Bontebok National Park is a place of simplistic beauty and peaceful charm. The majestic Langeberg Mountains provide a picturesque backdrop for this Park of colorful riches.
Bontebok National Park was originally established to conserve a species – its namesake, the Bontebok
When the species was approaching extinction in the early 1800s (approximately 17 Bontebok left) some land owners set aside portions of their properties to form temporary reserves for the Bontebok. In 1931 the first Bontebok National Park was proclaimed on an area near Bredasdorp. The Park was later moved to the area it is in now, to suit the habitat requirements of the Bontebok. By 1969 it was estimated that the numbers had grown to around 800 globally.
Today, the smallest national park in the South African National Park stable, Bontebok is proud to boast of its achievements in biodiversity conservation, from the endangered fynbos veld type, coastal Renosterveld, to the bontebok! The conservation story of this species is one of heart-warming success, bringing the numbers world-wide from a mere 17 bontebok, to a current global total of approximately 3000, 200 of which call Bontebok National Park their home (the maximum this park can support taking into consideration biodiversity conservation as a whole). The Park today offers much more for nature lovers, from a diversity of indigenous animal life to over 200 remarkable bird species.
Table Mountain National Park include Table Mountain area, Cape Point, Tokai and Boulders Penguin Colony
Home to an amazing 8 200 plant species - of which around 80% are fynbos, the CFK is also the only kingdom confined to one continent. The significance of this hits home when you consider that the British Isles, 3 ½ times the size, boasts less than 1 500 plant species.
Many of the plants that occur here are endemic – that means that they occur nowhere else on earth. To add to this there are around 1,406 threatened plant species, 300 of which are endangered or critically endangered and 29 plant species are already extinct. It is this combination of high diversity and levels of threat from issues like urbanization, poor fire management and alien species that makes the CFK the world’s hottest floral hot-spot. Add to this the increase in global warming and pollution.
Animals in Table Mountain National Park
Penguin at Boulders Beach
Dassies on Table Mountain
Zebras, Ostrich, Baboons at Cape Point
Occurring in dry woodland and arid stony or sandy areas, this is one of the major tree species of the desert regions of Southern Africa. This immensely important species has a great range over the Northern Cape and North-East province. It varies from a small, spiny shrub barely 2m high to a tree up to 16m tall with a wide, spreading crown. The seed pods are characteristic in shape and colour. This tree provides valuable shade and an essential micro-habitat, e.g. the home of sociable weavers, in the thirst-lands of the far north.
The Camel Thorn is an incredible resource to both wildlife and humans who survive in often harsh conditions. Traditionally, the gum and bark have been used by local tribes to treat coughs, colds, nosebleeds and even tuberculosis. The roasted seeds are used as a coffee substitute.
The Topnaar of Namibia made a powder from the inner bark that was used to perfume the body and the home. Local farmers say the pods are an excellent fodder source and its use as a good firewood is widely renowned.
Visitors can view rock paintings in one of the shelters by hiring a Park guide to show them the way. Although a fence protects the painting site, it is quite exciting to be able to stand less than a metre away from ancient artwork.
During the 1800s, British soldiers created a chessboard on the top of Saltpeterskop, a 1514m high koppie in the Park. While hiding out during the Anglo-Boer War, they played chess with their fellow soldiers in the old fort in Cradock, transmitting moves by means of a mirror, which had the official purpose of communicating warning signals.
The story goes that a certain farmer – unbeknown to the soldiers - picked up the signals and started a game against the soldiers while sitting on the stoep of his farmhouse.
The chessboard and the names of the soldiers are etched onto a flat slab of rock at the top of Saltpeterskop. Names recorded include the 5th Lancashire Fusiliers, the Coldstream Guards and some privates, corporals and a captain.
The legacy of white pioneers who moved into the area and set up farms during the Great Trek of 1836 still stands today. In 1838, one of the first permanent farmhouses in the area was constructed on the farm De Doornkloof, then owned by Hendrik Jacobus van Heerden. The house presently known as Doornhoek, declared a national monument in 1986, was restored and is still used as a guesthouse in the Park. It is popular with those who want a tranquil family getaway overlooking a lake, with spectacular star-gazing vistas at night.
In 1937, 1712 hectares of land was proclaimed as the Mountain Zebra National Park. Thanks to the conservation efforts of farmers in the area, a small herds of the endangered Cape mountain zebra still survived in the area and these provided a founder population for the Park. Paul Michau donated 6 zebra and later Mr H L Lombard donated 11 zebra to the Park. The Park’s Cape mountain zebra herd now numbers over 350 animals.
The Park at first expanded slowly over the years, but then received a boost with a joint public-private conservation initiative. An artist by the name of David Shepherd kick-started the initiative by donating prints of his works “Mountain Zebra: A Vision in Black and White” in 1996 and “Cheetahs” in 1998 so that money could be raised to buy surrounding farms and expand the size of the Park. SABC’s 50/50 programme shared the story with viewers and encouraged them to support the project by buying prints so that the necessary funds could be raised. The response was fantastic and also caused private individuals and businesses to make donations including The Barbara Delano Foundation, WildAid, Sasol and Vesta Medicines. South African National Parks Trust matched all of the funds that were raised.
The park was proclaimed on 29 June 2002 for the purpose of conserving the rich diversity of succulent plants. NNP is in the process of development, having grown to its current size of 141,000ha (including the coastal contract area between the Groen and Spoeg rivers) in nine years, thus expanding the park to include more succulent habitats and an important coastal section. The park has one access-controlled route; the main entrance gate at the Skilpad section. The use of this gate is normally restricted to between 06h00 and 18h00. The Groen-Spoeg River section can be entered at the Groenriver where a marine SANParks official is based.
Geography of Namaqua National Park
The bedrock within the Namaqua NP largely comprises Quartzo-feldspathic Gneiss of the Kookfontein subgroup within the Namaqualand Metamorphic Complex. Bedrock outcrops occur on koppies or mountains as smooth rock faces or large rounded boulders typical of the Namaqualand Hardeveld. Of further geological significance is the Soubattersfontein Quartzite that occurs as low laying ridges or koppies in the south and south-western sections of the park. Wolfhoek se Berg is the highest point above sea level in the park at 948m above sea level.
Sand movement corridors are a characteristic of the coastal plain landscape and form an integral part of the ecological dynamics of the vegetation and animals that inhabit this landscape. They are regarded as important medium to large scale ecological processes that need to be explicitly considered in conservation plans. Elsewhere in South Africa sand movement corridors have been truncated or destroyed by inappropriate coastal development and stabilization by alien plants. The Namaqualand coastal plain presents the only opportunity in South Africa to conserve these ecosystems.
The park covers an altitudinal range from sea level (western boundary) to 948m on the eastern boundary. The topography is dominated by the low-lying Swartlintjies River valley in the west with its catchment in the mountains of the escarpment to the east. On the Skilpad section the Wolwepoort River drains to the northwest ultimately flowing into the Haasrivier, a tributary of the Buffelrivier. The Namaqualand coastal plain and the escarpment (Hardeveld) are both features of the area. The area between the Groen and Spoeg Rivers include a 60km stretch of coastal line and 30km inland of coastal plain sandy material of aeolian origin.
The Namaqualand region of South Africa falls within the Succulent Karoo biome, identified as one of the world’s 34 biodiversity hotspots (one of three hotspots in South Africa), and is the focus of both international and national groups/organisations to conserve this globally unique living landscape i.e. the World Wildlife Fund (WWF), the Lesley Hill Succulant Karoo Trust, Global Environment Facility (GEF) and Conservation International (CI) with initiatives such as the SKEP and Arid Eden Project.
The Succulent Karoo has approximately 6,356 plant species, 40% (2,542) are endemic. Namaqualand alone has about 3,000 species (1,500 are endemic) made up of 648 genera and 107 families. Seventeen percent are listed as Red Data species (International Union for Conservation of Nature 1994). When compared to regions with similar semi-arid environments the richness of this biome is exceptional. Namaqualand is further distinguished from other desert regions by the presence of the following families: Mesembryanthemaceae (vygies); Iridaceae (irids); Hyacinthaceae (lachenalias) and Crassulaceae (crassulas). There is a strong pattern of dominance by succulents and bulbs.
Birds & Mammals
The movement of birds within the biome appears to be related to the availability of resources, both food and nesting material. Fluctuations in bird and mammal populations (especially rodents) are related to major rainfall events or changes in rainfall seasonality. Historically, mammal numbers would have fluctuated with resource availability and the activity of predators. The animals that historically occurred in the area and which are now locally extinct include elephant, black rhino, lion, cheetah, wild dog, eland, red hartebeest, gemsbok, springbok and Hartmann’s mountain zebra. Many of these species were probably not resident but would have moved through the area related to the availability of food and water resources. The largest predator in the park is the leopard (Panthera pardus).
Existing populations of small mammals still occur within the present boundaries of the Namaqua NP. They include: common duiker (Sylvicapra grimmia), steenbok (Raphicerus camprestis), bat-eared fox (Otocyon megalotis), black-backed jackal (Canis mesomelas), caracal (Caracal caracal), baboon (Papio ursinus), klipspringer (Oreotragus oreotragus), Cape fox (Vulpes chama), aardvark (Crycteropus cafer) and African wildcat (Felis silvestris). Seventy-three mammal species occur within the Succulent Karoo with three endemic. Of these De Winton’s golden mole (Cryptochloris wintoni) and Van Zyl’s golden mole (Cryptochloris zyli) are insectivorous and the Namaqua dune molerat (Bathyergus janetta) is herbivorous.There are, however, five species known only from the dunes of the central Namaqualand coast. Some of these species are likely to occur in the corridor and coastal section of the park.
Springbok, Red Hartebeest and Gemsbok has been reintroduced by SANParks.
Lying between the Cederberg Mountains and the Great Karoo escarpment, it incorporates three distinct ecosystems - pure desert in the west, open grasslands in the centre and the Roggeveld Mountains in the east. The Roggeveld range is the start of the escarpment and a vital contributor to the park's water supply. The true meaning of the word "Tankwa" is unknown, but it is said to be "Turbid water", "Place of the San" or "Thirst land", all of which fits this arid yet picturesque park so well.
The veld had been severely degraded by livestock overgrazing, and for the first few years it was not open to the public. Humans have lived in the region for at least 10 000 years - first the Bushmen and then the Khoe pastoralists, who moved their livestock with the migration of the wild animals. Then, in the 1700s, the trekboer farmers started using the Tankwa to graze their dropper and merino sheep while moving from the summer heat of the Cederberg to the cooler temperatures on the Karoo escarpment.
Geographical extremes capture the imagination. From ancient mariners to contemporary mankind, the quest has always been to reach the poles, sail around the tips of continents, conquer the highest peaks and dive to the ultimate depths.
Visit the Southernmost Tip of the African Continent
The area around the southern-most tip of Africa, often referred to as the Agulhas Plain, has rich natural and cultural features, which make it worthy of national park status. The Agulhas Plain is of international significance due to its rich plant biodiversity, with species richness values equalling those of tropical rain forests.
It has approximately 2,000 species of indigenous plants including 100 which are endemic to the area and over 110 Red Data Book species. Consequently, the Agulhas Plain is a very important component of the Cape Floral Kingdom, the smallest and richest of the world's six plant kingdoms.
The Agulhas Plain is unique in that a wide variety of wetlands occur in the area, contributing to a high diversity of wetland plants and aquatic invertebrates. This is also home to the endangered Cape platanna and the micro frog. In addition these wetlands attract a host of water birds, with over 21 000 migrant and resident wetland birds estimated to occur in the area annually. The coastline supports a rich marine and intertidal life, with breeding sties of rare coastal birds such as the African black oystercatcher. The nearby islands are home to a variety of seabirds and seals.
In spring and early summer southern right whales frequent the waters of the Agulhas coast. Besides its ecological importance, the Agulhas area has a rich cultural heritage. A reconnaissance of the area has established the presence of significant archaeological sites along the coast. The discovery of stone hearths and pottery, together with shell middens, link the archaeological deposits with the era of Khoisan migration and settlements.
The Agulhas area also provides history of a different kind – numerous shipwrecks of the early explorers attempting to conquer the wild seas off the southern tip of Africa, dot the coastline. Many national monuments are found in the area, such as the historical Cape Agulhas Lighthouse, which has been in operation since 1849. In addition, historical buildings such as the water mill at Elim and certain homesteads reflect the European influence in the history of the region.
Addo Elephant National Park is located close to Port Elizabeth (PE) about 800km away from Cape Town. You should calulate an 8 hour drive by car from Cape Town to Addo.
The Addo Elephant National Park (AENP) was proclaimed in 1931 to protect the remaining 11 Addo elephant. The great herds of elephant and other animal species had been all but decimated by hunters over the 1700s and 1800s. In the late 1800s, farmers began to colonise the area around the park, also taking their toll on the elephant population due to competition for water and crops.
Public opinion then changed, leading to the proclamation of the park in 1931. The original size of the park was just over 2 000 hectares. Conflicts between elephants and farmers continued after proclamation as no adequate fence enclosed the park. Finally in 1954, Graham Armstrong (the park manager at the time) developed an elephant-proof fence constructed using tram rails and lift cables and an area of 2 270 hectares was fenced in. There were 22 elephant in the park at the time. This Armstrong fence, named after its developer, is still used around the park today. Although the park was originally proclaimed to protect a single species, priorities have now changed to conserve the rich biological diversity found in the area.
However, it was only in the 1970s that South African National Parks proposed the establishment of a National Park that would be representative of the Nama Karoo Biome after a campaign launched by the South African Nature Foundation (SANF) and funded through the commission and sale of special art stamps depicting the flora and fauna of the Great Karoo. After considering a number of possible suitable areas it was decided to establish this new park in the vicinity of Beaufort West.
In a gesture of support, the Town Council of Beaufort West donated 7,209 ha of communal land north-west of the town to the South African National Parks. This area then formed the nucleus of the Karoo NP, proclaimed in 1979. SANF purchased additional land to be incorporated into Karoo NP, and in 1989 a luxury rest camp was opened.
The Great Karoo is an area of unrivalled importance for understanding the evolution of the oldest known complex ecosystems on land. The park forms part of one of the Karoo’s classic study and collecting areas for the wealth of ancient petrified fossils of the long-gone Karoo animals. In the Karoo NP there is a clearly visible link between the geological horizons of the plains of Beaufort West, progressing through time, layer by layer, to those at the top of the Nuweveld escarpment.
The Postberg Flower Reserve is open during Flower Season and is home of some mammals, like Eland.
In the South African Context, the saltmarshes of Langebaan are unique in that no river feeds into the lagoon. These salt marshes constitute approximately 32% of the entire saltmarsh habitat in the country, the largest in South Africa. The lagoon is entirely marine with a relatively stable salinity and supports dense populations of molluscs and crustaceans as well as 71 species of different marine algae. The lagoon also serves as a nursery for the development of juvenile fish; the extensive intertidal areas of the lagoon support up to 55 000 water birds in summer, most of which are waders (23 species), including 15 regular Palaearctic migrants.
The five islands of Saldanha Bay to the north of the Lagoon provide a home for nearly a quarter of a million sea birds, many of which are endemic to the nearshore regions of South Africa and Namibia. Cape Gannets (Monis capensis) and Cape cormorants (Phalocrocorax capensis) are abundant and the largest known colony of Kelp Gulls (Larus doninicanus) in Southern Africa is found on Schaapen Island. WCNP mostly contains strandveld vegetation; with the expansion of the park it also included the Hopefield sand plain fynbos. Both these habitat units are given a 50% irreplaceability rating, however, sand plain fynbos is regarded to be of higher conservation value than strandveld, due to very little being formally conserved and it being more threatened by alien plant invasion.