower), DSTV (limited channels), and fully equipped kitchen (kettle, toaster, stove, oven, fridge, cutlery and crockery. One unit (No. 8) has been adapted for persons with limited mobility and contains a bath only.
  • 19 Cape Dutch style units, each with a bathroom (shower and bath), open-plan areas with 2 single beds and a double sleeper couch and kitchenettes with basic equipment. Two units have been adapted for persons with limited mobility and these contain showers only..
  • 10 Cape Dutch style cottages - one bedroom (double bed) open plan kitchen (microwave and three-plate hob) and lounge, bathroom (shower) and DSTV (limited channels).

Camping

  • 24 award-winning camping and caravan campsites amidst a veritable green oasis in the rugged Karoo environment with communal ablutions (shower and baths) and kitchen facilities with stove plates and scullery.
  • All caravan sites equipped with 220V power points.
  • A maximum of six persons, one caravan with a side tent and one vehicle, or one tent and one vehicle, or one autovilla or one motorised caravan will be permitted per site.
  • Laundry with a washing machine and tumble drier (R10 tokens available at reception).

To view the accommodation prices, refer to Tariffs

Afsaal Cottage

Afsaal Cottage is an old Shepherds hut which has been upgraded and will be re-opened in the near future. The facility is situated on the southern section of the Nuweveld 4x4 route, approximately 35 kilometers from the main rest camp.

The unit will be able to accommodate two adults and two children. The unit is equipped with an energy friendly solar power system for the lighting, a gas burner for food preparation, as well as a 90 liter solar powered fridge/freezer to store food and drinks. Two outside braai areas are also available. No fire wood is provided. Inside the unit are two single beds with mattresses and bedding. Extra bedding is provided. Two additional stretchers are available on request. The unit will not be serviced, but only cleaned on departure and before arrival. A shower with a gas geyser will ensure that there is hot water available. The unit is also equipped with a wash basin on the outside. In front of the unit is a waterhole which can be illuminated by the residents after dark in order to enjoy game viewing from the comfort of the porch.

Staying over at Afsaal Cottage will give visitors an early start to the game viewing area and the possibility to see the elusive game species. Normal gate hours are applicable to the Afsaal Cottage and park management depends on the honesty and integrity of visitors to abide by the gate and park rules. Visitors should also note that there is no Cell phone reception at the Cottage. The base rate tariff of one to two people is R690 per night. Additional children will cost an additional R100 per child. Bookings can only be made through the Park's Reception, on (023) 415 2828.


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Activities & Facilities

Activities

  • Take a scenic drive along the picturesque Klipspringer Pass with its environmentally friendly style of construction and the scenic viewpoint at Rooivalle.
  • Embark on self-drive game viewing in your own vehicle.

4x4 Eco-Trails

There are four 4x4 eco-trails available to visitors in 4x4 vehicles, at no extra cost:

  • Nuweveld EcoTrail (90km) and Afsaal EcoTrail (13km) are available to visitors in 4x4 vehicles.
    These two routes branch off the Potlekkertjie Loop and are available free of charge.
    About 50 kilometres of the Nuweveld trail is a Grade one 4x4 trail with some steep, rocky sections and sandy dry river crossings.

  • The Embizweni Cottage is available for visitors to overnight on the Nuweveld Trail.
    The cottage provides fully-equipped accommodation for six people with a gas-powered stove, fridge and geysers as well as solar-powered lights.
    Costs: R857 for 1 - 4 guests. R215 for each additional adult. R108 for each additional child.
    Bookings: Book via the park's reception at lorrian.bosch@sanparks.org or phone on +27 (0)23 415 2828.

  • The Kookfontein Loop (7km) and Sandrivier Loop (7km) branch off the Nuweveld and Afsaal Loops respectively, providing varied 4x4 route options.

  • The Pienaars Pass (own vehicle)
    R217.15 per vehicle.

Guided game drives

  • Drives are led by knowledgeable guides. Departure times can be confirmed at reception.

  • Morning Drive (2-3 hours)
    Cost: R832 (the first four people)
    R208 (per additional adult)
    R104 (per additional child under 12 years)
    Minimum of four (4) guests and maximum of nine (9) guests. Children must be six years or older to participate.

  • Night Drive (1½ hours)
    Cost: R680 (the first four people)
    R170 (per additional adult)
    R85 (per additional child under 12 years)
    Minimum of four (4) guests and maximum of nine (9) guests. Children must be six years or older to participate.

Guided walks

  • Guided walks are available free of charge to visitors.
    Walks are led by a qualified guide who will introduce you to the fascinating Karoo ecosystems.
    The times of the guided walks are:
    - Summer: 06:00 and 11:00
    - Winter: 07:00 and 11:00
    All visitors who intend doing a hike, MUST book at Reception BEFORE 19:00 the day prior to the intended hike, to ensure the availability of a guide.

Fossil Trail

  • This 400m long trail depicts the geology and palaeontology of the Great Karoo.
    Genuine fossils and petrified wood are on display on this paved trail
    Accessible to wheelchair-users.

Bird hides

  • A bird hide is situated at the dam near the main rest camp.

Picnic Facilities

  • The Bulkraal picnic spot has a swimming pool, ablution and braai facilities.

Note to Travellers

  • Please note that tourist roads may be closed at times during heavy or prolonged rainy conditions or as a result of road maintenance.

Facilities

  • Fully licensed a la carte restaurant which is open for breakfast and dinner from 07:00 a.m. to 10:00 a.m. and 18:00 p.m. to 21:00 p.m. respectively.
  • Shop where curios and basic commodities may be purchased between 07:30 a.m. and 20:00 p.m.
  • Interpretive Centre
  • Washing machine and tumble drier in the camping site. Tokens are available at reception for R10.
  • Picnic, braai and ablution facilities for day visitors at Bulkraal picnic site.
  • Swimming pool for resident guests only.
  • Public telephone
  • No ATM facility available

Conference Facilities

  • Full conference equipment and catering service
    Reservations: Tel +27 12 426 5025 or Fax +27 (0)12 343 2005/6

The town of Beaufort West is 12 kilometres away from the rest camp, with shops, a golf course, pharmacy, fuel station, hospital, bowling green, and the Chris Barnard Museum.

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History

During the late 1950’s a local farmer (and twitcher) William Quinton campaigned for a conservation area in the Beaufort West vicinity.

However, it was only in the 1970s that South African National Parks proposed the establishment of a National Park that would be representative of the Nama Karoo Biome after a campaign launched by the South African Nature Foundation (SANF) and funded through the commission and sale of special art stamps depicting the flora and fauna of the Great Karoo. After considering a number of possible suitable areas it was decided to establish this new park in the vicinity of Beaufort West.

In a gesture of support, the Town Council of Beaufort West donated 7 209 ha of communal land north-west of the town to the South African National Parks. This area then formed the nucleus of the Karoo NP, proclaimed in 1979. SANF purchased additional land to be incorporated into Karoo NP, and in 1989 a luxury rest camp was opened.

The Great Karoo is an area of unrivalled importance for understanding the evolution of the oldest known complex ecosystems on land. The park forms part of one of the Karoo’s classic study and collecting areas for the wealth of ancient petrified fossils of the long-gone Karoo animals. In the Karoo NP there is a clearly visible link between the geological horizons of the plains of Beaufort West, progressing through time, layer by layer, to those at the top of the Nuweveld escarpment.

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How to get there

Many visitors to Karoo National Park access the Park by car as this allows them the freedom to explore the park at their own leisure.

The Park is a convenient stopover on the N1 route between Cape Town and the interior of the country. Cape Town is situated about 500km south of the Park. Johannesburg is situated about 1 000km north of the Park.

The rest camp of the Park is situated 12km from the town of Beaufort West in the Western Cape, off the N1 highway.

Air

  • The closest airport is situated in George, approximately 300km from the Park.
  • International airports are situated in Cape Town and Johannesburg.
  • An airport for small aircraft is situated 10km north of Beaufort West (no scheduled flights).

Car Hire

Car hire facilities are located at airports and major cities.

Internal Road Network

All internal roads are tarred, with the exception of the 4x4 Trail. Coaches and buses cannot access all roads in the Park – drivers should contact Park Reception for more information.

GPS Coordinates

Entrance Gate: S 32˚21’48.2 | E 22˚32’28.4

Gate Hours

  • 05:00 – 22:00
  • Arrivals after 22:00 are not permitted without prior arrangement.
  • The reception office is open from 07:00 to 19:00.
  • Visitors with reserved accommodation who will arrive after 19:00 must make prior arrangements to collect the keys to their accommodation at the entrance gate. Please call the camp at Tel +27 (0)23 415 2828.

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Maps

Maps

Main Camp

Click on the thumbnails below to view or download enlarged maps

Park Map

Click on the thumbnails below to view or download enlarged maps

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Tariffs

Daily Conservation Fees for 1 November 2013 to 31 October 2014

South African Citizens and Residents (with ID): R36 per adult, per day
R18 per child (under 12), per day
SADC Nationals (with passport): R72 per adult, per day
R36 per child (under 12), per day
Standard Conservation Fee (Foreign Visitors): R144 per adult, per day
R72 per child (under 12), per day


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Vital Information

Climate

Annual rainfall totals 260 mm, with the plains being hot in summer, and the mountain areas relatively cool throughout the year. During mid-winter snow occurs regularly on the peaks of the Nuweveld Mountains.

Day Visitors

Day Visitors are welcome and no bookings are required for day visits.

Fuel Stations: Petrol/ Diesel

Vehicle fuel is available in all parks (or is available on the park periphery):

  • South African legislation stipulates that fuel stations will accept legitimate petrol/fuel/garage/credit/debit cards or cash as a form of payment for any fuel purchase.

Office Hours

  • Administration: Mondays to Fridays 07:30 to 16:00
  • The Reception Office is open from 07:00 to 19:00 daily.

Tips and Hints

  • Pets are not allowed in national parks.
  • As outdoor lighting in camps is limited, a torch/headlamp is required when walking outside at night.
  • Firearms to be declared at reception where they will be sealed. The seal will be broken upon departure.
  • Motorcycles or bicycles are not allowed.
  • Hospital, doctors, pharmacies, as well as vehicle repair and police services in Beaufort West.
  • Fuel available in Beaufort West.
  • Cool clothing for summer and warm for winter – the region is subject to sudden changes in weather, particularly in the mountains.
  • Remember to bring a hat, walking shoes, sun block, camera, binoculars and bird and mammal reference books.
  • Hikers on day trails must always carry sufficient water.

Contact Information

  • Karoo National Park
    Tel: +27 (0)23 415 2828 / 9
    Fax: +27 (0)23 415 1671
    E-mail

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Birding in Karoo National Park

While birding on the plains route, larks and chats are prominent. Karoo Korhaan, Ludwig’s Bustard and Namaqua Sandgrouse should also be looked for. The park’s best birding occurs in and around the campsite. Acacia Pied Barbet, Red-eyed Bulbul, Karoo Scrub Robin, Cape Robin-chat, Chestnut-vented Tit-babbler, Layard’s Tit-babbler, Yellow-bellied Eremomola, Pale-winged Starling, Southern (Lesser) Double-collared and Dusky Sunbird and Redheaded Finch are all ever present. Karoo Eremomela, Namaqua Warbler (Prinia) and Pririt Batis are regional specials to be looked out for. Raptors to look out for include Booted Eagle, Pale Chanting Goshawk, Rock Kestrel and large numbers of Lesser Kestrel in summer. The park also has a high concentration of Verreaux’s (Black) Eagle.

(For more birding information and park bird checklist, go to Information for Birders)

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Mammals & Reptiles

Because of the sparse vegetation, game viewing in Karoo National Park is easily facilitated. Best viewing is achieved on the 13km “Lammertjiesleegte” Route on the plains.

Large herbivores such as Red Hartebeest, Black Wildebeest, Eland, the two zebra species, kudu and springbok are all regularly seen. Klipspringer are regularly seen on the pass of the same name. Other species are less obvious due to smaller size, nocturnal habits or restriction to the wilderness areas of the park.

Cape rock elephant-shrew Cape Fox
Smith's rock elephant-shrew Bat-eared Fox
Round-eared elephant-shrew Cape Clawless Otter
Lesser red musk shrew Striped Polecat
Forest shrew Water Mongoose
Lesser dwarf shrew Yellow Mongoose
Common split-faced bat Small Grey Mongoose
Cape serotine bat Suricate
Melck's serotine bat Small-spotted Genet
Vervet monkey Aardwolf
Chacma Baboon Caracal
Cape Hare African Wildcat
Scrub Hare Antbear (Aardvark)
Smith’s Red Rock Rabbit Rock Hyrax
Riverine Rabbit Black Rhinoceros
Pouched mouse Cape Mountain Zebra
Grey pygmy climbing mouse Burchell’s Zebra with Quagga bred
characteristics
Pygmy mouse Black Wildebeest
Short-tailed gerbil Red Hartebeest
Hairy-footed gerbil Springbok
Grant's rock mouse Klipspringer
Namaqua rock mouse Steenbok
Multimammate mouse Gemsbok
Striped mouse Kudu
Saunders' vlei rat Eland
Panthea Leo Lion
Karoo bush rat Common Duiker
Spectacled Dormouse Gemsbok
Porcupine Grey Rhebuck
Common Molerat Mountain reedbuck
Brown Hyena  


Reptiles

Karoo National Park has a very rich reptilian fauna. Of particular significance are the 5 species of tortoise. However there is also a terrapin, an agama, 2 chameleons, a monitor, 18 snakes and several geckos, skinks and lizards.


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Vegetation

The vegetation in the Karoo National Park falls within the Karoo-Namib bio-geographical region, with areas of the park falling into the Nama Karoo Biome..

The vegetation physiognomy consists of Montane Karoo grassy shrublands, Karoo grassy dwarf shrublands, Karoo succulent dwarf shrublands, and riparian thicket. Steep elevation and precipitation gradients have a direct impact on gradients in vegetation. High elevation (1800m) and relatively high rainfall (406mm) montane grasslands occupy communities dominated by grasses. The increasing aridity away from the escarpment edge is steep, and Motane Karoo dwarf shrublands replace these mesic communities. At lower elevation (800m) the precipitation is very low (175mm) and uncertain.

The substrata influence the vegetation, with the sandy substrata of the drainage lines supporting more woody taxa and grasses. Moving away from the mesic environment of the riparian zone, rapid desiccation occurs and more xeric communities are encountered.


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People with Disabilities

Wheelchair Access

Accommodation

The rest camp has three units accessible to wheelchair users (two chalets with two beds and a sleeper couch and one unit with six single beds in two bedrooms).

Chalet (CH2/4Z)

The unit is accessible to the mobility challenged. The chalet features two single beds, sleeper couch and a bathroom with a shower. The kitchen is equipped with a microwave. An aircon is also availble.

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Family Cottage (FA6BZ)

The unit is accessible to the mobility challenged. The cottage features two bedrooms, each with one queen size bed and one single bed. There are two en-suite bathrooms. The kitchen is equipped with a microwave. An aircon and DSTV (limited channel) is also availble.

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Please note:

Accommodation images may differ from the actual units as refurbishment of various accommodation types occur on an on-going basis.

Accessible Activities & Facilities

  • The reception area and shop can be accessed easily enough (there is a small step at the entrance to the building.) Descending into the restaurant is currently achieved via an exceptionally steep ramp, and even the strongest of wheelchair users will need assistance.
  • The highlight of the park from an accessibility perspective is a fossil trail accessible to wheelchairs and most of the circuit is on a smooth, firm surface with an appropriate gradient. A bird hide and a couple of other walks are not accessible, but wheelchair users can follow the road down to the picturesque campsite and make their way around it absorbing the fauna and flora. Birds, insects and tortoises are particularly prominent.
  • Otherwise visitors can go on a scenic mountain drive or a game viewing plains drive.

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