Karoo National Park
The Karoo National Park is a scenic desert in the Western Cape of South Africa, near Beaufort West. The main attractions of the park are its distinct landscape and desert animals, ranging from numerous lizards, birds, Lions, oryx, zebras, elands and black rhinos.
The South African Nature Foundation (SANF) and the Town Council of Beaufort West founded Karoo National Park in 1979. After SANF had launched a campaign promoting the flora and fauna of the Karoo region, the Town Council of Beaufort West donated a vast majority of the park's territory, the rest of which was purchased by SANF.
The lower Karoo is a wide arid desert plain, bordered by the plateau mountains of the higher Karoo.
On a drive along the “Lammertjesleegte” route, through the plains of lower Karoo some animals that can easily be seen are cape mountain zebra’s, burchell’s zebra’s, springbock, red hartebeest, gemsbok (oryx) , eelands, and ostrich and with a bit of luck hyenas and lions. Black rhinos also inhabit the park, however their sightings are rare and the park rangers will not tell you where the sightings occurred for the Rhino’s protection. A full list of the Karoo National Park's mammals and reptiles available and will be given to visits upon entry in the park, a full list of the Birds of the Karoo are also available.
The main vegetation consists of shrubs in the plains and mountain grasslands along the steeper hills of the mountains.
As the park lies in a desert, the temperatures at day can easily rise far over 35°C, and at night plummet significantly. When visiting the park visitors should be aware of this great temperature change and pack accordingly, especially when they want to camp. Visitor should be aware of the Karoo’s sudden weather changes.
By air The closest airport for scheduled national flights is situated in George (GRJ), 300km from the Park. There is a small aircraft airport 10km from Beaufort West. There are a few rental car shops in Beaufort West and at the airports.
By Car Take N1 highway from Cape Town. After about 450km you will reach Beauford West. The gate hours of the park are from 5:00-22:00, however it is possible to arrive outside those hours when previously arranged.
South African Citizens and Residents (with ID) pay R22 per person, per day. SADC Nationals (with passport) pay R44 per adult, per day (children R22). The Standard Conservation Fee for Foreign Visitors: R88 per adult and R44 per child, per day. The park fee is not included in the price for overnight stays and will be added on top of your lodging cost.
Visiting the park in a 4x4 vehicle enables you to fully acess the park as many of the game/scenic drives are only accessible by 4x4s. For visitors which do not have a 4x4, it is possible to rent 4x4 vehicles in Beauford West for prices around 100$ per day. However there are multiple drives available for non 4x4 cars which are more then sufficient for a couple of days visit of the park which take the driver through the wide plains of the lower Karoo all the way to the Klipspringer Pass of the Upper Karoo, the scenic highlight of the park. Guided game drives are available at day and night and range from R740 to R900.
There is a great variety of birds in the park, which is seen the easiest around the campsite. Common sightings include larks and chats. Birds special to the region that live in the park are the Karoo Eremomela, Namaqua Warbler (Prinia) and the Pririt Batis. The Karoo National Park also houses multiple raptor species including the booted eagle, pale chanting goshawk, large numbers of lesser kestrel in the summer months and a high concentration of verreaux’s eagles.
The park features a 400 meter long fossil trail on which prehistoric mammal-like reptiles from Karoo are on display.
Ou Schuur Interpretive Centre
The Ou Schuur Interpretive Center is a little museum in the park displaying the area’s history, including reports from early settlers about the great springbok migrations and the ancient inhabitants of Karoo.
The main lodge area features a shop, well stocked with wood and appliances for the most basic needs. The meat selection mostly consists of very expensive lamb chops. It would be advisable to bring your food and whatever you need with you into the park due to the cost of the market.
The lodge features a scenic restaurant with an indoor and outdoor seating area. If you stay in a park lodge, breakfast is included. There are two dinner restaurants within the park, which will serve decent food at the high price of the South African National Park restaurants.
The park offers a variety of lodging, from a camp sites for R725 for 2 people , Chalets for 2-4 people for R1000, Cottages for R1100 for 2-3 people and Family Cottages for R1500 for 4 people with a 6 person capacity (R290 for each additional person). The Cottages are stunning as they are located along the wildlife fence. They are very well kept and equipped and have a large porch with a barbecue, overlooking the wildlife enclosure and the mountains. Accommodations in the park can be booked on the Park website.
The national parks are one of safest areas in South Africa due to their inaccessibility and constant surveillance by park rangers. As there are wild animals in the park, it is not advisable to get out of the car in undesignated areas or go hiking elsewhere then on the designated hiking trails. As there is no gas station in the park, it is advisable to fuel up in Beautfort West, before entering the park.