ANIMALS EATING

Warthogs are omnivores whose diet includes roots, berries, bark, bulbs, grass and a variety of plants. Their rounded cartilage snout is hardened on the upper side so that it can act as a kind of shovel to dig up bulbs from under the ground – as this one is doing:

Elephants on the other hand often break branches in order to gain access to the leaves, roots and nutrients in the tree:

Although kudu are well known as browsers, they also eat a variety of fruit, pods, forbs and creepers as well as succulents such as spekboom and aloes. This one is taking advantage of the many forbs that have grown after a long period without rain:

Red Hartebeest are predominantly grazers. While they usually prefer medium-height grass, they also tuck into the fresh re-growth of grass growing after rain:

Like the warthogs, bushpigs are omnivorous. Apart from insects and carrion, they also eat fruit, roots, bulbs and forbs:

We tend to think of zebras being predominantly grazers, yet they also include shrubs, bark, twigs, leaves and herbs in their diet:

ANIMALS IN A HURRY

We are so used to seeing elephants browsing, drinking, walking, or simply standing, that it is interesting to watch them move when in a hurry. These ones had already spent time at a waterhole, had gone through the greeting rituals with new arrivals, and were now doubtless off to find a suitable place for a meal.

I don’t know what had caused these kudu to run. Whenever animals hare off like this, we naturally scan the veld in all directions in case a predator might lie in wait … nothing that exciting this time.

As we watched the last of the kudu run past in a hurry, we noticed these warthog following suit. Look at the way they hold their tails whilst running.

Naturally we waited for a while … nothing happened … these animals all settled down to feed a little further on as though nothing untoward had happened.

REST CAMP TRAIL IN KAROO NATIONAL PARK

I find it strange that so few sites extolling the virtues of staying in the Karoo National Park mention the 1.15km Rest Camp Trail.

Granted, this isn’t very long and is in essence a shortcut through the veld from the camping area towards the bird hide, chalets and the restaurant. Much more is made of the nearby 400m long Fossil Trail which depicts the geology and palaeontology of the Great Karoo. As short as that is, it is both fascinating and well worth spending some time on.  Back to the Rest Camp Trail though: like most things, you will get from it what you put into it. Treat it as a shortcut instead of walking along the road and you will see very little; walk along the sandy – and at times rather stony – path slowly and you might be taken aback by what you see. Very close to the camping area is a clearly demarcated graveyard.

Apparently Pokkie Benadè was a tracker who worked for the South African National Parks. I imagine Stolzhoek Farm is one of several farms that make up the land now encompassed by the Karoo National Park. It is worth stopping every now and then to enjoy the view and to have a close look at the immediate environment. It was during one such stop that we saw this kudu looking at us warily from where she had been browsing on some low bushes not all that far from the path.

There is a magical element about sharing the outdoors with such a regal animal. Then there is the delight of coming across a fresh spoor on the path.

Several plants are clearly identified along the path – a useful way of developing an understanding of what we can see while travelling through the rest of the park. This Asparagus capensis (wild asparagus), for example, is common all over the park.

Easily accessible from either this trail, or from the road, is an example of a long disused Hyena trap – a remnant from early stock farmers, who used these primitive stone structures to lure and kill what they considered to be ‘problem animals’ in order to protect their flocks.

Looking up, I saw this pair of South African Shelducks flying past – possibly on their way to the small dam at the bird hide.

Paying closer attention to the rocks we were walking over, I found this fine example of weathering.

This trail would offer a variety of things to see depending on what time of the day you walk along it.

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!