Original source: yearinthewild.com
My next stop was Bontebok National Park near Swellendam in the Western Cape. This is the smallest national park in the country, and came into existence for one reason: as a saviour for the beleaguered Bontebok antelope, endemic to the region.
By the end of the 1800s, thousands of these antelope had been hunted, and just a handfull remained. If it wasn’t for the work of some concerned farmers, the bontebok would probably be extinct now.
Subsequently to the national park’s proclamation, we’ve realised that in fact there is another inadvertent, important reason for this protected area. The renosterveld vegetation – a distinct part of the Cape Floral Kingdom – is increasingly rare and threatened. It once spread all over this part of the Western Cape, and like it’s name suggests (“renosterveld” = “rhino veld”), it was grazed and browsed upon by animals like rhino. The proliferation of farming and urban sprawl in the last hundred years has severely restricted this vegetation type to small pockets, and the Bontebok National Park is a key part of this biome’s protection.
The accommodation is great. Several chalets on the edge of the Breede River, as bontebok and their babies wander through camp. It’s a very different scene to the days of hunting and exploitation.
There are several easy hiking trails among the low hills, while the backdrop of the Swartberg mountains to the north of Swellendam is impressive.
There’s no sense of wilderness at Bontebok, because of its proximity to the National N2 highway, a small airstrip and the town’s municipal rubbish dump next door, but it’s peaceful and tranquil, and makes for a good stopover for travellers.