After a wonderful few nights in Addo we packed up and went to the little known Mountain Zebra National Park - near Cradock. Here we spent 3 nights camping and enjoying the incredible scenery and wildlife.
It was great sunny weather in the days with below freezing nights, typical Karoo Winter.. Fortunately we always take a fan heater for winter camping, small compact and effective. We have been to Mountain Zebra National Park in Summer once before, it was such a positive surprise! It is a little known park and yet it has such a diversity in animals and landscape. It has quickly become a favorite. In Summer prepare to suffer the intense Karoo heat, much like Karoo National Park. It has a swimming pool and air conditioned units if the heat is too much for you. Our first experience in the Summer did raise our blood pressure with spiders and snakes, always exciting to see - just not in or around your camp site!
The scenery in Mountain Zebra in stunning and no matter what season it is full of life. Remember the little things, often we will be looking at birds or the smaller mammals and we will find the larger mammals appear.
On this trip we were joined with family, exactly what we needed during a grey winter with chaos abound in South Africa and Covid peaking in Joburg and threatening CapeTown.
On our arrival we discovered an incredible sighting, a male lion, just outside the main rest camp, feasting on buffalo carcass. Here he had been for 3 days already and stayed until the day we left. This is a rare treat. We would pop in with every drive and check up on his progress, from about 5m away.
Our first night we decided to go on a sunset drive, a great opportunity to see whats happening and where in the park for the remaining days. It is one of our favorite sunset and night drive options in any park in South Africa. We have had incredible and rare sightings each time. On this drive we watched a aardwolf run across the road at high speed and up a hill. How Jason managed to capture a photo astounds me as I could barely get a glimpse in a very "slow motioned" video :) I am reminded of his crazy quick reflexes from his days as a goalkeeper.
We enjoyed fabulous bird sightings, caracal, primates, a large variety of antelope. The monkeys are a real pest and will enter your tent if left open with you sitting right there, they are unfortunately tamed to humans and this can be dangerous. It is so important that you close everything properly including windows.
There are 4x4 tracks which are lots of fun if know what you are doing, they also pass through some of the best sightings areas in the park. Some cottages are only accessible by 4x4's and have spectacular views. There are safe walks inside the main rest camp as well as the more famous cheetah tracking with a guide which is age restricted (as is the walks in Kruger) as well as a San Cave Painting guided walk. There is little light pollution in the Karoo and therefor is a great place for astrophotography.
Our days were spent walking around camp and driving various routes in the park, having picnics and braai's and laughing around the fire. For a brief moment covid was a memory. I don't know when we will be back in this park again, at the end of the year we will be at Storm River, Addo and Wilderness National Parks, great Summer camping spots with kids.
Our last morning we decided to leave before sunrise, take a slow drive to exit the park. Well, we learnt a valuable lesson that morning, do not pack up a frozen tent before it has thawed :) It was crazy, the inside of the tent had a film of ice from the condensation in the tent during the night and the outside had a film of ice on the surface of the awning. It was -3deg. We would wipe it down with hot water only to have it freeze a few seconds later (the warm water did help prevent our fingers from freezing though!). Next year, in Namibia, we will make sure we have enough time after sunrise to pack up as to avoid this.
No matter what you do in your weekends and holidays, or where you may go, get outside and soak in some nature! Create your own adventure!