Touring the Bontebok National Park
Once again I was up early. I opened up the curtains to see clear skies and quickly got ready to explore one of the hiking trails while the others slept late. Although the grass lining the path was wet from the overnight rain and my pant legs were soon soaked it was too nice a morning to turn back early. The path soon opened up and I managed to make it to the viewing deck, on the Bushbuck trail, where I took some time to just sit in the stillness of the morning watching the fish feeding in the shallows while the rising sun bathed the opposite bank in light – a peace that you can’t find in the city.
I would have stayed longer but our tour was due to start at 9am and I still had to get back to the chalets. While it might not have the big five, one of the attractions of the Bontebok National Park is that you can walk freely without having to worry about dangerous wild animals as well as being able to get up close to some of the fynbos. It is also one of the last remaining ‘renosterveld islands’ with several endemic plant species.
Back at the chalet, while I was packing the last of my things, this opportunistic little bird was hovering around on the balcony waiting to be invited in for tea. Quickly reaching for my camera, I caught this interesting shot as he dropped down onto the welcome mat.
For our tour we were joined by Adin Greaves who has visited the park over 3000 times and so as you can imagine he knows it like the back of his hand. Bontebok National Park is the smallest of the South African National Parks but is by no means less diverse. The park is home to the once-threatened Bontebok of which there are, at last count, around 200 in the park along with Red Haartebeest and Grey Rhebok. Over 200 bird species can also be found including the Blue Crane (SA’s national bird), African Fish Eagles, Secretary birds, Malachite Sun birds and Stanley’s Bustard (now known as Denham’s Bustard). It also forms part of the Cape Floral Kingdom and is a key refuge for rare plant species affected by the intensive agricultural practices that have destroyed a lot of the indigenous vegetation.
Driving around the park there are several viewpoints where we stopped to take in the beauty of this small yet seeming vast national park at the foot of the majestic Langeberg mountains that even had snow on their peaks following the storm.
We didn’t see many animals close to the road, probably because they were all still taking cover from the freezing temperatures although the weak winter sun was doing its best to dry out the vegetation. We did however see two out of only eight mountain zebra in the park as well as several birds flitting between the blooming Ericas and this bontebok who seemed to be posing for us as if instructed.
All too soon our tour was over. We swung past Die Stroom once again because we hadn’t gotten to see its beautiful location on the banks of the Breede river in the bad weather when we arrived. Here we took an obligatory group photo and said our goodbyes to the park manager before reluctantly making our way back to Cape Town.