Clear your head into the Ka­roo

Public Sector Manager - - Contents -

They call it a “skraal­wind” be­cause it gets in ev­ery­where with a dry cold that cracks your skin and burns your lungs as it greets you, blow­ing over the Great Ka­roo. Win­ter here is harsh and clean.

There is no match for the grandeur of this arid waste­land – the sharp, rocky out­crops that form crisp sil­hou­ettes, the nar­row, dark ravines that open onto rolling plains and a stag­ger­ing vast­ness that in­gests end­less sun­light and starlight alike.

One of the best ways to ex­pe­ri­ence the pu­rity of this im­mense and tran­quil land­scape is in the Ka­roo Na­tional Park, sit­u­ated just five kilo­me­tres from Beau­fort West.

Spoilt for choice

There are Cape Dutch-style chalets of vary­ing sizes for guests to choose from, but my fam­ily usu­ally opts for one of the two-bed­room, six-sleeper, self-cater­ing fam­ily cot­tages on our get­aways.

Th­ese are in­ti­mate enough to en­sure fam­ily bond­ing dur­ing all ac­tiv­i­ties in the open kitchen, din­ing and lounge area, but also large enough to break away to ei­ther one of the bed­rooms when this loses its appeal.

Smaller chalets are also avail­able for groups of four (with a dou­ble sleeper couch and two sin­gle beds) or two (with a dou­ble bed), both

with kitchens.The fam­ily and cou­ple units of­fer a se­lec­tion of DStv chan­nels, and all rooms are equipped with bed­ding and tow­els and are ser­viced daily.

Other than the chalets, the park boasts 24 award-win­ning sites for campers and car­a­vans in a leafy, green oa­sis, which is a stone’s throw away from the main camp, each equipped with a 220V power point.

All campers have ac­cess to a com­mu­nal kitchen and ablu­tion fa­cil­i­ties, as well as laun­dry fa­cil­i­ties. Wash­ing ma­chine and tum­ble drier to­kens can be pur­chased at the re­cep­tion desk for R10 each.

For 4x4 own­ers seek­ing a qui­eter get­away, both Em­bizweni and Af­saal of­fer a sleep­over in the wilder­ness. Em­bizweni is a house built to ac­com­mo­date six guests and Af­saal Cot­tage is an up­graded shep­herd’s hut, which can ac­com­mo­date two adults and two chil­dren.

Both units are equipped with a gas burner, fridge and out­side braai area, and have so­lar-pow­ered lights and gey­sers.They do not, how­ever, of­fer cell­phone re­cep­tion, so take books, board games and binoc­u­lars, and lose your­self in the time­less land­scape.

Game-watch­ing

A great way to spend any day in the park – and a def­i­nite fam­ily favourite – is game-watch­ing.This can be done from your own car, on foot or even your chalet stoep (for the com­mit­ted hol­i­day­mak­ers).

The Klip­springer Pass of­fers ex­cel­lent van­tage points for an­i­mal spot­ting and guests are ad­vised to make a stop at the top to en­joy the scenic look­out point, Rooivalle.

Apart from watch­ing the dar­ing dassies that dart across the rocks be­low, wildlife en­thu­si­asts can mar­vel at the black ea­gles that have made their nest and live in the canyon.

The Nuw­eveld EcoTrail (90km) and Af­saal EcoTrail (13km) af­ford 4x4 en­thu­si­asts the chance to ven­ture off the pop­u­lar roads and ex­pe­ri­ence more re­mote ar­eas of the Ka­roo Na­tional Park.

Guided walks in the park cost R210 per per­son, and are avail­able to

vis­i­tors want­ing to hike the ter­rain be­fore break­fast.Th­ese are sched­uled for 6am in sum­mer and 7am in win­ter, and are led by qual­i­fied guides.

Those who pre­fer not to get up so early can try the guided night drives, which are avail­able to up to nine peo­ple at a time.Th­ese are the best chance vis­i­tors have of see­ing the noc­tur­nal in­hab­i­tants of the park, such as bat-eared foxes, cara­cals and brown hyena. Adults will each be charged R210 for this ex­pe­ri­ence, but for chil­dren un­der the age of 12, the fee is R105 each.

If you take your ve­hi­cle out dur­ing the day on the des­ig­nated roads that wind across the plains and the plateau, you are guar­an­teed to see some form of life, largely due to the fact that there are limited places for an­i­mals to hide.

The Ka­roo Na­tional Park is home to a large ar­ray of birdlife, an­te­lope and smaller an­i­mals and even boasts rhino and li­ons. A large map at re­cep­tion is up­dated by rangers to in­di­cate species’ lo­ca­tions. Apart from the morn­ing and night tours which the park pro­vides at an ad­di­tional fee, there is also a bird hide a short stroll away from the chalets, as well as an In­ter­pre­tive Cen­tre with its fauna and flora ex­hi­bi­tions near the car­a­van and camp sites, both of which are free.

Al­though the wildlife con­tin­gency at the park ne­ces­si­tates elec­tri­fied fenc­ing around the perime­ters of the main camp, camp­site and car­a­van park, pre­vent­ing any lengthy hikes, the en­closed roads are still open for run­ning and walk­ing, and are safe for chil­dren to play and ride their bi­cy­cles.

Less sporty vis­i­tors can stroll along the im­pres­sive Fos­sil Trail, which boasts a num­ber of dis­play cases and in­for­ma­tion plaques about the fos­sil and ge­o­log­i­cal his­tory of the region.

Pack smart

Af­ter many hol­i­days at the Ka­roo Na­tional Park dur­ing my life­time, I have learned that the most

valu­able items to in­clude in your suit­case are a cam­era, binoc­u­lars and a dou­ble adap­tor. Some­times it is also nec­es­sary to bring your own bot­tled drink­ing wa­ter as Ka­roo wa­ter takes some get­ting used to. When pack­ing, guests are re­minded that the weather can be scorch­ing from De­cem­ber to Fe­bru­ary and bit­ingly cold on mid­win­ter nights.

There is a shop at the re­cep­tion build­ing that stocks a va­ri­ety of ne­ces­si­ties and com­forts (ed­i­ble and oth­er­wise), and also sells every­thing nec­es­sary for braai­ing at the chalets. Any­thing that you might re­quire over and above this se­lec­tion can be pur­chased from shops in Beau­fort West. Break­fast and din­ner are served at the fully li­censed a la carte restau­rant from 7am to 10am and 6pm to 9pm, re­spec­tively, and pro­vide the op­por­tu­nity to rub shoul­ders with other guests at the park. Book­worms are strongly ad­vised to bring their favourite com­pan­ions along.

Who to con­tact:

South African Na­tional Parks reser­va­tions

Tel: +27 (0) 12 428 9111

Ka­roo Na­tional Park

Tel: +27 (0) 23 415 2828

Web­site: https://www.san­parks. org/parks/ka­roo/

Points of in­ter­est:

• A com­pre­hen­sive list of all flora and fauna at the Ka­roo Na­tional Park can be found on the park’s web­site.

One of the fam­ily units and two of the four-sleeper units have been mod­i­fied to ac­com­mo­date per­sons with limited mo­bil­ity.

Writer: Kathryn de Vil­liers Pic­tures: Kathryn de Vil­liers

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