After their re-introduction into the Karoo National Park a year ago, the lions are doing well, according to senior section ranger Johan de Klerk, who gave me some of his photos for my blog, as we haven’t seen them yet. (Although we have seen remains of two zebra – one on the spectacular Pienaar’s Pass, a tough 4×4 route which I can highly recommend.)
If the natural vegetation is conserved, the Karoo can support a healthy population of wild antelope and ungulates. (The Karoo actually has very fertile soil –250 million years ago this area was an ancient floodplain, so the soil is full of nutritious prehistoric sediment and minerals – but because the soil is so thin, and the area is so arid and rocky, it can’t be ploughed or farmed.) The park has more than 1 000 gemsbok, and plenty of hartebeest, kudu, eland and zebra. So the lions have lots to eat in the 88 000 hectare park.
And far from being an endless monotonous landscape, the Karoo NP has some of the most beautiful kloofs and koppies in the region. The aforementioned Pienaar’s Pass starts near the main rest camp, and bumps its way up a forested kloof where we saw kudu and klipspringer on the opposite inclines. At the top of the pass, a superb panoramic view of the koppies makes for a great sunset drink.
The pass was tough, but my Ford Everest handled it really well. A few times the vehicle lost a bit of traction on the loose shale, but on the second attempt, I chose a slightly different angle, and the Ford simply crawled inexorably up in low-range first gear. Highly impressive, and I have new respect for this vehicle. It cruises easily at 140km/h on the highway, consuming 10 litres of fuel per 100km, but it can also get up the Pienaar’s Pass with relative ease. It makes a nice change from my old Land Rover Defender which is only good for the rough stuff. The Ford is a great combination of rough and smooth!
We got to the top, and took a few photos before heading back at sunset. We wanted to check out the bird hide which is situated a few hundred metres from camp. It’s a fantastic little hide, with lots of birds, including the bright weavers and acrobatic martins. Also highly recommended.
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