BIRD BATHS AND BEES

Just as people, birds and animals seek water to drink when the weather is hot and dry, so do bees. The water in this shallow bird bath at the entrance to the Mountain Zebra National Park is edged with bees and flies taking in much-needed moisture.

Communal taps inevitably drip. Some taps in the Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park have simple cement bird baths placed under them which both helps to save water and provides for the thirst of bees – lots of them. One actually has to approach these taps with care.

Birds and animals have to approach these watering points with care too.

I was thus impressed to see that in the Karoo National Park not only are bird baths provided under the communal taps, but clear signs warn one to be careful of the bees that will inevitably come to share the water during the hot weather.

Or … perhaps these signs sensitize visitors to the importance of bees and the role they play in keeping our environment healthy.

Either way, it was good to see them.

SOME ANIMALS IN THE KAROO NATIONAL PARK

Proclaimed in 1979, the Karoo National Park is situated on the southern slopes of the Nuweveld Mountains near Beaufort West and is home to approximately fifty-eight endemic species of animals, quite apart from birds and reptiles. Even though the vegetation is sparse, one cannot expect to see them all in only just over a day. Time, as well as the luck factor, determines what one can see during a drive. The animals we saw tended to be scattered over a wide area and did not occur in great herds.

Among the animals we saw was a kudu bull peering at us from behind a bush.

Later, we were delighted to come across more kudu in the company of Cape mountain zebras.

A lone springbok seemed unperturbed by our presence.

It is always wonderful to come across the majestic looking gemsbok.

The red hartebeest shone like burnished copper in the sun.

A small troop of baboons crossed the road ahead of us and proceeded to fan through the veld where they nibbled on grass seeds and overturned stones looking for insects to eat.

There were other animals too, some too far from the road for a good photograph. Sadly, we had only one full day in the park – we clearly need to spend a lot more time there!

SIGNS IN THE KAROO NATIONAL PARK

One of the first interesting signs you come across after entering the Karoo National Park warns visitors to be aware of the possibility that tortoises may have sought shelter from the sun under their vehicles in the parking area outside the reception centre:

Another informs visitors when they can enter the game viewing area and when to return. During our visit it was from 7a.m. until 6 p.m. – the times vary according to the season:

In places the speed limit is only 30 kmp:

This is understandable once you realise that you need to watch out for tortoises, chameleons and snakes that might be in the road:

One also has to be aware of the presence of larger animals, such as lions and rhinos, especially when getting out of one’s vehicle to enter one of several dedicated picnic areas:

Should you wish to make use of the ablution blocks in these areas, there are signs reminding you to watch out for baboons and monkeys. Visitors are cautioned to keep the doors to these buildings closed so that one of these creatures does not get trapped inside … imagine finding an irate baboon or monkey indoors when you wish to visit the toilet or wash your hands! Anyone notice the grammatical error?

In common with other national parks, the Karoo National Park does not allow the use of drones:

 

KAROO LANDSCAPE

One gets a good taste of the Karoo landscape whilst driving through the Karoo National Park. The environment there is so arid that it is difficult to believe that millions of years ago it was covered by a shallow sea.  Look at these beautiful hills and carved out valleys.

The sky is beautifully clear and ‘big’; the air is crisp.

The rock-strewn valley floors are sparsely covered with typical Karoo vegetation.

This flock of ostriches seem to have an endless vista through which to explore.

Mountains and hills provide a worthy backdrop to the flattish valley floor.

I leave you with a closer look at the rocky layer that forms the top of one of the many hills.