The Karoo National Park is located in the north-east of South Africa's Western Cape Province. The nature reserve is home to an interesting variety of birds and mammals, including Black Rhino and Buffalo.
Proclaimed a national park in 1979, the Karoo National Park in the Western Cape is situated just outside of Beaufort West on the border of the Northern Cape. The Nuweland mountain range dominates the park and forms an amphitheatre backdrop to the undulating plains that stretch out below it and form the majority of the conservation area.
Spanning over 88 000 hectares, the nature reserve lies in the heart of the Great Karoo and has an extremely rich fossil history. Many of the fossils are found in the sedimentary rocks of the Beaufort group that were originally laid down here in 250 000 000 BP. There has not been a lot of research into the early inhabitants of the nature reserve, however it is known that the San people lived here for several thousand years and that the cattle herding Khoi khoi were also present.
The area is known to have had large prides of lion living in it, and the name 'Gamka', which is given to a river in the area, is the Khoi word for Lion. Sadly, when the first Europeans arrived in the area in the early 18th century they hunted a large number of the antelope that were found here, depleting the Lions' prey and the Lion soon became scarce.
Of the other large predators that were once found here; Cheetah, Leopard, Wild Dog and Hyaena, none remain in the park today. Huge herds of thousands of Springbok once roamed the land here and many still remain on the surrounding farms however not in the abundance that they once were.
There are 66 different mammal species found in the wilderness park today, several of which were reintroduced after the historic populations were hunted to extinction. Visitors to the game reserve can look forward to seeing Black Rhino, Buffalo, Lion, Common Eland, Southern Gemsbok (Oryx) and Cape Mountain Zebra.
Greater Kudu are also common and can often be spotted along the watercourses just outside the safari park. Grey Rhebok, Springbok, Common Duiker, Steenbok and Klipspringer can also all be found in the park. On the slopes of the escarpment one will be able to see Baboons, and Vervet Monkeys are often seen along the river areas amongst the sweet thorn trees. The Karoo National Park has around 59 different species of reptiles found in it, including 6 different tortoises and 35 lizard species.
There are at least 200 species of birds found in the nature reserve and the safari park is well-known for its large population of Verreaux's Eagles and is considered a 'bird of prey hotspot' with 23 raptor species found in the reserve including Booted Eagles, Black Harriers and Rock Kestrels.
Common Ostrich, Kori Bustards and Ludwig's Bustards and Karoo Korhaans are often seen on the plains. The best location for bird watching is the camp itself and while there is a bird hide that is worth a visit, the view is often blocked by dense vegetation.