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Tankwa Karoo National Park

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Introduction

Just a four hour drive from Cape Town brings you to the ideal destination of Tankwa Karoo National Park (TKNP) for those seeking the brightest stars of Africa, a once in a lifetime glimpse of a rare endemic bird, or perhaps nothing more than a silence that reaches deep into the soul.

As luminous clouds of dust swirl through the ancient landscape, a tortoise patiently wanders in search of succulent morsels; a lizard basks in the sun while gemsbok and red hartebeest share the arid plains with mongoose, orb-web spiders, skinks and leggy toktokkies...


Main Attractions

  • Stargazing
  • 4x4 Trails
  • Self-Drive Game Viewing
  • Bird Watching
  • Scenic Viewpoints

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Accommodation

Paulshoek Cottage (CO6)

The Paulshoek farmstead, the first to be restored as visitor accommodation in 2003, is quaintly furnished with antique furniture and is able to accommodate up to six guests. The cottage is situated approximately 5km from the Park reception at Roodewerf and has breathtaking views of the imposing Roggeveld Escarpment and plains between.

  • Two bedrooms, four beds (one double bed and one single bed per room)
  • One bathroom (shower, toilet and basin)
  • Open-plan kitchen and living-room
  • Braai-facilities
  • Fully equipped with linen, towels, cutlery, crockery cooking utensils etc.
  • Two-plate gas stove and solar powered fridge
  • Paraffin lamps and candles (provided)
  • "Donkey' / boiler (wood supplied)
  • Wood stove for lighting during cold spells
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View availability

Varschfontein Cottage (CO9)

The Varschfontein Cottage is situated 45km from the Park offices at Roodewerf within the westerly section of TKNP. The desolate beauty of the area is truly a sight to behold making for an ideal getaway for those seeking a reprieve from the hustle and bustle of the city. The cottage is able to accommodate up to nine guests.

  • Three bedrooms, six beds (one double bed and one single bed per room)
  • One bathroom (shower, toilet and basin)
  • Open-plan kitchen and living room
  • Braai-facilities
  • Reservoir for swimming purposes
  • Accessibility by low-clearance vehicles hampered by the occurrence of water relay humps in road
  • Access with sedan and 2x4 vehicles not advisable in winter
  • Fully equipped with linen, towels, cutlery, crockery cooking utensils etc.
  • Gas two-plate stove and solar powered fridge
  • Paraffin lamps and candles (provided)
  • "Donkey" / boiler (wood supplied)
  • Hearth inside house for cooking or lighting of fire during cold spells
  • Bookings of minimum two nights highly advisable due to remoteness of facility.
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View availability

Elandsberg Wilderness Camp

Situated 18km away from the Park Reception at Roodewerf, in the hills known as Elandsberg lies the isolated and hence romantic Elandsberg Cottages. The development of the Elandsberg Wilderness Camp was initiated in September 2006 and completed by April 2008. The rustic design of the cottage gives the visitor a true bushveld experience topped with a striking evening sunset over the Roogeveld escarpment. Each cottage boasts beautiful views of the Karoo plains and imposing Roggeveld Escarpment. The cottages are spaced far enough from each other maintaining privacy, yet close enough for groups to book different cottages together.

By the use of the locally made unbaked clay-and-straw bricks with sections of walls built with rock, a bygone era is evoked, one of simpler times.vExamples of this building method can also be found in the many ruins within the park.

Download the Elandsberg Wilderness Camp layout.

  • Three x one-bedroom cottages, double bed
  • One x one-bedroom universal unit, double bed
  • One x two-bedroom cottage, (one bedroom with one x double bed and one bedroom with two x single beds)
  • Queen-sized sleeper-couch in living room
  • One bathroom (shower, toilet and basin)
  • Open-plan kitchen and living-room
  • Covered Braai / Stoep
  • Fireplace in living room
  • Splash pool per unit
  • Fully equipped with linen, towels, cutlery, crockery, cooking utensils etc.
  • Two-plate gas stove and solar powered fridge
  • Paraffin lamps and candles (provided)
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View availability

Tanqua Guesthouse Complex

The Tanqua Guest House Complex is very conveniently situated on the southern boundary of the Tankwa Karoo National Park and a stone's throw away from the Oudebaaskraal Dam. Built somewhat like a desert fort, the Tanqua Guesthouse was formerly owned by Esther and Alewyn Burger and later incorporated into the Tankwa National Park in 2007. The guesthouse offers a range of accommodation and has played host to weddings, teambuilding exercises as well as film and commercial shoots. A 900m air strip is also situated next to the main building, allowing fly-ins by guests. (Section 47 of the National Environmental Management: Protected Areas Act 57 of 2003, Use of aircraft in special nature reserve, national park or world heritage site, applies).

Download the Tanqua Guesthouse Complex layout.

Tanqua (FA8)

  • One en-suite bedroom with a double bed
  • Three bedrooms, each with two single beds
  • Fully equipped kitchen
  • Living area
  • No smoking
  • Outside braai facilities
  • Restricted 220V power
  • Self catering
  • WC, shower and bath
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View availability

Tanqua Unit 1 (GH2)

  • One en-suite bedroom with a double bed
  • Braai facilities available
  • Fully equipped
  • Kitchen
  • No smoking
  • Part of a 800m square double story building
  • Restricted 220V power with microwave
  • Self catering
  • Shared lounge,living area with fire place
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View availability

Tanqua Unit 2 (GH4)

  • One bedroom two single beds
  • Other bedroom one double bed
  • 2 bedrooms
  • Bathroom
  • Braai facilities available
  • Fully equipped
  • Kitchen
  • No smoking
  • Part of a 800m square double story building
  • Restricted 220V power with microwave
  • Self catering
  • Shared lounge, living area with fire place
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View availability

Tanqua Unit 3 (GH4)

  • One bedroom with two single beds
  • Other bedroom one double bed
  • Bathroom
  • Braai facilities available
  • Fully equipped
  • Kitchen
  • No smoking
  • Part of a 800m square double story building
  • Restricted 220V power with microwave
  • Self catering
  • Shared lounge,living area with fire place
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Camping facilities

Langkloof (CK6)

Formerly an informal campsite, Langkloof was upgraded with ablution facilities and running water in 2011. The campsite is situated approximately 18km from the Park Reception at Roodewerf, within the scenic upper reaches of the Langkloof Gorge. Kudu, eland and other small antelope and mammals frequent the area and, along with the guests who visit, are the only ones to experience the awesome power of thunder storms and the ensuing wonder of the Rhenoster River during a flashflood.

  • Two campsites, each with own bathroom and kitchenette
  • Bathroom - toilet, shower, basin, seperaeseparate toilet with basin
  • Kitchen - no cooking facilities supplied
  • Braai facilities, no braai grid supplied
  • Carport
  • Gas geyser
  • Paraffin lamps
  • No electrical points
  • Access by high clearance 2x4/4x4
  • 4x4 advisable in rainy seasons
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View availability

Perdekloof (CK6)

The Perdekloof Campsite was opened in early 2012 and is situated at the mouth of the Perdekloof gorge. The campsite is a stone's throw from the Hoenderhoek rivulet, a tributary of the Renoster River.
Each of the six stands have their own bathroom and kitchenette, side-to-side with only one other stand. Stands are nestled among the natural riverine vegetation with Karee (Sersea lancea), Sweet Thorn (Acacia karroo) and various Ganna species (Salsola spp.) predominating.

  • Six campsites, each with own bathroom and kitchenette
  • Bathroom - shower, basin, separate toilet with basin
  • Kitchen - no cooking facilities supplied
  • Braai facilities - no braai grid supplied
  • Gas geyser
  • Limited solar lighting
  • No electrical points
  • Access by high clearance 2x4/4x4
  • 4x4 advisable in rainy seasons
  • Stand 1 and 5 best suited for roof-top tents
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View availability

Informal campsites

Fully self-sufficient campers are allowed to camp at designated spots on an "only leave your footprints" - basis. Each site is for the exclusive use of the party of up to 15 individuals reserving such a site.

Please note:

  • All visitors are required to report at the Roodewerf Reception on arrival.
  • Closest water source Langkloof/Renoster river (+/- June-November only) or at Roodewerf Reception.
  • Road to Pyper se boom, Langkloof and Oom Rickert se Huis crosses the Renoster River and its Hoenderhoek tributary - potentially flooded in winter/after summer thunder showers.
  • For further information, contact the Park Office on tel: (027) 341 1927, fax: (027) 341 2814 or email Tankwa Karoo National Park.

2x4 Pyper se Boom (CK15)

  • Accessible only by 2x4/4x4
  • No ablutions or water.
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View availability

Steenkampshoek (CK15)

  • Accessible only by 2x4/4x4
  • No ablutions or water.
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View availability

Skaapwagterspos (CK15)

  • Accessible only by 2x4/4x4
  • No ablutions or water.
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View availability

Oom Rickert se Huis (CK15)

  • Accessible only by 2x4/4x4
  • 4x4 advisable in rainy seasons
  • No ablutions or water.
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View availability

Volmoesfontein

  • Accessible with normal sedan vehicles
  • No ablutions or water
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View availability

Biesjiesfontein

  • Accessible with normal sedan vehicles
  • No ablutions or water
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View availability

Gannaga Lodge

The Gannaga Lodge is situated on the striking Roggeveld Escarpment at the summit of the Gannaga Pass. This private property situated within the Park, approximately 24km from the park offices at Roodewerf, features a conference venue, guesthouse, restaurant and licensed bar and is managed by the owners Johan and Norette Visagie.

Contact details:


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Vital Information

General Information

  • Travelling times: There are restricted travelling times in the park. No travelling is permitted within Tankwa National Park during the following times:
    • 1 October to 31 March 19:00 – 05:30
    • 1 April to 30 September 18:00 – 06:30
    • Exemption granted to visitors arriving on a Friday by no later than 21:00 at reception, to travel by means of most direct route to the reception and from the reception to their booked accommodation.
  • Only Diesel available in Park. Last stops for petrol (measured from Park offices) are Ceres (180km), Sutherland (120km - closed from Saturdays 13:00 for weekend), Calvinia (110km) and Middelpos (52km).
  • Vehicle fuel is available in all parks (or is available on the park periphery) - South African legislation stipulates that fuel stations will accept legitimate petrol/fuel/garage/credit/debit cards or cash as a form of payment for any fuel purchase.
  • Motorcycles are allowed in the park.
  • Arrivals for accommodation from 14:00 only, departure at 10:00.
  • No shops, restaurants, public phones or ATMs in the park.
  • General Dealer and Bottle Store in Middelpos.
  • No cellular reception within the Park as well as main access roads.
  • Wi-Fi available at Roodewerf Reception.
  • Credit card facilities are available.
  • Prosopis/Mesquite wood for sale in Park.

Office Hours

  • Monday - Thursday: 07:30 - 17:00
  • Friday: 07:30 - 21:00
  • Saturday: 07:30 - 17:00
  • Sunday / Public Holiday: 10:00 - 16:00

Please do:

  • Ask for plant and animal species lists at Reception.
  • Bring a torch/headlamp as outdoor lighting in camps is limited.
  • Bring along insect repellent and sun-block.
  • Bring birding books and other plant and animal field guides as well as binoculars.
  • Invite a friend to appreciate the beauty of daybreak and the wonders of the Tankwa night sky.
  • Remember to bring lots of warm clothing in winter.
  • Bring lots of cool goodies for summer!

Please don't:

  • Litter.
  • Feed, disturb or injure any animal.
  • Bring any pets into Tankwa Karoo National Park.
  • Take any firearms into Tankwa Karoo National Park.
  • Stay or overnight at any other place than those designated as camping or overnight facilities.
  • Damage, remove or destroy any natural item (seeds, plants, animals or rocks) or human artefacts.
  • Light any fires at places not designated as camping, picnic or overnight facilities, where fires may be restricted at such areas due to fire hazard.
  • Leave the road at any point.

Climate and Vegetation

The duration and temperature of the growing season separates the Succulent Karoo from other biomes. The Tankwa Karoo (Region) is one of the most arid sections of the Karoo. Isohyets of mean annual rainfall (mm) for the Karoo indicate that the Tankwa-Karoo National Park falls into the 0-100mm range (Venter et al. 1986), with 25% of the mean annual precipitation in summer. In contrast, the higher lying regions within the Roggeveld Escarpment, receive up to five times more rain annually.

The mean July minimum temperature is 6°C (lowest measured -1°C), and the mean January maximum temperature is 38°C (highest measured 50°C). The highest average maximum temperatures occur from November to March with the hottest months being January and February. The highest wind speeds occur from October to March.



Planning Your Visit

Birding

Birding season is at its peak from August to October, when the region may also unpredictably burst into flower. However, the majority of the specials (with the possible exception of Black-headed Canary, Ludwig’s Bustard and Black-eared Finchlark) are accessible year-round with a little effort.

Not to be missed is the annual Tankwa Birding Bonanza held during April, where birders, beginners to expert twitchers, can have a friendly competition to test their knowledge against others'. The event is hosted by the SANParks Honorary Rangers and has various sponsors. For more information please go to www.sanparksvolunteers.org/boland-region/.

Roads

Please take care when driving in this region. All main access roads and roads within the Park are gravel. The road gravel is sharp and often loose, and a great deal of caution needs to be taken with corners and sudden stops. Sudden downpours can also cause damage to roads.

Furthermore, please give some thought to your fuel and water requirements, bearing in mind that there are no proper towns in the Tankwa Karoo, and the closest refueling points are Ceres, Sutherland, Middelpos and Calvinia, all exceeding 50km from the Park. Those with thirsty engines may consider packing a (full) jerry-can to guard against potential concerns over those interesting detours.

Dirt Road Driving Tips:

  • Slow down when you see approaching traffic.
  • Do not allow wheels to lock when applying brakes.
  • Never exceed 80km/h. Take note of the Park's speed limits.
  • Be aware of slippery conditions during wet weather.
  • Be aware of flash floods crossing roads as well as road surface possibly washed away.
  • If you need to overtake, avoid loose gravel at the side of the road.
  • Take along enough drinking water, especially during hot conditions.
  • Inform your host of your route and approximate arrival time.
  • Check pressure of spare wheel and ensure tyres are at the correct pressure.
  • Drastically reduce speed when transferring from tar to gravel and when approaching a motor grid.
  • Drive in the existing tracks on the road.
  • Keep to the left when approaching a blind hill.
  • Put your lights on in the dust of passing traffic.
  • See complete list of tips for driving on gravel roads.

Contact Information

For enquiries email Tankwa Karoo National Park or phone us on the following numbers:

  • Tel: +27 (0)27 341 1927
  • Fax: +27 (0)27 341 2814
  • Address: Tankwa Karoo National Park, P.O. Box 299, Calvinia, 8190

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Park Map


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How to get there

Gate Times

  • There are no formal entrance or exit gates for this Park.
  • No travelling is permitted during the following times:
    • 1 October to 31 March: 19:00 - 05:30
    • 1 April to 30 September: 18:00 - 06:30
    • Exemption is granted to visitors arriving on a Friday by no later than 21:00 at reception, to travel by means of most direct route to the reception and from the reception to their booked accommodation.

Main Access Routes

From Calvinia, Ceres, Sutherland and Matjiesfontein

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All distances indicated are measured to the Park's Roodewerf Reception, with travel times based on speed-limits and average road conditions. Actual travel times may vary.

  • Calvinia to Tankwa approximately 110km, 1h45min.
  • Sutherland to Tankwa approximately 120km, 1h40min.
  • Matjiesfontein to Tankwa approximately 160km, 2h15min.
  • Ceres to Tankwa approximately 180km, 2h20min.
  • Nearest petrol-point will be Middelpos at 52km, 1h00min.

GPS Waypoints

  • Roodewerf Office:
    S 32° 14’ 27.9”
    E 20° 5’ 44.5”
  • Oudebaaskraal Airstrip:
    S 32° 24.044
    E 19° 50.576

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Tariffs

Daily Conservation Fees for 1 November 2013 to 31 October 2014

South African Citizens and Residents (with ID): R30 per adult, per day
R15 per child, per day
SADC Nationals (with passport): R60 per person, per day
R30 per child, per day
Standard Conservation Fee (Foreign Visitors): R120 per adult, per day
R60 per child, per day
Wild Card: Year Permits available for all our guests


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Birding in Tanqua National Park and surrounds

Tankwa-Karoo National Park is a well-known stop for birding enthusiasts in search of Karoo endemics. The inclusion of the Oudebaaskraal Dam further increased the possibility of viewing various waterfowl species. The Park's bird list currently includes 187 bird species.

This article on birding within and in the region of Tankwa-Karoo National Park has been reproduced with permission from the authors Callan Cohen and Claire Spottiswoode. It was published in Africa: Birds and Birding in the April/May 2002 edition, (volume 7, number 2). It may only be copied in portion or its entirety with the permission of either the authors or Africa: Birds and Birding.

Birding the Tanqua Karoo

Just two southern African regions have been bestowed the honour of designation as Biodiversity Hotspots by Conservation International. One is of course the Cape Floral Kingdom, and the other the Succulent Karoo. For those whose image of the south-western Karoo is a shimmering wasteland to be endured as briefly as possible en route to Cape Town or Johannesburg , this may come as a surprise. Though - the remarkable endemism and diversity of the Succulent Karoo flora (at its most spectacular from August to October) is its most renowned aspect, the Karoo as a whole naturally has a great deal to offer the birder. With no less than 18 endemics almost wholly restricted to it, the Karoo is an essential destination for any birder visiting southern Africa, as well as a potential source of exciting new species for hardened locals.

Consequently, the accessible south-western corner of the Karoo – a low-lying, mountain-bound section of the Succulent Karoo Biome known as the Tanqua Karoo, after the river that bisects it – has received a great deal of birding attention. Here, in sparsely populated semi-desert just two and a half hours drive from Cape Town , the majority of the Karoo specials are easily accessible in a day’s outing from the city. The famous stretch of white, dusty R355 from Karoopoort through Eierkop to Skitterykloof (the latter popularly but erroneously known as “Katbakkies” – the true Katbakkies Pass lies 15km to the west) has been intensively birded and has already received detailed treatment in such accounts as The Birds of the South-Western Cape and Where to Watch Them (Cape Bird Club, 1995) and Essential Birding in Western South Africa: Key Routes from Cape Town to the Kalahari (Struik, 2000). For a detailed description of birding in these southerly reaches of the Tanqua Karoo, you may wish to visit the free, electronic version of the latter resource on the web at www.capebirdingroute.org.

Our purpose here, however, is to draw attention to some lesser-known areas north and west of the R355, which have proved to supply superb birding. Notably, a number of sought-after species, usually associated with the less accessible Bushmanland region to the north and difficult to find or absent at the traditional Tanqua Karoo sites, appear to reach the south-western limit of their regular range here. We also describe some highlights of the Tankwa Karoo National Park , a much overlooked yet fairly accessible and strikingly beautiful protected area.

Larks, Eremomelas and the P2250

For those unfamiliar with the Tanqua Karoo, the stretch of R355 regional road linking Karoopoort, at the south-westernmost corner of the Tanqua Karoo, to Eierkop and Skitterykloof provides access to a good selection of Karoo endemics. Beyond the Skitterykloof turn-off, the R355 continues northwards to Calvinia through a lonely and very beautiful stretch of semi-desert, bounded on the west by the dramatic skyline of the Cederberg Mountains. Conveniently, however, even day-trippers can add an attractive extra few Karoo specials and enjoy some great landscapes by continuing a more manageable distance north. Twenty-five kilometres north of the Skitterykloof turn-off, a minor road, the P2250, heads off north-eastwards towards Tankwa Karoo National Park and the distant towns of Middelpos and Sutherland. We consider this unassuming regional road to be perhaps one of the finest for birding of the south-western Karoo , particularly in spring, when the scrub is alive with displaying, nest-building and chick-provisioning birds. The initial stretches are relatively heavily vegetated and resemble the familiar R355; however, before long the bushes grow further and further apart. Stretches of gleaming gravel appear, punctuated by the occasional clump of spiny Hoodia, a fly-pollinated succulent decorated in spring by droopy and foully malodorous pink flowers.

Perhaps the most conspicuous species along these arid stretches is Tractrac Chat, a gravel-plains specialist with a short-tailed, dumpy jizz. The commonest bird of the adjacent scrub is usually Rufous-eared Warbler, a noisy, neurotic and beautifully marked endemic of southern Africa’s arid west. Spike-heeled Larks are also particularly common here, as well as Thick-billed, Karoo and Red-capped Larks. Karoo Lark is particularly easy to find in spring, when its rattling call is heard everywhere. The commonest seedeater in the area is usually Yellow Canary; however, nomadic species like Black-headed Canary and Larklike Bunting periodically invade the area. The latter can be particularly abundant at times, and is generally present much more regularly than further south in the Tanqua Karoo. Coveys of Namaqua Sandgrouse, another erratic visitor further south, flush up at intervals from the roadside. Especially in winter and spring, Ludwig’s Bustard may be present in some numbers and are best spotted in flight, while Karoo Korhaans occur year-round. Pairs or small parties are occasionally seen within sight of the road, although their true density is only revealed at dawn, when their atmospheric frog-like duets drift across the scrub. Greater Kestrel, a scarce bird further south in the Tanqua, is fairly regularly seen along the P2250, as well as the commoner Pale Chanting Goshawk, Rock Kestrel and the occasional Black-chested (breasted) Snake Eagle and Martial Eagle.

Karoo Eremomela , a curiously localised and sometimes tricky Karoo endemic, is remarkably common along here. Look especially along the shallow drainage lines 4-7 km from the R355, always remaining alert for its two calls (a high-pitched, pulsating whine, somewhat like the tightening of a rusty bolt, and a Spike-heeled Lark-like krrr-krrr). Small groups of this social and cooperative-breeding species follow each other through the scrub, popping up at intervals to let forth a volley of whines.

The highly nomadic Black-eared Finchlark, usually considered a Bushmanland special, may well be a regular visitor to this region. In 1996, they bred in the Tankwa Karoo National Park (see Africa: Birds & Birding 2(1): 74), and in spring 2001 invaded the Tanqua Karoo once again. In this exceptional season, they occurred and probably bred right down to Eierkop at the Tanqua’s southern edge; however, they occurred at highest densities along the P2250, and patchily in the Tankwa National Park. When breeding, aerially displaying males are easy to locate, looking more like giant, floppy black butterflies than birds. In flight, only their dangling white legs break the pure black of their underwings and bodies. Small groups tend to land frustratingly concealed in the scrub; the best technique is to walk slowly up to the spot, and wait quietly until a foraging bird potters into view in a gap between the bushes.

As the day heats up or once you have exhausted the possibilities of the gravel plains and scrub, you may wish to make a stop at the first or especially the second Acacia-lined watercourse, the latter crossing the P2250 27.6km from the R355. These supply all the expected Karoo thicket species, such as Pririt Batis, Cape Penduline Tit (also in the adjacent lower scrub), Rufous-ventedTitbabbler and White-backed Mousebird. Just beyond the second watercourse, a turn-off to the left, takes one 12 km further to the Tanqua River and Tanqua Guest House. The Tanqua Guest House (see Box) makes an excellent base for exploring this area and the National Park as a whole.

Namaqua Warbler, which in the Tanqua Karoo occasionally also occurs into Acacia thickets far from water, is very common and fairly easily seen in the mixture of reeds and Acacia thicket densely lining the Tanqua River. This riparian strip is also one of the more reliable sites in the Tanqua Karoo to look for Dusky Sunbird, a highly nomadic desert sunbird that only occasionally ventures south to the Eierkop-Skitterykloof area. The Tanqua River is dammed just beyond the guest house, rather startlingly creating a substantial waterbody which hosts varying numbers of waterfowl and waders, perhaps most characteristically South African Shelduck and Avocet.

Tankwa Karoo National Park

The Tankwa National Park protects one of the most starkly beautiful tracts of the Tanqua Karoo and is well worth visiting for several reasons, among them its koppie-studded, moon-like landscape, diversity of succulent plants, fine Karoo birding and, perhaps most notably for hardened birders, above-average chance of finding the enigmatic Burchell’s Courser. The park is criss-crossed by a number of vehicle tracks, most of which are easily negotiable by two-wheel-drive. However, please don’t let courser-ambition get the better of you.

Birders will probably want to concentrate their efforts along a track on the Park’s southern boundary, and easily accessible from the Tanqua Guest House complex. Burchell’s Courser is seen fairly regularly on the patches of bare, burnished gravel along this road, and was even seen with chicks in spring 2001. Burchell’s Courser is a poorly known and notoriously tricky bird: it may be absent altogether in some years, and even when present requires considerable effort to spot. The best techniques are to drive along slowly, stopping now and then to scan promising-looking expanses of gravel, and to keep a very sharp eye out for odd-shaped birds flying over. Strangely, we have picked up most of the coursers we have seen in the park this way! Double-banded Courser also occurs here. A bird that appears to reach the southern limit of its regular range in the Tanqua Karoo here is Karoo Long-billed Lark , which becomes very much commoner as one enters Bushmanland to the north.

Ouberg Pass and on to Sutherland

Heading eastwards from the National Park, a potentially confusing network of roads works its way over the Roggeveld escarpment and on to the town of Sutherland, whose one-horse appearance belies its astronomical fame with SALT (Southern African Large Telescope), the largest single telescope in the southern hemisphere). These are beautiful, remote roads, worth driving for their solitude and landscapes alone. However, if a birding objective is more acceptable, then Ouberg Pass does admirably. Ouberg is a truly spectacular pass, rising precipitously up through 600m of Roggeveld escarpment in a series of dramatic switchbacks which may not, perhaps, suit the particularly fainthearted. The rewards are superb views of the great, hazy basin of the Tanqua Karoo below, and excellent birding. Ouberg Pass is possibly the most reliable place within striking distance of Cape Town to see African Rock Pipit (knowledge of its call is essential), and is also a good site for other Karoo escarpment birds such as Sickle-winged Chat, Pale-winged Starling and, together with the plateau beyond, Cape Eagle Owl. The latter can be looked for any time from dusk onwards, simply by scanning the roadside telephone poles. Cape Eagle Owls can be unexpectedly common in many mountainous Karoo regions, though do beware of the occasional Spotted Eagle Owls venturing out of their favoured copses of exotic trees.

Planning Your Visit

When To Visit

Spring is best: birding is at its peak from August to October, when the region may also unpredictably burst into flower. However, the majority of the specials (with the possible exception of Black-headed Canary, Ludwig’s Bustard and Black-eared Finchlark) are accessible year-round with a little effort.

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Mammals

2009 saw the commencement of the largest single relocation of antelope into Tankwa Karoo National Park. Since its reintroduction programme began in June 2004 with ten Cape Mountain Zebra, 114 Gemsbok, 89 Red Hartebeest and 170 Springbok have since found a new home in Tankwa. These animals were followed by a further 245 Springbok and 60 Eland between 2010 and 2012.

The introduction of antelope to Tankwa Karoo National Park was aimed at restoring large mammals as a key driver in maintaining biological diversity through trampling and herbivore disturbance. Research was thus initiated with the release of the antelope in order to study their use of, and influence on, vegetation within the Park. On capture or release, radio transmitter-collars were fitted to six gemsbok, red hartebeest and springbok each to track the movements of the various groups.

The radio transmitter-collars had an expected lifespan of 15 months, but some continued to capture data for more than a year thereafter, providing valuable information on the initial distribution of these antelope. Monitoring of vegetation and field observations on antelope movements still continues.

Vegetation monitoring began during October 2009 with species composition and groundcover measured on a regular basis thereafter. The influence of rainfall, rodents and insects on vegetation cannot be overlooked and these factors are also monitored, the first rodent survey being done during September 2010.

The first aerial game census for the Park was conducted during March 2013 and all species have dispersed through large areas of the Park, with numbers also showing a marked increase to those released. However, further introductions of Cape Mountain Zebra and other species are planned for 2014 onwards, to ensure genetic viability of generations to come.

Reintroductions of other species occurring historically within the area, such as Brown Hyena (Hyaena brunnea) and Cheetah (Acinonyx jubatus) among others, are also being investigated for the future.


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Vegetation

Succulent Karoo

Tankwa Karoo National Park is situated within the Succulent Karoo Biome. The Succulent Karoo Biodiversity Hotspot covers some 116,000km2 of desert stretching along the Atlantic coast of Africa, from south-western South Africa into southern Namibia. It is one of the 25 richest and most threatened reservoirs of plant and animal life on earth and the only arid region recognised as a biodiversity hotspot. Biodiversity hotspots cover only 1.4% of the planet, yet contain 60% of all terrestrial species diversity.

The Succulent Karoo boasts the world's richest succulent flora, as well as high reptile and invertebrate diversity. Compared to other hotspots, the vegetation remains relatively intact. However, only 30,000km2 of the original vegetation remains in a relatively pristine state with only 3.5% formally conserved. Dwarf Shrubland dominated by leaf succulents is found throughout the hotspot, a unique vegetation among Earth's deserts. Nearly one-third of the floral species of the region are unique to the hotspot.

Succulent Karoo is vulnerable to several land use pressures, particularly overgrazing on communal lands, ostrich farming in the southeast, mining and the illegal collection of plants and animals for trade. Climate change is also expected to have a serious impact on the region's biodiversity.

Tankwa Karoo National Park

The park falls into the Succulent Karoo Biome and comprises the lowland (Tanqua Karoo) and upland (Western Mountain Karoo) Succulent Karoo vegetation types. Vegetation types conserved by the park are:

  • Central Tanqua Grassy Plain,
  • Roggeveld Shale Renosterveld,
  • Tanqua Escarpment,
  • Succulent Karoo,
  • Roggeveld Karoo,
  • Tanqua Wash Rivers, and
  • Nieuwoudtville Roggeveld Dolerite Renosterveld.

The remarkable endemism and diversity of the Succulent Karoo flora, generally at its most spectacular from August to October, is one of the more prominent aspects of the park. The Lowland Succulent Karoo is described as very sparse shrub land and dwarf shrub land (< 0.3m). The Upland Succulent Karoo, which includes the Roggeveld and Elandsberg Mountains, is described as generally consisting of small to medium sized shrubs and succulents.

At present, the plant species list for the park stands at 780 plant species with four new species to science found between by 2014. Invasive alien plant infestations are relatively limited to riverine areas and are managed via removal and monitoring.


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People with disabilities

Wheelchair Access

Accommodation

All units within Tankwa National Park are spacious for easy access by wheelchair, with one of the Elandsberg Wilderness Camp Cottages specifically designed to accommodate mobility-impaired guests. However, please feel free to contact the Park Office with your specific requirements.

Elandsberg Wilderness Camp:

Cottage (CO2/4Z)

The unit is accessible to the mobility challenged. The cottage features one bedroom with a double bed and a queen-sized sleeper-couch in the living room. It also includes a bathroom, fireplace, fully-equipped kitchen, living area, outside braai facilities and a splash pool. Candle or lantern lighting is provided.

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Please note:

Accommodation images may differ from the actual units as refurbishment of various accommodation types occur on an on-going basis.

Accessible Activities & Facilities

As per the accessibility features overview for Tankwa Karoo National Park, featured in the Rolling Inspiration magazine.

  • The Park's reception offices and information centre has a ramped entrance and an accessible toilet.
  • The Park's main attraction is scenery and photography done from the confines of one's own vehicle.
  • The Gannaga Pass offers some breathtaking mountain desert scenery.
  • It is one of the richest and most threatened reservoirs of plant and animal life on earth and the only arid region recognised globally as a biodiversity hotspot.

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