Fun at Bontebok National Park

Friday 6 January 2023

The dawn chorus woke me early this morning and on peeking out of my window I saw that the rain had gone. By eight o’clock we were on our way to Swellendam to do some shopping. There is no restaurant in the park and we had not yet provisioned for the next part of our extended holiday.

As we were driving toward the exit gate I checked my phone for messages and found I had a missed call from our friend, Carl. I rang him back. He asked if we were in the park and when I said we were about to leave to have breakfast in Swellendam he was delighted. He was almost there himself having taken a motorbike ride from Napier and was planning to have breakfast at Grace and Merci. So of course we met him there and had a lovely catch-up before he rode back home and we got on with our town chores.

A lovely place to stop for a meal in Swellendam – Grace and Merci
Our timing was perfect – got to have a meal with Carl
Discussing the pros of riding a bike!

Swellendam has a good Checkers and we managed to get everything we needed, then returned to the park. I was delighted to find that the camp had a laundry with a washer and dryer in good working order. I obtained two tokens at R15 each and put on a load of washing. While this was doing I got stuck into tidying the caravan which was in serious need of a spruce-up. I donned the rubber gloves and gave it a thorough scrub. By the time I was done, the washing was ready to go into the dryer.

Luckily a caravan is quick and easy to clean.

Once everything was neat and tidy and the laundry folded and packed away, it was time to explore our surroundings.

The park is situated 6km from Swellendam at the foot of the Langeberg Mountains and it is bordered by the Breede River in the South. This small park was established specially to protect the endangered bontebok which need the type of renosterveld on which this species thrives. They were hunted almost to extinction in the 1800s and when only 22 remained, a park to protect them was established near Bredasdorp but then moved to Swellendam where the vegetation was more suitable. The park now has between 200 and 300 individuals and De Hoop nature reserve also has a number of these beautiful antelope.

Because there are no predators in the park it is safe to walk and cycle in the park and a number of cycling and walking trails have been created. They are well-signposted and easy to follow. The Earl and I started on the Aloe Hill trail but then turned off to have a look at the river where boating, fishing and swimming is allowed.

The rain was gone and the bridge was not slippery
The Earl making his way safely across
There is a campsite without electricity right beside the river
Tubing, swimming and riding the rapids is being enjoyed by some fun-loving kids
Fishing is allowed – someone is all set up for the afternoon but he is nowhere in sight!
There were lots of weavers in the reeds
And a Cape Bulbul asked to be noticed too

It was quite hot and after walking for half an hour the Earl decided not to continue. So I walked back to the caravan with him and a little later went off on my own. The birdlife in the park is prolific and I hoped to get a few photos. I certainly saw more than I could capture digitally though!

I have no sense of direction whatsoever so hoped the signs would guide me both there and back!
As I adventured on I imagined that I was an explorer not knowing what was around the next bend
Certainly lots of aloes
And beautiful succulants
It was quiet and only the birdsong could be heard
I thought that if I followed this sign the aloe hill trail would get me back to camp
Lovely flora of all different colours to admire
Hey – You’re in my park – The bontebok owns this place
He introduced me to his friend
Another bridge to cross
This Karoo Prinia literally yelled for his portrait to be taken

I continued to follow the signs but I must have missed the Aloe Hill sign and found myself on the bushbuck trail which petered out and so I turned around and retraced my steps until I found the sign that pointed me back to camp. This all took over an hour but I had the most awesome time being an almost lost in the bush explorer!

Fortunately, I arrived back just as the Earl was waking from his nap. “I thought you were lost!” he said. He has no faith in my ability to find myself without him!

It was soon time for a sundowner and to make a salad while the Earl did the braai. What a beautiful day it was after all the rain yesterday. We chatted to our neighbours – campers are always friendly and then had our dinner before settling down for the night.

Our campsite – The Earl doing the braai
Hungry after my long walk!
A beautiful sunset

Camp Facilities

The camp facilities are lovely. The kitchen has electric hot plates, food preparation sinks and a microwave. There is a laundry with big basins for hand washing and a washing machine and dryer that work. Tokens must be obtained at R15 each from reception. There is also a scullery where you can wash dishes. Everything is neat, tidy and functional.

The kitchen
A picnic table and braai under cover for campers’ use
Scullery has double sinks with plenty of space to put a drying rack
Laundry sinks
Washer and Dryer

The ablution block is modern but the shower cubicles are quite small with just one hook behind the door and a small fold-up bench.

Basins with mixer taps
Make up counter with plugs for hairdryers and shavers
Shower
Bathroom for mobility challenged

This is certainly a park that is worth a visit. There is lots to see and do.

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