It’s the time of year when families across South Africa and abroad start planning their Christmas holidays. Time to start thinking of where to spend a vacation. Do you head for one place? Or take a trip through a region? Will you camp or stay in five-star luxury. We think you should give the Karoo Heartland (Eastern Cape Karoo) a try. A place where the land meets the sky, where vistas are endless and wildlife is easily spotted on the plains of the Karoo. Take a trip to the Karoo Heartland to restore your love of South Africa, detox from a frantic city life and reconnect yourself. If you’re looking for an unforgettable South African experience, let us introduce you to the National Park and Game Reserves of the Karoo Heartland.
Camdeboo National Park
The Camdeboo National Park is a treasure trove for nature lovers. The Park includes the magnificent Valley of Desolation, game viewing and the vast Nqweba Dam. The Valley of Desolation, a national monument also known as the Cathedral of Mountains was a finalist in the National Lilizela Tourism Awards for 2016, and is 120m formed by volcanic and erosive forces over a period of 200 million years. The park features six picnic and braai areas, 19km of gravel road for game viewing and bird-watching the 240 species of birds, three hiking trails and two 4×4 routes. Watersports such as canoeing and fishing can be enjoyed around the 1000 hectare Nqwba Dam. Find out more: Camdeboo National Park
Mountain Zebra National Park
Named for the 300+ Cape Mountain Zebra residing amongst the rolling plains and deep valleys of the Mountain Zebra National Park, this is a must visit if you’re in the Cradock region. The park consists of three distinct biomes: Nama-Karoo, Grassland and Thicket – an important example of the Karoo’s rich biodiversity. The Cape Mountain Zebra differs from the plains or Burchell’s Zebra, having narrower stripes and orange facial colouration. Other species to look out for are Red Hartebeest, Eland, Springbok, Kudu and recent reintroductions Black Rhino and African Buffalo. A wonderful South African natural adventure! Find out more: Mountain Zebra National Park
Kuzuko Lodge, situated within the famous Addo National Park, means “place of glory” in Xhosa and you will soon see how apt the name is. Built high on a hill and offering those magnificent Karoo views, Kuzuko brings guests to the very edge of the Karoo Heartland wilderness with private balconies and uninterrupted views of the valley below. Kuzuko is a family-friendly lodge with consideration of your child’s needs including special menus, age-appropriate outdoor activities and even a babysitting service so parents can enjoy a bit of quiet time in the bush. Five-star authentic Karoo cuisine, lounges and infinity pool for relaxing viewing and luxury spa treatments are some of the highlights at Kuzuko.
Samara Private Game Reserve
Once a thriving semi-arid ecosystem of astonishing diversity, the fortunes of the Great Karoo region changed with the advent of fences, firearms and farming. The once-epic springbok migrations vanished, as did the predators that stalked the herds. The ecosystem faltered; grassland slowly turned to dust.
Assembling 11 farms totalling 67,000 acres, Samara’s founders vowed to restore the magic of this place, embarking on an ambitious programme of land restoration and wildlife reintroduction. Today, thousands of wild animals roam this born-again wilderness and Samara is working with local stakeholders to extend the conservation ethic to over 3 million acres.
26 guests at a time are invited to join Samara’s conservation journey and help to shape it for the future. Two intimate owner-run lodges with a true sense of place offer a quintessentially warm Karoo welcome, with myriad activities on offer to explore, entertain and educate.
In staying at Samara, every guest plays a role in safeguarding the landscape in perpetuity. Yet for those who visit, Samara’s magic extends beyond its conservation importance. To immerse oneself in this soulful landscape of infinite horizons is to experience a recalibration of the frantic modern mindset, a deep reconnection with Nature and a heart-lifting vision of hope for the future.
Whether you want to sneak away for a bush weekend or spend a solid holiday surrounded by nature, Thembalethu Safaris is 6500 hectares of Karoo Heartland magic. With options of 4×4 and 4×2 tracks, rare Black eagles nesting and fourteen species of buck to enjoy. Accommodation is in the form of an upmarket guest house, large open plan living, kitchen and dining area and most importantly, a spacious verandah to sit, sip a drink and enjoy the peace of the Karoo. Find out more: Thembalethu Safaris
Mount Camdeboo, meaning “place of green hills or pools” in ancient Khoisan, lies as short distance from Graaff Reinet. Nestled within the Sneeuberg Mountains of the Karoo Heartland, guests are accommodated in four Cape Dutch houses, which have been lovingly converted into the very essence of luxury lodge accommodation. Visitors can enjoy game drives, guided bush walks, cheetah tracking and star-gazing. Mount Camdeboo doesn’t disappoint. Find out more: Mount Camdeboo
Now, what are you waiting for? Plan your summer Karoo Heartland holiday today!