Watch Your Back For Lions

Our visit in Mountain Zebra National Park started with a puncture and the feel of wild animals watching us as we tried to get going again.

But where were the endangered Cape Mountain Zebras? And the black rhino, buffalo, cheetah, brown hyena and lions?

The Mountain Zebra National Park was founded to safe the remaining herd of a few Cape Mountain Zebras in the Karoo near Cradock, South Africa. Nowadays also black rhino, buffalo, cheetah, brown hyena and lions have been re-introduced.

We wanted to see it – the Zebra with the big stripes on its bum, black and white alternating down to its hoofs and with a white belly: the endangered Cape Mountain Zebra of South Africa.

We’d been heading up from the South African south coasts mild and humid weather conditions, many hundreds of kilometers through the bone-dry Karoo to Cradock, where we filled up  with diesel and provisions for the next four days in the Mountain Zebra National Park.

Knysna, Western Cape, South Africa
The Dry World Of The Karoo

Only a few kilometers outside of the town a signboard told us to swing left towards the reserve. After passing the gate the tarred road soon turned into a dirt road, which had these distinctive unpleasant bumps, which made us vibrate like someone trying to operate a jackhammer.

Knysna, Western Cape, South Africa
Rest Camp And Camping Mountain Zebra National Park

Being well prepared is the wise rule heading into the remote bush. Rather than reducing the tire pressure we’d thought it better to drive fast over these bumps to make the car rattle. The answer was given immediately when I felt a pull to the right at the steering wheel and a strong smell in the air, which couldn’t have been any else than hot gum burning up on the surface – a puncture on our right tire at the back of the car.

Knysna, Western Cape, South Africa
Walking Trail Within The Fenced Area Of The Camp

A flat tire in the middle of the national park, where wild animals roam freely? “George?? I watch your back to keep you safe, ok?” Being a South African, George was much more experienced and quicker than I had been changing my first flat tire in a remote region of Baviaans Kloof on my own (two hours – I had to figure it out with the Land Rover manual in one of my hands and the jack in the other!).

Knysna, Western Cape, South Africa
Swimming Pool At The Resr Camp Of Moutnain Zebra National Park
Knysna, Western Cape, South Africa
Happy Frog In Swimming Pool

We arrived safely at the campground and were still early enough to choose a shady campsite before the best ones were taken by the fully equipped, luxury caravans of the South African grey nomads which roam the national parks extensively.

Knysna, Western Cape, South Africa
Human In Vast Nature

Neither George nor I had been in a National Park in the Karoo before and we were stunned by the rough-rocky and thirsty scenery which was revealed to our eyes. The heat took our breath away in the daytime and we needed a second blanket in the night to keep us warm. Spiky trees with needles longer than a toothpick made clear: this is a harsh environment for animals and humans.

Knysna, Western Cape, South Africa
Baboon Enjoying The Sunset

A short climb from the camp up to the mountain we found the swimming pool with view over the whole valley. In the pool a few frogs couldn’t belief their luck to find a pool of this size to enjoy themselves. They had to share it with us though.

Knysna, Western Cape, South Africa
My First Sighting Of A Cape Mountain Zebra
Knysna, Western Cape, South Africa
Thirsty Cape Mountain Zebra foal
Cape Mountain Zebra

Later we did a walk on a sign posted circular path within the camp, in a safely fenced off area. We watched a few baboons enjoying the late evening sun on the warm rocks, where they settled for the night when all of a sudden a shadow emerged from the horizon.

Knysna, Western Cape, South Africa
Springbok Mom With Young
Knysna, Western Cape, South Africa

Our first Cape Mountain Zebra appeared like a ghost. We only saw its shape, as the sunset was almost gone. We sat there enjoying the magic place with its many voices of nature.

Knysna, Western Cape, South Africa
Knysna, Western Cape, South Africa

Only a day later when we’d organized a new tire for our Landy did  we dare go on a safari drive. We met various antelopes like Kudu, Springbok and Hartebeest, Ostriches, a small herd of buffaloes and finally Cape Mountain Zebra’s, even a foal drinking the milk of its mother. All in good shape despite the harsh conditions of this dry land. They know how to make the best of it.

Knysna, Western Cape, South Africa

Knysna, Western Cape, South Africa
Ostrich Road Block

Mountain Zebra National Park was founded in 1937 with originally 1712 hectares of land, thanks to farmers near Cradock to conserve the small herds of the endangered Cape Mountain Zebra, which still survived in the area. The numbers grew up to over 750 mountain zebras in the last years and through the purchase of nine surrounding farms the park expanded to 28’412 hectares which size allowed to re-introduce black rhino, buffalo, cheetah, brown hyena and lions.


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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.

6 thoughts on “Watch Your Back For Lions”

  1. The Mountain Zebra National Park is a favourite place to visit at nay time of the year. It holds an abundance of surprises for those prepared to wait a while and to look closely, I am glad you have had a taste of this gem of a place!

      1. The Mountain Zebra National Park is only about two hours away from where we live and so we visit the area fairly often – were last there in August. There were very few campers at the time, although we did experience, rain, hail, freezing temperatures and bright and warm sunshine over the course of the four days of our visit. The scenery is exquisite and we saw a wide variety of game, including lions – they obligingly appeared on our last morning. It is a reserve filled with surprises.

  2. So good to have a man around who can change tires! :’-D
    All these animals surviving there… I love your eye for that and yes, they do deserve our respect for that!

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