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Tankwa Karoo National Park

Stop the world we’ve got to get off!

After weeks of working really hard, we desperately needed a place to which we could escape for a few days, somewhere to really unplug from the rat race.  Tankwa Karoo National Park was the perfect choice for us, only about 4 hours drive from Cape Town.

 

Tankwa Karoo National Park

 

One note of caution: if you are a Type A personality or have your umbilical cord tightly attached to the Internet, Tankwa is not for you- there is no cell phone reception within the Park nor on the roads through it.

This park is like none of the other national parks, it is in a time warp – there is silence, almost no people, no pollution or litter and no crime to worry about – you won’t get mugged out here! Most of the accommodation units have electricity for only part of the day or none at all and you have to use paraffin lamps or candles for light, gas hotplate for cooking and solar panels heat the water.

The landscape is wild and arid but full of wonderful colors in the vegetation, rocks and mountains. You won’t see many, if any, other people but the birds and the animals more than make up for that.  It’s at night that the magic really happens – there is no light pollution, so you need to find a place to sit, look up and you’ll see stars like you’ve never seen them before, plus shooting stars, meteors, planets and maybe even the space station if you’re lucky.  And, it’s so quiet.

We stayed at the guest lodge this time, which was great. The lodge is really interesting as it looks like a fort but used to be a farm house. You can book one, two or all three of their units, all of which are comfortable and spacious. Two of the units have two en-suite bedrooms and the other unit has one bedroom with a very large dressing room and a bathroom. The units share the large, well equipped kitchen,  huge dining room and living room with fireplace. An inner courtyard has a lovely pool which is a real lifesaver if you come in the summer and there are 2 braai (BBQ) areas. There is a second building next to the lodge with 4 bedrooms which would be great to book for a big family outing.

 

Tankwa Unit 3Tankwa road
In the guest lodge the electricity was on for only 4 hours in the morning and the same at night so, at night you have no air conditioning or fans and it is hot in the summer. Probably a better time to go to Tankwa is May to October with August and September, the flower season, especially beautiful.

The roads are usually OK for an ordinary car but after some of the flash floods that can run through the area, the roads can be ‘challenging’.  At times a 4×4 might be a better option for some of the roads.  Regardless of what you drive, be prepared with an extra tire (or two) just in case of a flat, a jerry can of fuel and be sure to carry some extra bottled water. Bring along the things you might want to eat and anything else you can’t do without, but leave your espresso coffee maker at home – remember no electricity. The park office has only firewood, bottled water and cool drinks for sale. And, there are no other shops anywhere close, 90 km or nearly 56 miles to the nearest town, yes, it is remote.

The attraction of Tankwa isn’t the big game that you can find elsewhere but you’ll probably see Springbok and Oryx, Kudu, Zebra, Ostriches, Baboons, Red Hartebeest and other animals moving across the plains and especially around the water holes. The bird life, the landscape and the night sky are spectacular.

 

Zebra Familymany ostriches (Medium)    kudu (Medium)  

Facts about Tankwa Karoo

  • This Park is said to have the richest succulent flora accumulation in the world, with over 1/3rd of the 615 types of plants unique to this region and not found anywhere else. Many of these plants burst into flower after the first rains in spring.

Flower season in Tankwa

The flowering season at Tankwa Karoo

  • The Park was established in 1979 and now covers 250 sq. mi. (750k²) with its primary purpose the protection of the regions’ unique flora.
  • The climate is cold in the winter, with the mean temperature in July between 5° and 7°C  (41°- 45°F) and hot in the summer, temperature (Jan./Feb.) is around 39°C (102°F). The highest recorded is 46°C (115°F).
  • The Great Escarpment runs through the Park giving spectacular views from the cliffs. The views along the Gannaga Pass are particularly breath taking.

 

Gannaga Pass   Tankwa landscape

  • The other accommodation units that can be booked include Paulshoek Cottage, sleeps up to 6; Varschfontein Cottage (an old farmhouse) sleeps up to 6; DeZyfer Cottage, sleeps up to 6; Tanqua Guesthouse has 3 units plus a second building, both together could sleep up to 14; Elandsberg Wilderness Camp has 5 cottages with 1, 2 or 3 bedrooms.

Elandsberg Cottage inside Elandsberg Lodge view & pool at Elandsberg

Elandsberg Wilderness Camp / Living Room in the Cottage and the View Over the Pool

 

  • Over 200 species of birds have been spotted and recorded in the Park. Look out for black eagles, booted eagles, jackal buzzards, pale chanting goshawks and rock kestrels, plus larks and chats on the plains. Eighteen or more of the birds found in the Park are unique to the region.
  • There are informal campsites in designated areas of the Park for those who are totally self-sufficient. You can book these but they expect you to “leave only your footprints”.
  • The national parks do not allow pets, bicycles or motorcycles. Guns of all sorts must be declared at reception, there they will be sealed and only unsealed at departure time.
  • There are no restaurants, shops, ATM’s or public telephones in the Park, nor is there any cell phone reception along the main roads or within the Park.

Although the Tankwa Karoo National Park doesn’t have many of Africa’s ‘Big Five’ animals, the experience of its incredible beauty, its vast landscape, its birds and vegetation, its night skies makes it a place that should not be missed.

 

Roggeberg

 If you let it, the tranquility, the peace and its overpowering silence will seep into your soul.