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The Frontier and Garden Route Parks


Panthera Pardus
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We spent December 2013 in the Frontier and Garden Route National Parks.

 

Frontier Parks

Mountain Zebra National Park (MZNP)

Addo Elephant National Park

Camdeboo National Park

Karoo National Park

 

Garden Route National Parks

Tsitsikamma National Park

Knysna National Park

Wilderness National Park

 

Just for good measue we also got in one of the Cape Parks - Bontebok National Park.

 

Apart from MZNP it was our first time in these Parks. Join us on this journey of discovery

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Mountain Zebra National Park

 

MZNP is situated near the town of Cradock in the Eastern Cape. The Park was proclaimed in 1937 to save the dwindling Cape Mountain Zebra. Today the Park is about 28000 Hectares and has about 700 Mountain Zebra. One can also see Black Rhino, Springbok, Gemsbok, Red Haartebeest, Black Wildebeest, Eland and Kudu.

 

The Park is also home to the Blue Crane (Nationa bird of South Africa) and the Ludwigs and Denhams Bustard.

 

The Park is famous for sightings of the Aardwolf and the Aardvark.

 

 

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MZNP is small compared to Kruger or the Kgalgadi and has one rest camp. You can camp or stay in a chalet.

 

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There are 20 chalets each one having 2 bedrooms

 

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Kitchen and lounge

 

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The lounge leads on to the "stoep" and "braai" area, perfectly set for sundowners

 

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The camps also has a swimming pool

 

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One can also stay at the Doornhoek Guesthouse, a restored Victorian homestead that has a scenic view, overlooking the Doornhoek Dam. Six people can be accommodated in three bedrooms, all with en-suite bathrooms (bath)

 

There are also two Mountain Cottages that provide a secluded rustic experience. MZNP has beautiful Vistas and also some 4WD Trails.

 

Cheetahs were reintroduced in MZNP a few years ago and lions were reintroduced recently.

 

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Great! Waiting for this report :)

And we're waiting on your KTP report too ;)

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Great! Waiting for this report :)

And we're waiting on your KTP report too ;)

 

@@Kavita, would be great to see your impressions of the KTP ;)

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Before I get to some of our sightings and activities let me set the scene with these beautiful Vistas of MZNP. If it is a misty morning it just adds to the magic of the place.

 

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Red Haartebeest in early morning mist

 

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The Essence of MZNP

 

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@@Sangeeta and @@Panthera Pardus - I am not much of a writer or even a photographer but will put a short report together, if that means I get to read more of this trip :)

@@Kavita - Deal :)

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Meet the Mammals of MZNP

 

Mountain Zebra

 

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Kudu

 

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Black Wildebeest

 

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Gemsbok

 

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Springbok

 

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Red Haartebeest

 

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Blesbok

 

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Difference between Blesbok and Bontebok - Referenced from

 

http://www.southafrica.net/za/en/articles/entry/article-southafrica.net-bontebok-and-blesbok

 

Bontebok and blesbok are two similar but distinct antelope species that came close to extinction. These colourful beasts – especially the bontebok – owe their continued existence to a few stubborn landowners, some fences and one of the first examples of a South African conservation ethic. On the bontebok the white goes over the rump and the horns is much darker,almost black. The blesbok is more dull in color and the horns is light. (We will be going to the Bontebok National Park on this Trip Report ;) )

Did you know?

When rounding up females, the males stalk them in a rather comical ‘lowstretch’ position.

The bontebok has a rather special place in South African conservation.

Firstly, it is found nowhere else in the world, being endemic to South Africa’s Cape fynbos.

Secondly, it was the first antelope to be conserved. Why? Simply because bontebok, like their cousins the blesbok, can’t jump. They are something of an anomaly among the more acrobatic eland, kudu, springbok and impala. Bontebok and blesbok can be confined with normal sheep fencing.

In fact, the fence that saved the last 17 bontebok on Earth still stands near the southern Cape town of Arniston. It was built by a farmer, Alexander van der Bijl, in 1837.

 

In those days hunting the last of a species was considered an achievement rather than a disgrace, so that fenced sanctuary literally stood between the bontebok and extinction. The last blue buck had been shot in 1799 and the extinction of the quagga came in 1883.

 

Bontebok numbers hovered in the low hundreds for many years, until the 1930s when a national park outside Swellendam was declared specifically to conserve it. Even then, it was problematic, and it was only when a new site was chosen and they were also translocated to other parks that the bontebok began to thrive. From 17, their numbers have risen to around 3 500 today.

 

The bontebok (which means spotted or ‘patchwork buck’ in Afrikaans) is closely related to blesbok (which means ‘blaze buck’ because of the broad white stripe down its nose), and is easily confused with it. In fact, bontebok are thought to have evolved from a group of blesbok isolated in the fynbos biome, possibly because of climatic conditions.

 

Blesbok by contrast, are adapted to life in the high grasslands and Karoo. While never quite as threatened as the bontebok, blesbok numbers also sank perilously low in the early 1900s. Also originally endemic to South Africa, blesbok are now distributed as far north as as the Zambezi River, thanks to human ‘interference’.

 

Their colouration is similar, with white bellies and legs, white blazes on their faces and reddish brown bodies, shading to a purplish black.

The male blesbok and bontebok can be particularly entertaining to watch. They make a point of invading each other’s territories, and go through a whole sequence of actions meant to test dominance.

 

They start with head shaking and tail-swishing, standing parallel with ears outspread, moving through the more threatening ground-horning and chasing one another.

Very rarely do they actually kneel down, lock horns and do actual battle.

 

 

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Great to see some good photos and reports from the lesser known parks. We stopped over at MZNP last year for a few days, and your photos do it credit.

 

For interest, Springbok, blesbok, wildebeest (Black and Blue) and zebra can also be contained in normal sheep fencing. Although Springbok are quite capable of jumping fences, they don't, and prefer to crawl under, using holes made by warthogs, aardvark or porcupine.

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Thanks @ for the information. I would have thought sprongboks would jump fences.

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@@Panthera Pardus

Very interesting start and great pictures of antelope and zebra

Practicalities - good to see pictures of the lodge. Were you self driving in this park? If so, is it straightforward?

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Hi @@TonyQ.

 

Yes we were self driving. It is straight forward. There are three 4x4 trails and obviously for these you need a 4WD vehicle. You can see much of MZNP without having to do these trails. They do offer game drives and walks and I will be speaking about these later

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Fascinating bontebok facts, which prove you do indeed write a good trip report. And you take great photos too. Hartebeest in the mist is hauntingly lovely.

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@@Atravelynn - thank you, many of those photos are taken by Sharifa

 

Activiteies in MZNP.

 

Cheetah Tracking Walk.

Cheetah were reintroduced in May 2007. The cheetah were collared to monitor their progress. Later the cheetah walk was introduced. You set of with a ranger who will locate a cheetah with the tracking equipment. When a cheetah is located we get off the vehicle and walk. We did this walk on our last trip and because you can be walking in some rough terrain we were only carrying our little point and shoot camera. It was a different but exciting experience to get close to a cheetah on foot and they seem to be habituated to this. We were about 15 meters from the cheetah. He had just killed a red haartebeest - would have been nice to see the kill.

 

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There was some debate about whether this is right or not. I myself was in two minds about it. Is there a difference approaching an animal this close on foot as opposed to in a vehicle. The cheetah was relaxed, did not run away and it seems to be OK if you do not invade that space where the animal still feels comfortable.

 

The Night Drive

I strongly recommend the night drive in MZNP. We have done the night drive on both our trips to MZNP. The first time we saw two aardwolfs, a black rhino and a caracal. The one we did in December 2013 is our best night drive in any Park. We first saw a Black Rhino at a waterhole. In Kruger you will see plenty white rhino. A Black Rhino sighting is very special. Furher, most of the black rhino in Kruger are infested with a worm that results in lesions as you can see below. It is unsightly but not fatal and white rhino are not infected by this worm

 

 

 

 

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So to see a Black Rhino without the lesions is exra special

 

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Further on our drive we found a Black Rhino Couple. He was shy but she did pose for us

 

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And then a bat eared fox family. It was dark now and these photos do not do justice to the sighting which was very special to see the cubs running around and stopping to give us that curious look

 

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Night Drive to be continued in next installment.

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I love the bat eared foxes. So envious..

 

We did the night drive, but it was a little wintery.. Very thin cold air on open landrover.. We were not so lucky, but MZNP didnt show us an aardvark. The guide says he sees them regularly.

 

Great report by the way

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Informative TR - thank you. Good to see the empahasis on different species and parks.

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I love your reports. Your reports are so informative and really show other park options.

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Apologies for the break, we were in Kruger for the long weekend.

 

So, continuing our night drive in MZNP we found for the first time in 35 years of visiting Game Parks in South Africa a black footed cat :) We could se him clearly and had the sighting for about 5 minutes but could only get the one photo

 

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Then we found a pair of Aardwolfs

 

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We continued the drive and our guide told us that there were denning Aardvarks in the area we were now entering but it was not to be. Still great going to see black rhino, bat eared foxes, black footed cat and aardwolfs, and also the mountain zebra, kudu, eland, and a spotted eagle owl on the night drive.

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Really enjoying your TR of MZNP which is off the beaten track for many travellers and a park that I've not heard very much about.

 

What a great night drive to deliver Black footed cat and aardwolves, the bat eared fox family is also very cute and curious.

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Some Birds and Smaller Mammals of MZNP

 

Jackal buzzard

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Steppe Buzzard

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Black Shouldered Kite

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This Pale Chanting Goshawk thought better of having a cape Cobra for lunch

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Melanistic Gabar Goshawk

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Blue Crane

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Rock Kestrel

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Pale Chanting Goshawk

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Meerkats

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Yellow Mongoose

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Black Backed Jackal

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Ground Sqiirrel

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My spotting skills have been off this month; I just spotted this report.

Its great to see some of the lesser talked about parks..really liked the Banda; I could hang there for a while,

 

and the bat eared foxes....endearing!

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Your reports are always so informative and educational. And so envious of your sightings of black rhinos, aardwolfs and the bat eared fox family - adorable. Lovely pix of the misty mornings.

 

Am I wrong in noticing that tHe mountain zebras look stockier than the common zebras, with an additional reddish patch on the foreheads?

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I am soaking this up like the African earth does with the first rains.

So many places to visit, and I'm now adding MZNP!

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