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Just a short report on my experience of the Karoo National Park near Beaufort West, South Africa. My apologies if someone else has covered this before. 

We drove from Cape Town - took the scenic route - gravel roads and rather remote. The distance from Cape Town to Beaufort West is 462km, driving the back roads about the same - but it took us 13 hours as we stopped a lot - and drove quite slow, by choice.  Staying over the first night at Kalkfontein Guest Farm, between Fraserburg and Beaufort West - which is totally recommended. We had a proper farm supper for R50 pp. 

 

The Karoo National Park is situated in the Karoo proper- with it's desert like conditions - it is very dry - especially at present. I visited from 15 - 18 June, with a friend, and our main aim was photography. A large part of the park is only suitable to drive in 4x4's (as indicated on the map and on the roads in places). You definitely need high clearance - but mostly we did 2x4, only switching to 4x4 twice - and once to Low range as I manage to get stuck in the sand. Seems that is my achilles heel - maybe I should stick to using my 4x4 to drive over pavements.

The vistas are truly beautiful - if this is your kind of thing. The silence is absolute. The night-sky pitch black. We saw very few animals - the drought is partly responsible I believe. My only negative experience was that the roads on the 4x4 trails are NOT properly marked - and the map is seriously incorrect. A GPS with "Tracks for Africa" would have solved this problem, but of course I was not aware of this before hand. I expected properly marked roads! Geez what was I thinking!  We encountered very few vehicles on the road, and if you broke down - it might have meant spending a loooooong time waiting for help. It's not like you can walk anywhere - lions are about (not that we saw any) - and of course there is no mobile reception on these tracks. 

 

We chose to stay in Afsaal Cottage - which is very remote  too - 34 km from base camp - great cottage, outside shower.  I had a shower - and at the appropriate moment another vehicle drove past. Of course I was in a state of complete undress. Perfect timing. Lucky them. (if you who saw me is reading this - go away - dont say a word! ) . The cottage has no electricity - and no mobile reception.  Bliss. Braai, Gas cooking, and solar for the lights. I used my studio light's battery inverter to change batteries.  Just across from the cottage - otherside of the riverbed - has a small waterhole. Saw a couple of antelope drinking. Sadly no lions! 

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very nice photo's @Elsa Hoffmann especially the klipspringers when did you go? We were there in February and again saw very little in the way of wildlife, including only 1 pair of black eagles and no dassies! Of course that could have been a reflection of our spotting skills. I think you are right, it is a good place to visit for the scenery. For some reason i thought it would be more like Mount Zebra but i got the impression the  area was much rockier and seemed much more forbidding

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@Towlersonsafari - thank you for your comment. We were there last weekend - and yes - seems they farm with rocks out there. Some say you don't go there for the wildlife - and after this weekend - I would totally agree with your observation. 

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~ @Elsa Hoffmann

 

All of your images are striking.

 

I've visited South Africa several times but never saw what you've shown us.

 

The night stars...the birds...the blazing fire...the cook site at sunset...zebra, kudu, gemsbok...and, as if that weren't enough, those klipspringers!

 

Thank you for all of these. The fire and cook site images bring back happy food memories.

 

Tom K.

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@Tom Kellie thank you for your kind comments. The Karoo is certainly not everybody's cup of coffee - But if you want silence  and open spaces - look no further :) 

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Beautiful images Elsa, as I have come to expect from you.

I camped there for one night on the way back from Cape Town in December 2015, and although we never saw anything particularly impressive on the large mammal front, i did see plenty of ordinary game and felt it was a great stop-over.

 

However, the cabin you stayed at is definately has a much better view than the campsite!

 

But where did you get stuck in sand? I never found any.

Anycase, if it were possible for me to visit you and @xelas next year, perhaps my ti.e would be better spent taking you both to Atlantis dunes for some sand driving as your night photography skills are obviously top notch...:lol:

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Thank you Peter - but you are to kind, I think :)

Listen - if there is sand - I will find it - and will get stuck in it. It wasn't even a lot - and only on the one side - the back tyre..... but I managed it nicely. it was on the 4x4 route. In a VERY remote part. 
Re the Dunes - didnt you hear me say something about pavements....

Re night photography - the posted image doesn't show up sharp at all (no idea why not) but it looks much better on my screen :) Its not as interesting as yours with the foreground. But I got lazy. (actually I am lazy) 

 

Waiting for your visit.....

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Very nice shots. The zebra pictures are there from mountain zebras?

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The scenery is what we will stop for at Karoo NP next January for 2 nights, so very glad to see what an expert photographer like @Elsa Hoffmann can achieve!

I am a bit surprised by your words about rough roads; my idea is to rent an SUV only type of car. Will tag be good enough if not venturing too far from the Karoo Rest Camp (cottage)??

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Marvelous photography, on landscapes and animal subjects alike. The campfire photo is especially hypnotic.

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Thank you @Jeremie - I am not sure if they are Mountain Zebras - sorry :(

@Xelas - you can do a LOT with just an SUV. The roads marked as 4x4 could mostly be done with a normal SUV - but we had to use 4x4 once and had to engage the Low range once (to get me out of the sand.... ) I have friends who visit the Karoo National Park with a normal 2x4 SUV and they do very well. My personal advise would be just to then stay away from the 4x4 routes. Also - judging from what we saw - most of my images are from the normal 2x4 route - so you should be fine. I will however say that others might be much more experienced than me in the park - so perhaps someone else can give a more informed opinion? 
@marks thank you for the kind comments. 

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Hello @Elsa Hoffmann your Zebra picture was of Mountain Zebra I think there are some plains Zebra still in the park but not that many now.If I can add to your reply to @xelas we used a Nissan x_trail 2x4 and that was fine on the normal gravel roads and also on the short 4x4 Afsaal route that reception described as a "farm track"! But there is no doubt that if you had a 4x4 you would see a lot more of the park_ the majority of it is 4x4. When we were there in February we saw red hartebeest mountain Zebra very few springbok but a fine number of tortoises! The camp restaurant was very good but the night drives very disappointing.that may have been due to the drought.

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Posted (edited)

map . Some of the 4x4 routes were closed (no idea why) 
see the red area - this was off limits - 

From what I have seen other people comment on the FB Karro forum - seems they saw a lot more on the 2x4 route i.t.o. wildlife, than we did.

map

Edited by Elsa Hoffmann
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Posted (edited)

 

 

map 

map

Edited by Elsa Hoffmann
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I have only been there once myself, and that only for one day/2 nights.

My opinion is that the main circle route is already a very long drive, and despite having been there in a 4x4 and being a keen 4x4 trail driver, we just couldn't find the time to do a 4x4 trail. I suspect this may be less of a problem if staying at Afsaal.

 

For the main circle route, any normal car will be fine.

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@Peter Connan I fully agree on the long drive - it's especially long if you see nothing. Even from Afsaal. 

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Thanks for sharing.  We are stopping here on our 3 week south Africa trip in September.  Mainly for the scenery (and flowers) but hopefully to see some wildlife as well. 

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@kittykat23uk I am sure you will have a great time :)

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Posted (edited)

  Beautiful vistas, absolute silence, and night-sky pitch black--it had to be a fantastic 4 days of photography and relaxation, at times au naturel!

Edited by Atravelynn
read some more, so commented some more

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@Atravelynn thank you for the kind comments 

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Omgosh that sounds fun.  Your images are as beautiful as your ODP ones.  Thanks for sharing.  Love the quote too.  

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Thank you - those are very kind comments :) 

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Great report @Elsa Hoffmann!! Awesome photography as well, seems to be a beautiful park! I will be visiting the park for 3 nights in October with my family so I hope to get some great images as well... :)

 

Cheers,

 

Michel

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@MR1980 I hope you get stunning photos - wish I got more though - it is a lovely place - really proper Karoo. I hope you enjoy the stay there to0

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21 minutes ago, Elsa Hoffmann said:

@MR1980 I hope you get stunning photos - wish I got more though - it is a lovely place - really proper Karoo. I hope you enjoy the stay there to0

 

I hope so too @Elsa Hoffmann! Addo & Mountain Zebra will also be visited on this Cape Town/Garden Route/Karoo trip so I still hope to get some nice wildlife images this trip... :)

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