Karoo National 15-16th September

Karoo National 15-16th September

Tuesday, 15th

This morning is cold as we rise at 5.45am and begin to pack up ready to move to Karoo National. Numb fingers brush the ice from the awning canvas. One delight of this lifestyle is meeting like minded folk. We are coming across more and more people who have sold their homes, bought a caravan and living permanently therein. Which is exactly what we are doing. We only intend settling when we feel ready for it.

Our neighbours in the MZ campsite are so helpful and pleasant. They have sold everything in Port Elizabeth and are travelling indefinitely, free of the anxiety of having homes burgled in their absence.

We finally leave the Park gates at 8am and head westwards. The landscape is quite mountainous and most attractive. We cross the “headwaters” of the Great Fish River and the Sundays River, both of which are bone dry. In Graaf-Reinet we stop for fuel noting again the old historic buildings surrounded by the milling masses.

Heading southwest, we travel along the N9 to Aberdeen where we turn off and join the R61 to Beaufort West. Now we are in the Karoo proper. From Graaf-Reinet to Beaufort West is about 200Km and despite the heavy caravan behind us, I only change gear once – to turn onto the R61. And the roads are excellent – pothole free and straight. From afar, the great bulk of the Nuweveld Mountains can be seen rearing up from the flat plains and overlooking the town of Beaufort West. After keeping to a steady 100kph we arrive here at 12.15pm and then enter Karoo National shortly thereafter. We find an excellent campsite and spend the afternoon settling in.

Karoo National Campsite

My goodness but this place is impressive – set amongst the mountains. As to be expected, it is much drier than Mountain Zebra with little grass. Late afternoon, I venture out of the camp gate for a while. I stop to photograph this most beautiful of restcamps.

A little trivia. Karoo National was established as late as 1979 – the first land being donated to National Parks by the Beaufort West Council. The restcamp was built in 1989 and further land purchases brought the present area to 90,000Ht.

I look forward to tracking down and photographing some new birds.

Wednesday, 16th

The 50% full occupancy limit (Covid) at Mountain Zebra does not apply here. The campsite is full.

Now the tactic this morning is to drive up the Klipspringer Pass and then settle at the highest spot along the road and enjoy our coffee with the beautiful vista of the Nuweberg Mountain range before us.

Nuweveld Mountain Range

So out the gates we go at 6.30am and up the pass with the early morning sun playing on the mountain tops.

At the top of the Klispringer Pass

We pause for photos along the way and then finally get to our coffee spot next to some Mountain Zebra. This is real solitude.

Mountain Zebra

And then disaster strikes as we discover that I have forgotten to fill the flask with hot water. After sorting out whose fault it is (sorry dear), Renette subsides into despair on the back seat and a high spot of our day is wrecked. Oh dear. We trail back to camp. But the early morning views are still spectacular.

The road climbing up the Pass

The Klipspringer Pass road is a work of art, snaking up the mountainside. There has been no cutting into the ground. It has been built up from the stone that covers the landscape – a wall on the valley side and fill inside of that.

The Toll Keeper

Back in camp I set myself up to do some bird photography.

Karoo Thrush
Fairy Flycatcher
Fiscal Flycatcher
Cape Robin-chat

The Robert’s Birding App really is helpful. Here they list birds likely to be seen along various routes in Karoo National – and other locations. So armed with my bird caller, I set off at 4pm up the Klipspringer Pass again – hoping for something new. At the top I come across a Bokmakierie – a beautiful bird and such a feature of the Karoo.


Returning down the Pass and near the bottom I have an immediate response from a Long-billed Pipit which poses obligingly for me.

Long-billed Pipit

And this marks my 500th bird specie photographed which is satisfying. I really am fortunate to have something that stimulates me so much and whose possibilities are endless. I love it!!