Lion Escape And Black Eagles

Our journey around the National Parks in the Karoo of South Africa brought us to the semi-desert of the Karoo National Park, a rough place of stunning beauty, full of splendid African wildlife. We camped out and battled the bitterly cold nights and the sizzling heat in the day.

We encountered black eagles at eye level, various antelopes and the endangered Cape Mountain Zebra, all in the stunningly beautiful surroundings of the Nuweveld Mountains. Red cliffs and mountain peaks, which hide treasures of the past before dinosaurs populated the earth surface.

Antelopes, Mountain Zebras, some predators and the world highest concentrations of breeding black eagles populate the Karoo National Park in South Africa.

The last National Park on our trip through the Karoo lies in the Nuweveld Mountains north of Beaufort Wes. The park became most famous because of a troublesome Lion named Spook, who managed to escape twice from the national park boundaries and brought the surrounding farms into a state of alarm. A large male lion is not to be taken lightly.

Karoo National Park, Eastern Cape, South Africa

Spook walked 300km from the park, killing 30 animals over three weeks! The ranchers managed to dart him and  was eventually relocated to Addo Elephant National Park, where he hasn’t escaped up to now. Maybe he found some likeable female lions there.

Karoo National Park, Eastern Cape, South Africa

The huts and main house of Karoo National Park’s rest camp are located about 1 ½ km from the campground. We figured only later, when we’d set up our tent and the wind picked up massively, why the national park authorities had planned this so wisely. The campground is situated in a slight depression, therefore the wind couldn’t send our “not-at-all-wind-resistant- housing” into the desert.

Karoo National Park, Eastern Cape, South Africa

Karoo National Park, Eastern Cape, South Africa

Rugged shaped, red mountains surround the camp and give it a feel of a wild-west movie-scene. Our visit being in spring we experienced the rare occasion of some rain, almost freezing temperatures in the night and sizzling heat in the day. During mid-winter it happens occasionally that snow covers the peaks. Take that into account if you plan to camp and take an extra blanket!

Karoo National Park

Within the fenced area walking paths are signposted and a theme path with various fossils of the Late Permian Period some 255 million years ago gives an insight of the time, when herbivores, lizard-like insect-eaters roamed the Karoo before dinosaurs evolved.

We didn’t expect to see much as the wildlife has more than 750 square kilometers to exploit in the Karoo National Park. Most of it is only accessible by 4×4 with high-ground clearance and low gear, which our Land Rover lacks.

The early sun didn’t warm up the chill yet, when we saw a small family of klipspringers on our right and shortly afterwards a gemsbok on our left.

We were drinking coffee from our flask with the typical South African breakfast rusk – a piece of sweet, dried bread which gets soaked in the coffee – enjoying the view over a breathtaking ravine. All of a sudden two black eagles (Verreaux’s eagle – Aquila verreauxii) approached at eye level from the bottom of the ravine, to lift up over our heads in the air. Repeatedly they returned after a half hours detour, only to make us hope to see their graceful maneuvers one more time again.

In the following days we were lucky to encounter the black eagles at the same spot and in a valley further ahead again. Once we even had the privilege to see one of them bathe in a rock pool to cool down during the afternoon heat.

Karoo National Park

The Karoo National Park boasts one of the world highest concentrations of breeding black eagles. We saw a abandoned nest on a steep cliff. The black eagles build their nest at such inaccessible places, so as to provide safety for the young from the marauding baboons.

Karoo National Park

We didn’t spot the lions nor any other predators during our stay but a glimpse of a black-backed jackal. The herds of Cape Mountain Zebras and various antelope species made up for it. Not to forget about the myriads of birds waking us up in the morning and the best, the black eagles hovering in the wind just in front of us.

We left the Karoo National Park one day before the full moon would be closest to the earth since 1948. The so called “Supermoon” looked pretty impressive already  night before.

Karoo National Park, Eastern Cape, South Africa


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Various Antelopes, Mountain Zebras, some predators and the world highest concentrations of breeding black eagles populate the Karoo National Park in South Africa.

Various Antelopes, Mountain Zebras, some predators and the world highest concentrations of breeding black eagles populate the Karoo National Park in South Africa.

Various Antelopes, Mountain Zebras, some predators and the world highest concentrations of breeding black eagles populate the Karoo National Park in South Africa.

Various Antelopes, Mountain Zebras, some predators and the world highest concentrations of breeding black eagles populate the Karoo National Park in South Africa.

Featured Image: Mujahid Safodien

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Author: Marcelle Simone Heller

I’m searching for natural beauty and wilderness, while I’m travelling relentlessly to find delightful places and encounters with wildlife. I try to capture the thrill of the moments in photography and words, hoping to inspire others with the love for animals and nature.

16 thoughts on “Lion Escape And Black Eagles”

  1. South Africa has been on my Bucket List since before I had a bucket list! And what a chance to spend days in the Karoo National Park, enjoying the countryside. The landscape really does look like something out of the wild west – totally desolate and windswept but very beautiful in its ruggedness. How lovely to have so much wildlife to enjoy and lots of time to take it all in. Anita

  2. Marcelle I really enjoyed this post. I have the distinct memory of being stuck in the Karoo in a train en route to Cape Town as a child. We usually drove but that year we took the train. The heat while stuck for hours in a non moving train in the karoo was unbearable! We kids complained like crazy.

    Love the photos and description of the black eagles and klipspringgers.
    What has been your favorite pkace?

    Peta

    1. Normally I prefer places with more water than the Karoo but I’m getting into it slowly. It has it’s own magic in the semi-desert which is totally different from anything I’ve encountered before.

  3. Beautiful photos! Great to see the Black Eagle! South Africa is a bucket list item for us. Did you go on a guided trip or just explore on your own?

    1. We explore South Africa on our own. It’s the best way to travel slowly and take in the surroundings at our pace. Please feel free to contact us if you get to go to South Africa. We’ll be happy to give you some tips to make the best out of your trip.

  4. That Dassie looked like he was smirking! Great photos. I can’t believe it was freezing at night and boiling hot during the day. That would drive me crazy! Thanks for helping me learn more about safaris! I hope to do one in the next year or two.

  5. Beautiful countryside and wonderful wildlife – I’m especially jealous of you seeing those black eagles. You’ve made me want to go back to South Africa!

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