One of the smaller SANParks national parks in South Africa, the Bontebok National Park lies to the edge of the picturesque historic town of Swellendam, weighing in at about 27 km² of nature reserve. As it so happened, we were enjoying a little holiday break in Swellendam at the start of this year, and as such, decided to go for a little drive around the space, given that Summer really wasn’t doing its best to play along with our end of year holiday ideals!
The park itself is reasonably unusual for a SANParks site given that it was designed and implemented as a species-specific national park. Established in 1931 to try and ensure the survival of the endangered and at that point relatively rare Bontebok antelope, the move proved to be an unqualified success as today the park finds itself being home to around 200 bontebok, more or less the maximum amount of buck a park of this size can effectively support!
Situated (technically) under the foothills of the Langeberg Mountains and bordered to the south by the mighty Breede River, the park is also home to a couple of other animal species including the Cape Mountain Zebra, Grey Rhebok, Cape Grysbok, Duiker, Red Hartebeest and African Clawless Otter, and of course acts as a great space for birdlife, with over 200 different types recorded, including that of the Stanley’s Bustard, Secretary Bird and Blue Crane (South Africa’s national bird).
Primarily a grassland reserve, Bontebok National Park also serves then as a protected area for the conservation of coastal renosterveld and other endangered fynbos veld types, with a total of nearly 500 grasses and other plant species on the books. Home to some of the largest remaining ‘renosterveld islands’, the park also contains several plant species that are found nowhere else in the world!
Similar to the West Coast National Park, Bontebok National Park is completely free from large predators roaming about, meaning that this park is thus open for outdoor activities such as hiking, mountain biking, picnics, and fishing, and indeed, its singular camp (Lang Elsie’s Kraal Rest Camp) is totally devoid of any fencing. In other words, you will more often than not wake up to find bontebok casually mowing the lawn!
So truthfully, not the most thrilling of parks to visit for just a drive around, sure, but it is nevertheless a lovely wide open space with plenty of fresh air, and thus the perfect place to visit given the current Covid pandemic that is raging all around us!
(Honestly, this is definitely not the nature reserve for Chantelle, and certainly Emily was hoping for something a little more exciting on her birthday, but the latter we could at least partly make up for by then whisking the girls away for waffles at nearby Ikigai and pizza at Woodpecker Pizzadeli. So brownie points partially restored!)