Mountain Zebra National Park, Karoo Region of Cradock

Mountain Zebra National Park - Karoo Region - CradockMountain Zebra National Park - Karoo Region - Cradock
Mountain Zebra National Park - Karoo Region - CradockMountain Zebra National Park - Karoo Region - Cradock

Mountain Zebra National Park, Karoo Region of Cradock

Mountain Zebra National Park is one of the most beautiful parks in the country, and it lies in the heart of the Karoo, which means it’s easily absorbed into a road trip through some of the most scenic countryside, littered with characterful towns.

Not only are there four adult Lions (two females were introduced to join the males only in late 2015), but in August last year the very first litter of Lion Cubs in the area for 130 years was born in the park. Which should dramatically up the chances of your spotting a lion whilst visiting! There are also Leopard, Caracal and Brown Hyena (only about five Hyena, though, so you’ll need to keep your eyes peeled). In 2007 the park introduced four Cheetahs. At last count there were 17 of them. You can track Cheetah on foot, although a sighting is not guaranteed – the Mountains tend to interfere with the radio tracking. Following on foot can mean bundu bashing (Cheetah generally don’t oblige by walking in the road) and often they head for the mountains, making sightings difficult.

At the same time your guide will point out other action you might miss in the park – an Aardwolf burrow, a herd of Eland close by. Cheetah tracking is only for those over the age of 16.
The campsite makes a visit to the park really affordable for families. It’s really well maintained with hot water, kitchen and laundry facilities, and spotless ablutions. Best out of season, obviously! Expect to see herds of zebra, eland, springbok, kudu, and red hartebeest.

The Mountain Cottages, deep in the park, are absolutely wonderful and the best-kept secret of the reserve (you will need a 4×4 vehicle to reach them), although, to be fair the chalets are equally as great, just not as private or as exciting (although the views out over the valley are superb). Each of the Mountain Cottages sits up on a Hill with marvellous views out across the park. Neither has electricity but there are gas stoves, fridges and solar lights. Doornhoek Farmhouse, another option, overlooks a Dam and the effect is to make you feel as though you’re the only people staying in the Park.

Don’t forget warm clothes as the vehicle is open to the elements (you have only a roof over your heads). This is an exciting way to see the park with a guide, and watch how different the park becomes when day changes to night. It leaves reception daily at 5pm and takes about two hours (no children under six). Most visitors inevitably do the Kranskop and Rooiplaat loops, two great loops for spotting herds of Game and Ground Squirrels; even the odd Buffalo or Rhino but, if you can, drive the 4×4 Sonnen Rust trail in the north-west section of the park. It heads up onto a plateau after curving around the unusual Rock formation, 'Saltpeterskop'. The views from here are great, particularly if you’re trying to spot Birds, Black Rhino and Cheetah, are fantastic!

Time your visit with the annual SA National Parks Week (usually mid September) and you can get into the park for free.

If you need WiFi, the best place for it is at reception; the restaurant is not brilliant (rather self-cater, although the lamb shank gets good reviews); there is a shop but it is limited and pricey (they do sell homemade koeksisters); take warm clothes, even in summer, as the evenings get chilly (winter even more so).

With a Wild Card you get unlimited access to the Mountain Zebra National Park and another 80 odd parks across the country (including Kruger); there are three rock art sites in the park.

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Mountain Zebra National Park - Karoo Region - Cradock