One of the best ways to appreciate the Karoo’s beauty is by exploring its conserved areas. Take long walks in the veld where possible, look up at the bright stars and night and inhale the peace.
Karoo National Park outside Beaufort West offers springbok and lions in the plains, Verreaux’s eagles flying in the mountains, a lovely little fossil trail near the camp, an excellent information centre and a sense of intense peace, far from the noisy N1. Contact 023 415 2828 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Camdeboo National Park near Graaff-Reinet almost completely surrounds this heritage-rich town and there is plenty to see. But you’ll never forget the iconic views at the Valley of Desolation, which offers a high viewpoint punctuated with picturesque dolerite pillars. Go there in the late afternoon for the best photographs. Call 049 892 3453 or email email@example.com.
Mountain Zebra National Park near Cradock has helped ease its namesake animal back from near-extinction. Mountain zebras are photogenic animals and are beautiful in their mountainous surroundings. Look out for cheetahs and lions as well as bat-eared foxes, eland, gemsbok, buffalo, red hartebeest and black wildebeest. Call 048 881 2427 or 3434. Email them on firstname.lastname@example.org.
Tankwa Karoo National Park south of Calvinia is the most austerely beautiful of the Karoo parks, sprawling over 80 000 hectares, and an absolute botanical delight when there have been good spring rains. It’s only four hours from Cape Town and offers rather interesting accommodation options. For enquiries call 027 341 1927 or email email@example.com.
Namaqua National Park near Kamieskroon offers the most dependable horizon to horizon views of orange daisies in springtime. There are few better places to appreciate how the dry Karoo can be utterly transformed for a few weeks in August and September. Call 027 672 1948 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Mokala National Park just south of Kimberley straddles the Kalahari and Karoo ecosystems. Here you’ll find rare beasts that you might not easily find elsewhere. Look for roan and sable antelope, more tsessebe than you’ve ever seen, buffalo and massive weaver’s nests. Call 053 204 0158 or email Elizabeth.email@example.com.
Goegap Nature Reserve just outside Springbok is another that offers jaw-dropping views of Namaqua flowers in springtime. It also has the Hester Malan Wild Flower Garden, a showcase of the unique succulent species that grow in this part of the world. Call 027 718 9906.
Anysberg Nature Reserve south of Laingsburg is only four hours from Cape Town and is in a transitional zone, with proteas and fynbos mixing with Karoo succulents and bossies. It is a beautiful park to go walking about in (although there are no formal hiking trails). Call CapeNature on 021 483 0190 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
The Swartberg Nature Reserve near Prince Albert protects a huge swathe of the Cape Fold Mountains. Here you’ll also find proteas on the high ground, mixed with rare renosterveld and truly remarkable mountainscapes. The reserve is straddled by the lovely Swartberg Pass. Take the more perilous Gamkaskloof Pass to Die Hel for an unforgettable experience. Call CapeNature on 021 483 0190 or email email@example.com.
There is a park in the Karoo where the dominant view, oddly enough, is of water. Gariep Nature Reserve surrounds the largest dam in South Africa and has huge herds of springbok along with red hartebeest, black wildebeest, ostrich and even mountain zebra. Forever Resorts adjoins the reserve. Call them on 051 754 0045 or 012 423 5600.