Greater Karoo – Karoo National Park

About the Birding

The layout of the park, as well as its proximity to Beaufort allow birders to choose between a day visit or an extended stay.

From the park entrance (-32.363, 22.541), bird your way to the turn-off leading to the Lammetjiesleegte circular drive. The open, lowland plains on the Lammetjiesleegte circular drive are the place to look for Ludwig’s Bustard, Karoo Korhaan, Double-banded Courser, Namaqua Sandgrouse, Large-billed & Spike-heeled Lark, Karoo, Sickle-winged, Ant-eating & Tractrac Chat, Chat Flycatcher, Grey-backed Sparrow-lark, Karoo Eremomela and Rufous-eared Warbler. Black-headed Canary occurs whenever there is seeding grass and water. Sporadically, Black-eared Sparrow-lark and Lark-like Bunting move into the park and breed in large numbers, usually following very good rains.

Continue on to the main accommodation (-32.331, 22.500) dams, hides. Access to the park is via ±60km’s of good gravel road, and if you have a 4×4 there are 2 eco-trails of about 90 km that can be explored. Furthermore, there are 3 hiking trails of various lengths: Bossie Trail (800m/ 30 min) – you can collect a pamphlet at reception which details the fascinating attributes and medicinal or cultural uses of some of the plants found along the route; Pointer Trail (4.9km/11.4km ) – spectacular views over the landscapes of the Park in the presence of a Park’s guide; Karoo Fossil Trail (400m) – depicts the geology and palaeontology of the Great Karoo. Genuine fossils and petrified wood are on display on this paved trail, accessible for wheelchair-users.

Ground Woodpecker is frequently found in the rocky kloofs and outcrops so common along Klipspringer Pass drive. This drive is the best area to look for birds that occur in rocky habitats, or the scrub that grows on steep, rocky hillsides. As such look for Verreaux’s Eagle, Rock Kestrel, White-necked Raven, Grey-winged Francolin, Speckled Pigeon, White-rumped & Alpine Swift, Grey Tit, Short-toed Rock-thrush, Pale-winged Starling, Mountain Wheatear, Cinnamon-breasted Warbler, Grey-backed Cisticola, Layard’s Warbler, African Rock & Nicholson’s Pipit on this 45km stretch. Karoo Long-billed Lark is common throughout the park. Around the campsite and in the riverine vegetation you should find Red-faced & White-backed Mousebird, Acacia Pied Barbet, African Red-eyed Bulbul, Familiar Chat, Karoo Scrub Robin, Yellow-bellied Eremomela and Namaqua Warbler.

On the middle plateau you may find Sickle-winged Chat, Karoo Long-billed Lark, Layard’s Warbler with some Pale Chanting Goshawks. The thorny drainage lines are full of Cape Bunting, Fiscal Flycatcher, Fairy Flycatcher, White-throated Canary and Dusky Sunbird. The Doornhoek picnic site on the Potlekkertjie route is a good place to look for Southern Tchagra, Fairy Flycatcher, Pririt Batis and sometimes during summer Garden Warbler. You can also listen for Greater Honeyguide in this area, normally occurs along the river about 1 to 2 km west of picnic site. The rest of the routes on the southern plains of the park is good for Rufous-eared Warbler, Yellow-bellied Eremomela, Karoo Chat, Sabota Lark (sub sp Bradfields) and after rains Lark-like Buntings and Grey-backed & Black-eared Sparrow-larks.

The back part of the park needs 4×4 or high clearance vehicle. It is typical Karoo plains with lots of larks, Karoo Korhaan, Ludwig’s Bustard after rains, Blue Crane at the earth dams when having water, Verreaux’s Eagle, and other raptors. The dry river beds host some Kori Bustards while in the Sandrivier area you can look for Scaly-feathered Weavers along the drainage lines. The Sandrivier / Kookfontein areas are also good for Karoo Larks and Namaqua Sandgrouse.
If you have a 4×4 you can also explore the Klipplaatsfontein and Leeurivierspoort areas which hosts lots of birds and animals. Kookfontein area is known for its lions waiting for prey at the waterholes.

One of the most spectacular areas of the park is on top of the Nuweveld Mountains where the annual rainfall is about 400 mm against the 200 mm in the lower areas. You have great views over the Karoo from here with some birds like Grey-winged Francolin, Martial, Booted & Verreaux’s Eagles, and Grey-backed Cisticola, It is the only place where you will get a very rare endemic plant, Cliffortia arborea. This area is only accessible with special arrangements. The Sanparks Honorary Rangers have a rustic bush camp, Mountain View, on top of the mountain and accommodation there can be arranged with the Sanparks Honorary Rangers vis Reception in the main camp.

Mammals that can be seen in the reserve include Lion, Gemsbuck, Black Rhino, Cape Mountain, Springbuck, Eland, Red Hartebeest and Kudu. Numerous smaller mammals are also present – Riverine rabbit (rare), Suricate/Meerkat, Porcupine, Cape Fox, Bat-eared Fox, Aardwolf, Caracal, Black-backed Jackal, Steenbok, Common Duiker and Aardvark amongst others.

About the Birding Site

The Karoo National Park lies just west of Beaufort West in the middle of the semi-arid Great Karoo. The expansive landscape is dominated by the impressive Nuweveld escarpment which rises 900m above the surrounding plains. Riverbeds, which are dry for most of the year, meander across the flat plains in the far west and east of the park. The altitude gradient yields a diversity of microhabitats within the park – grassveld with fynbos elements on the Nuweveld plateau, dwarf scrub on the lower plains, and Acacia thicket in the moister valleys and along watercourses.

Other Related Information

Contact details:
Web: https://www.sanparks.org/parks/karoo/
Tel: +27 (0)23 415 2828/9 or +27 (0)23 414 7080
Fax: +27 (0)23 415 1671
Email: karooreservations@sanparks.org

Facilities

The rest camp has a restaurant, conference facilities and a shop that stocks basic commodities. Picnic, braai and ablution facilities are available at Bulkraal and Doornhoek picnic sites.

There are fuel stations, banks, ATM’s and shop facilities in the town of Beaufort West.

Guided game drives are offered morning and night.

Main rest camp: 8 x family units, 19 x twin bed chalets with sleeper couch, and 10 x double bed cottages. All units fully equipped.

Campsite: 24 camp/caravan sites. Communal ablutions and kitchen facilities. The campsite is a very good birding area in the thorn trees with Pririt Batis, Southern Tchagra, Chestnut-vented Warbler, Fairy Flycatcher and more. In summer evenings it is often visit by Rufous-cheeked Nightjars which hunt insects.

Embizweni cottage: 6-bed cottage. Fully equipped. Self-catering. Accessible by 4×4 only.

Afsaal cottages – 4 bed cottage. Fully equipped. Self-catering with its own waterhole. Accessible by 4×4 or high clearance

Interpretive Centre – host in the Ou Schuur and gives visitors an insight into the ancient history of the Karoo, its culture and its way of life. It also gives info about the farms on which the park was established in 1979. The garden around the Interpretive Centre hosts a lot of birds like Black-throated Canary, Cardinal Woodpecker, Namaqua Warbler, Acacia Pied Barbet, African Reed Warbler (in summer) and many more.

Bird Hide – is situated inside the rest camp with also a night light for visitors. Except for the game coming to drink, it is a good place for birds like Lesser Swamp & African Reed Warbler, Southern Red Bishop, Grey Heron, Southern Masked Weaver, Common Moorhen, Red-knobbed Coot, South African Shelduck and from time to time the odd Little Bittern in the reeds. Look overhead for African Black, Little, White-rumped & Alpine Swifts together with Barn, White-throated & Greater Striped Swallows. In summer check for Booted Eagle in the sky.

Directions

From Cape Town: Take the N1 highway towards Worcester and Beaufort West. 5 km before Beaufort West, and after passing the N1 – N12 intersection, you’ll find the Karoo NP entrance gate a further 2km’s along the N1 on the left-hand-side. From the entrance gate drive 6 km into the reserve, keep left at the only intersection, and you’ll find a turn-off to the right to the rest camp. Cape Town to Beaufort West is approximately 460km.

GPS Coordinates: -32.363, 22.542

Entry Fee:
Adults R59 (South African residents/citizens)
R118 (SADC nationals)
R236 (other nations)

Gate opening and closing times
Main gate: 05h00 – 22h00
Game area: Oct-Mar: 06h00 – 19h00
Apr-Sept: 07h00 – 18h00

Text prepared by:

Japie Claassen

Key species:

Ground Woodpecker, Karoo Eremomela, Short-toed Rock Thrush, African Rock Pipit, Cinnamon-breasted Warbler, Nicholson’s Pipit, Karoo Korhaan, Black-eared Sparrowlark

Contact details:

Karoo National Park
Tel: +27 (0) 23 415 2828
Central Reservations: +27 (0) 12 428 9111
Website: www.sanparks.org/parks/karoo

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