Natalie White
by on July 26, 2019
127 views

A 4:30am alarm is early, even when you are going on holiday. Our first stop on a 10-day road trip to Durban is the Karoo National Park, just outside the N1 town of Beaufort West. This was to be our second visit to the park but our first with a 4x4 and hence our newfound ability to explore the furthest half of the park which is restricted to 4x4 vehicles only.

The long and windy Klipspringer Pass, Karoo National Park

The long and windy Klipspringer Pass

This also gave us the option to stay in one of the two remote cottages in this section of the park, ours for the next two nights is Embizweni, the furthest from the rest camp. Whilst it is an easy 5-hour journey to the park from Cape Town, the trek to Embizweni Cottage is another 3-hours from the reception.  And imagine our dismay when we realized that the restaurant only opens for breakfast and dinner but not lunch! Instead we satisfied ourselves with an ice cream from the well-stocked stop and begun the second half of our journey.

Eland, Karoo National Park

Eland with a spectacular scenic backdrop

We were quietly hopefully that venturing into the more rugged side of the park would prove fruitful on our quest to find the Karoo’s lions. The landscape is so desolate and with barely a blade of grass or tree for shade it seemed unlikely that the animals would be happy here.  However, animals there are, and plenty of them too. Gemsbok, springbok, red hartebeest, Burchell’s and Cape mountain zebra are frequently seen, and to top it off 2-hours into our journey we had success with a lion sighting! Lazing under the shade of some Acacia Karoo thorn bushes were not one but three lions! Two beautiful males and a female, fast asleep in the searing heat of the early afternoon. 

The two male lions, Karoo National Park

The two male lions we saw on our way to Embizweni Cottage

Elated we continued the final few kilometers to our cottage. Nestled in the middle of this vast Karoo desert where there is not a spec of civilization in sight and the view really is nothing short of spectacular. All that remains of the day now is to enjoy our homemade burgers and get an early night ready for the all the possible sightings that tomorrow holds.  


Embizweni Cottage & the importance of being idle

It has been a quiet day today; both in terms of sightings and time spent at our cottage doing, literally, nothing.  We drove back to our lion sighting this morning with the hope that they might still be there; sadly we were to be disappointed. Whilst there is plenty of antelope on this side of the park, anything more interesting is definitely slim pickings. So imagine our delight when we came upon three bat-eared fox pups and their mum! Blending into the grey scrub their ears were glinting in the morning sunlight giving away their position; lucky for us.

The rest of the day was spent in quiet contemplation at Embizweni Cottage. Soaking up the view, we were even treated to a visit at our waterhole from a very wary heard of zebra. 

The spectacular scenery surrounding Embizweni Cottage, Karoo National Park

The spectacular scenery surrounding Embizweni Cottage

The cottage is basic but clean and adequately equipped. With no electricity you can happily pack your technology devices away and kick back with a good book or sit on the verandah with your binos at the ready. There are two bedrooms, one with a double bed and one with two bunk beds plus a large bathroom to share. The kitchen is spacious and has a fridge freezer as well as a gas oven and stovetop, there is also an outside braai and a fireplace in the lounge for those chilly winter evenings.

Embizweni Cottage Lounge, Karoo National Park

The lounge in Embizweni Cottage

There’s no denying it is remote here, we haven’t seen any signs of civilization for close to 36 hours now but that is just one of the things that is so great about this place.  The peace and tranquility makes you feel instantly rested and close to nature, a weekend break that is good for the soul. Our advice, make sure you have a full tank of fuel so you can fully explore all the 4x4 tracks and stay a minimum of two nights as the drive out here is long but well worth it.

 

The lounge in Embizweni Cottage, Karoo National Park

Master bedroom in Embizweni Cottage

Second bedroom in Embizweni Cottage, Karoo National Park

Second bedroom in Embizweni Cottage

 

Birding Highlights

The park’s best birding occurs in and around the campsite and around the Interpretive Centre where Acacia Pied Barbet, Red-eyed Bulbul, Karoo Scrub Robin, Cape Robin-chat, Chestnut-vented Tit-babbler, Layard’s Tit-babbler, Yellow-bellied Eremomola, Pale-winged Starling, Southern Double-collared, Dusky Sunbird and Redheaded Finch can be seen. Also keep an eye out for the Karoo Eremomela, Namaqua Warbler and Pririt Batis as well as raptors such as the Verreaux’s Eagle, Booted Eagle, Pale Chanting Goshawk, Rock Kestrel and Lesser Kestrel. You can find a checklist of all the parks birds on the Sanparks website.

Here is a list of everything we say on the trip:

  • African Hoopoe
  • Ant-eating Chat
  • Bokmakierie
  • Cape Sparrow
  • Chestnut-vented Warbler
  • Common Ostrich
  • European Bee-eater
  • Familiar Chat
  • Fiscal Flycatcher
  • Ground Woodpecker
  • Karoo Chat
  • Karoo Koraan
  • Karoo Long-billed Lark
  • Karoo Scrub Robin
  • Karoo Thrush
  • Kori Bustard
  • Mountain Wheatear
  • Namaqua Sandgrouse
  • Pale Chanting Goshawk
  • Pale-winged Starling
  • Rock Kestrel
  • South African Shelduck
  • Southern Double-collared Sunbird
  • Southern Tchagra
  • Verreaux's Eagle
  • White-backed Mousebird
  • White-necked Raven

Verreaux's Eagle eating Dassie (Rock Hyrax), Karoo National Park

Verreaux's Eagle eating Dassie (Rock Hyrax)

 

Verreaux's Eagle on nest, Karoo National Park

Verreaux's Eagle on nest. Can be viewd from the lookout point at the top of the Klipspringer Pass

 

Karoo Korhaan

Karoo Korhaan

 

Karoo Scrub Robin, Karoo National Park

Karoo Scrub Robin

 

Ground Woodpecker, Karoo National Park

Ground Woodpecker

 

Mountain Wheatear, Karoo National Park

Mountain Wheatear

 

Travel Planner: Karoo National Park

Best time to visit the Karoo National Park:

The Karoo can get very warm in summer so the best time to visit the park between March and October. Having said that, we have visited it in December and although it is pretty warm, you can go on morning drives to avoid the heat and there is air-conditioning in the rooms in the main rest camp. 

Accommodation:

There are multiple accommodation options in Karoo National Park. The largest is the main rest camp which has multiple chalets, cottages and family cottages for between 4 and 6 guests per unit. There is also the option to camp just a few hundred meters down the road from the main rest camp. There are then also the two remote cottages, Embizweni Cottage and Afsaal Cottage.
All accommodation can be booked via the SANPARKS bookings portal. For more information on accommodation options in Karoo National Park, visit the Karoo National Park SANPARKS page.

Good to Know:

  • Do not underestimate the distances within the park, it take a good couple of hours to drive from the main rest camp to Embizweni Cottage.
  • Fuel and supplies are available at Beaufort West a few kilometers down the road from the park gate.
  • There is no Malaria in the reserve. 
  • Embizweni Cottage and Afsaal Cottage are not fenced so be careful outside from dusk to dawn. The main rest camp and camp site are protected by an electric fence.
  • There is a swimming pool at the main rest camp
     
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