Mountain Zebra National Park
Prepare to be awed by our Big Sky Karoo on display at the magnificent Mountain Zebra National Park. At 28 000ha, the park has become a perennial favourite with national park travellers for its craggy mountains, rolling plains and the exquisite Cape mountain zebra, amongst many other species. These zebras differ from the plains or Burchell’s zebra, having narrower stripes, absence of shadow stripes and orange facial colouration making them a striking sight.
The park was established as a preserve for the zebra, which was nearing extinction, and started with a small founder herd of only six. Today is home to over 1000 Cape mountain zebras – a true story of South African conservation success. Cheetahs were introduced to the park in 2007, becoming the first large predators in the park and establishing one of the park’s primary attractions: guided cheetah tracking on foot. In 2013, lions were introduced to the park becoming the first free-roaming lions in the area in 130 years – the conservation legend of the Mountain Zebra National Park continues to inspire.
Other species to be viewed are African buffalo, black and red hartebeest, eland, blesbok, kudu, springbok, and other antelope species, Baboons and vervet monkeys are commonly sighted while aardwolf, bat-eared fox and caracal are more elusive. Birders will find a pleasant variety of species including Verreaux’s (Black) and Martial Eagle, and Jackal Buzzard soar impressively over the vast mountains Pale-winged Starling is very conspicuous on the mountain plateau, where Ostrich, Secretarybird, Blue Crane (South Africa’s national bird) and Ludwig’s Bustard are the larger more visible species. Grey-winged Francolin, Ground Woodpecker, Large-billed (Thick-billed) and Eastern Long-billed Lark, Cape and Sentinel Rock-Thrush, Mountain Wheatear (Chat) and Orange-breasted Rockjumper should also be searched for, while Pink-billed Lark and African Rock Pipit are less common. The wooded kloofs and acacia stands host species such as Red-fronted Tinker Barbet, Lesser Honeyguide, Red-throated Wryneck and Southern Tchagra.
The park has three vegetation types (Eastern Upper Karoo, Karoo Escarpment Grassland and Eastern Cape Escarpment Thicket making up 37%, 53% and 10%, respectively) therefore incorporating elements of three of South Africa’s nine biomes: the Nama-Karoo, Grassland and Thicket.
Mountain Zebra National Park is a very special park that is close to the hearts of most Karoo residents. It’s a place of vast, stark beauty and serenity that encourages visitors to slow down and appreciate every kilometre of our spectacular Karoo Heartland, with a range of activities to encourage outdoor immersion.
- Remember to bring along a hat, walking shoes, sun block, camera, binoculars and bird and mammal reference books. Hikers on both nature trails and overnight trail must carry sufficient water.
- As outdoor lighting in camps is limited, a torch/headlamp is required when walking outside at night.
- Warm clothes are essential for the winter months.
- Visitors can only alight from vehicles at restcamp, picnic spots and certain marked areas.
- Pets are not allowed in national parks.
- Firearms must be declared at the entrance gate where they will be sealed. The seal will be broken upon departure.
- Motorcycles or bicycles are not allowed.
- Medical, pharmaceutical, vehicle repair and police services available in Cradock.
TOP TIPS FOR BIRDERS
- Rooiplaat Loop for larks and pipits.
- Kranskop Loop for mountain birds.
- Thickets of the Wilgerboom River for the smaller birds and seed-eaters.
- The northern plains for the blue korhaan and the bustards.
- The southern mountainous parts for the raptors: look out for Verraux’s eagle, booted eagle and martial eagle.
- For two ‘specials’ – the Drakensberg rockjumper and ground woodpecker – walk the 3-day guided trail or stay overnight in the mountain cottages.
[MOUNTAIN ZEBRA NATIONAL PARK WILDLIFE CHECKLIST]