Walking the trails of the Karoo National Park MzansiBride

Winona Griggs

Exploring the Wonders of the Karoo National Park

Welcome to the amazing Karoo National Park! This incredible park spans over 88,000 hectares and is surrounded by a predator-proof fence that stretches for a whopping 175 kilometers. Every single day, our dedicated field rangers diligently patrol this fence, carefully inspecting it for any signs of weakness or holes. This ensures that the magnificent lions that call the park home stay exactly where they belong, and sheep farms nearby need not worry.

I’m Johan de Klerk, the senior section ranger, and I can confidently say that the lions in our park have all they need within our borders. With an abundance of prey roaming freely, they have no reason to venture outside. This creates a harmonious balance between the animals of the Karoo National Park and the surrounding farms.

On our last day in the park, before we head to the Gamkaberg Nature Reserve, I took a stroll with Gavin Lottering, a 26-year-old park ranger. It used to be that you could wander around freely, but now you need an armed ranger or field guide to accompany you. While it’s a shame that you can’t explore on your own, I didn’t mind because I enjoyed talking to Gavin. We climbed up Pointer Hill, which overlooks the main rest camp. From there, we had a stunning view that stretched all the way south to Beaufort West and the Swartberg mountains, about 100 kilometers away. Looking north, we saw the park’s vast landscape of hills and valleys, which was truly impressive and definitely worth seeing.

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Every day, the park’s field rangers, including Gavin, walk up to 20 km, making sure the park’s boundaries are secure and doing necessary fence maintenance. Gavin must be in great shape! Thanks, Gavin, for the invigorating walk!

On our way back, we also took a fascinating trail called the Bossie Trail. It’s an 800-meter loop that allows you to explore the incredible variety of plants that naturally grow in the park. There’s a list of about 60 plants, and a helpful brochure tells you which ones are marked along the trail. It’s a real treat for plant enthusiasts. At first glance, many of the plants in the Karoo might look similar, but there are actually thousands of different species in this vast landscape.

As I walked the magnificent Fossil Trail again, I couldn’t help but be captivated by the extraordinary fossils on display. They tell a mesmerizing story of a bygone era, an era so distant and remarkable that it reminds me of the incredible privilege we have as humans to be part of this mind-boggling phenomenon we call ‘Life On Earth’.

For countless millennia, creatures that surpass imagination roamed the lands, only to meet their demise in a cataclysmic event that engulfed the entire planet. Their skeletal remains, dating back more than 250 million years, were deposited at the depths of an immense floodplain, gradually buried under layers of sediment reaching a staggering height of two kilometers. Over time, this landscape sculpted itself into what we now know as the Karoo.

But the story doesn’t end there. The passage of time continues to shape and transform this remarkable terrain, operating on a geological scale that spans billions of years, rendering the existence of our kind (and all modern life, for that matter) almost inconsequential. It’s a humbling realization that puts into perspective our place in the grand tapestry of history.

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I recently watched a fascinating BBC documentary about the universe. It made me realize that life on Earth is only possible for a small fraction of the universe’s existence. Against all odds, both you and I are here on Earth right now, able to witness the incredible miracle of life. We should appreciate this and understand our place in the grand scheme of things.

We have a right to be here, just like all the other creatures we share this planet with. John Muir, an original American conservationist, once said, “We all travel the Milky Way together, trees and men.” (I believe he meant all living creatures and plants as well).

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