Known for providing excellent viewing of Buffalo and Black Rhino as well as being the nature reserve that saved the Cape Mountain Zebra, the Mountain Zebra National Park is located in South Africa's Eastern Cape Province.
Framed by the red-brown backdrop of the rounded dome-hills of Bankberg mountain range which drops down into the surrounding valleys and plateau of the Karoo plains, the Cape Mountain Zebra National Park was established in 1937 when it was realised that there were very few Cape Mountain Zebra left, and that the species was nearing extinction. In the late 1940's there were only 2 stallions in the game reserve, they were then replaced with 11 new Zebra and increased again to 55 animals in 1964. By 1978 the population had increased to 200 and today the number of Cape Mountain Zebra is over 700.
The Cape Mountain Zebra can be most easily distinguished from the Plains Zebra by their brown shadow-stripes on the white, the lack of grid-iron pattern on their rumps and that their black ring stripes on their legs do not extend all the way down to their hoofs.
Located just 12 kilometres ( 7.44 miles) from the town of Craddock in the Eastern Cape, the safari park currently spans over 28 000 hectares and is continuing the grow. The long term goal of the Provincial government is to expand the reserve west and join it to the Camdeboo National Park. Once home to the hunting and gathering San people, the reserve has a number of historical remains, San rock paintings and artefacts in it, however; these are not open for public viewing.
While the safari park was originally founded to save the Cape Mountain Zebra from extinction, the main focus of the park nowadays is on biodiversity protection and populations of Blesbok, Springbok and Grey Rhebok can all be found within the national park. The game reserve is also considered to be one of the best locations in South Africa for viewing Mountain Reedbuck.
There are no Lion in the reserve and the largest carnivore found in the park is Cheetah. Suricate, Bat-Eared Foxes and Black-Backed Jackals are the most regularly spotted carnivores and while another three species of cat; Caracal, Small Spotted Cat and African Wild Cat, are found in the safari park they are seldom seen.
Visitors staying in the one of the 19 fully equipped park-run self-catering cottages, or in the campsite can look forward to regular sightings of Rock Hyrax (Dassie), Vervet Monkeys and Savanna Baboons, of which the last two have been known to steal food that is not locked away securely.
Bird-watchers will enjoy the excellent sightings of some of the 257 species found within the nature park, from the comfort of their accommodation or within the camp and the Cape Eagle-Owl can often be heard calling from the rock outcrops above the camps. The reserve's 2 picnic sites are also known to be brilliant locations for bird watching.
The river banks offer countless sightings of species such as the Southern Boubou, Acacia Pied Barbet and the Southern Tchagra. There are 18 raptor species in the game reserve of which visitors are most likely to see Rock Kestrel, Jackal Buzzard and Verreaux's Eagles.
Aside from the dolerite rock in the mountains, the reserve's landscape is mostly made up of mudstone, sandstone and siltstone. An overview of the layout of the landscape can be seen by traversing along the route known as the Kranskop-Wilgerboom River route. A majority of the vegetation in the game reserve is made up of a combination of eastern upper Karoo grasses and shrubland, escarpment grasses and escarpment thicket or Riverine sweet thorn.
The best game-viewing area is usually in the Rooiplaat area of the reserve where the plants are known to be more palatable to African game such as Red Haartebeest, Springbok and Black Wildebeest. In the lower Wilgerboom region, along the valley, one will find Greater Kudu who enjoy feeding off of the Acacia sweet thorn trees that are found there.
Read the Mountain Zebra National Park Travel Guide for more info and accommodation options.