Keen to get away from the city and spend some quality time doing absolutely nothing? Just four hours from Cape Town in South Africa near the town of Calvinia you will find the Tankwa Karoo National Park. Here you will be met by silence and can easily lose yourself in the isolation of this park.
While scarce, a single burst of rain can transform this barren Karoo landscape completely. Fields of flowers can decorate the landscape in the blink of an eye. One of the most special features of the area is the stars at night as the location of the park is far from civilization and not too far from Sutherland, a region great for stargazing.
A drive around the park can expose wildlife such as Cape mountain zebra, oryx, red hartebeest, springbok and eland. Many birds, endemic to the Karoo (which means you will only find them here) occur in the park, including the Karoo eremomela, Burchell’s courser and Karoo long-billed lark.
Accommodation options range from old farmhouse cottages, exclusive chalets and a number of campsites. There are some 4×4 trails, and while the park can be accessed with a sedan, a vehicle with high clearance is recommended as roads can become rough.
If you must get up to something while visiting the park, drive over the scenic Gannaga Pass and have a drink at the lodge situated at the top of the pass. Pause next to Oudebaaskraal Dam. The park is also filled with geological gems like fossilized springbok hoof-prints; ruins of old farm buildings, signs of the once-mighty Karoo Sea and even volcanic explosions.
The town of Ceres is approximately 135km from Cape Town, where an international airport is situated.
It is quite a long drive as you have to drive approximately 178km once you reach Ceres, mostly on gravel road. The park is 106km from Sutherland, which is almost 350km from Cape Town.
There is plenty of shale rock in the area, so just stick to the tracks in the dirt roads and you will be safe. The rock is known to cause punctures.
The park charges a daily conservation fees and 1% extra is added on accommodation bookings. This goes towards projects undertaken in local communities surrounding the parks.
The park reception is visible from the nearest accommodation unit, but you will feel like you are far from civilisation. Some options are far from reception and you won’t see other people during your stay.
Most of the journey to the park is far from any reception. You won’t find reception in the park either, but there is WIFI at the reception. It is not high speed. Call the park reception before leaving Ceres so they know when to expect you.
There are no shops, petrol or restaurants in the park. Ensure you have everything you need before you leave Ceres. The park sells firewood.
No pets, drones, or firearms allowed.
The park is home to Cape mountain zebra, oryx, red hartebeest, springbok and eland among others.
The Tankwa Karoo is a great stop for anyone searching for Karoo endemic birds. The Oudebaaskraal Dam region is ideal for waterbird species. Look out for Pale-chanting Goshawks perching on top of dry shrubs and trees, or the Kori Bustard taking a leisurely stroll among the vegetation. Other species to look for include Double-banded Courser, Karoo Long-billed Lark and Burchell's Courser.
The Tankwa Karoo is a harsh, dry environment. Temperatures become extremely hot in summer, and extremely cold in winter. The mean July minimum temperature is 6°C (lowest measured -1°C), and the mean January maximum temperature is 38°C (highest measured 50°C).
The highest average maximum temperatures occur from November to March with the hottest months being January and February. The highest wind speeds occur from October to March. After rain, which is scarce, the landscape can change completely and carpets of flowers appear almost overnight.
There are no formal activities, but walking, hiking, cycling and self-guided game drives are permissible. At night, thousands of stars light the sky, making the location ideal for star gazing.
The park offers numerous accommodation options that offer modern amenities and facilities for a comfortable stay. Additionally, there are camping facilities, as well as informal campsites for campers who are fully self-sufficient.
For a wide range of accommodation inside and around Tankwa Karoo National Park, please see below: