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Africa Geographic
Wildlife . People . Travel
Klaserie Sands River Camp

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.

A lone bontebok in early morning light
A lone bontebok in early morning light

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.

Like their relatives the hartebeest and blesbok, the bontebok looks comical to me... the jester of the African animal kingdom
Like their relatives the hartebeest and blesbok, the bontebok looks comical to me… the jester of the African animal kingdom

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.

Bontebok on my stoep...
Bontebok on my stoep…

There are several easy hiking trails among the low hills, while the backdrop of the Swartberg mountains to the north of Swellendam is impressive.

The Swartberg Mountains stand to the north of Bontebok National Park.
The Swartberg Mountains stand to the north of Bontebok National Park.

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.

The Breede River flows through Bontebok National Park, and past the chalets... so in summer, when temperatures soar, you can walk down to the river and jump in...
The Breede River flows through Bontebok National Park, and past the chalets… so in summer, when temperatures soar, you can walk down to the river and jump in…
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Scott Ramsay

Photojournalist Scott Ramsay focuses on exploring the national parks, nature reserves and community conservancies in Southern Africa, taking photographs and interviewing the experts who work in these protected areas. Through his work, he hopes to inspire others to travel to the continent's wild places, which Scott believes are Africa's greatest long term assets. For more, go to www.LoveWildAfrica.com or www.facebook.com/LoveWildAfrica. Partners include Ford Ranger, Goodyear, Cape Union Mart, K-Way, EeziAwn, Frontrunner, Hetzner and Globecomm.