Overview – Karoo NP

Philip Briggs
Expert
By Philip Briggs

Philip lives in South Africa and is the author many guidebooks to African destinations, including the Bradt and Insight guide to South Africa.

Philip lives in South Africa and is the author many Africa guidebooks, including the Bradt and Insight guide to South Africa.

Philip is the author of many Africa guidebooks, including the Bradt and Insight guides to South Africa.

Philip is the author of the Bradt and Insight guides to South Africa.

The Great Karoo, the largest ecosystem in South Africa, doesn’t appear to be anything more than vast nothingness to most people driving between Johannesburg and Cape Town. Most of the wildlife that once roamed this area has been eradicated, but Karoo National Park is a relatively small area where the habitat is protected, and you can stop to appreciate this subtle environment. Although not a prime wildlife viewing area, several animal species adapted to these harsh conditions can be seen.

Best Time to Go Aug, Sept, April, May (Mild weather)
High Season Never (The park never gets crowded)
Size 831km² / 321mi²
Altitude 783-1,821m / 2,569-5,974ft

Pros & Cons

  • Rugged, unforgiving landscape
  • Excellent birding including Karoo specials
  • Very rich reptilian fauna
  • Fossil trail depicting geology and paleontology of the Great Karoo
  • Night drives and guided walks available
  • Scenic drive for all vehicles and dedicated 4x4 tracks available
  • Little visited destination en route between Johannesburg and Cape Town
  • Self-catering accommodation and restaurant for self-drive visitors
  • Not many of the flagship safari animals present
  • Far away from South Africa's main tourist attractions
  • Very hot conditions and harsh environment
  • No upmarket accommodations available

Karoo NP Safari Reviews

  • Wildlife
  • Scenery
  • Bush Vibe
  • Birding
  • Wildlife
  • Scenery
  • Bush Vibe
  • Birding

Wildlife

Karoo National Park is primarily a wilderness destination, although it is also home to many animal species. Two of the Big Five have been re-introduced: lion and black rhino, but they are only occasionally seen. Large herbivores to look out for are red hartebeest, black wildebeest, eland, the two zebra species, kudu and springbok. Klipspringers are regularly seen on the pass of the same name.

Scenery

Karoo National Park is dominated by the Nuweveld Mountains and rolling plains. The scenery looks harsh in the midday sun but, towards late afternoon, the subtleties of the landscape reveal themselves when the shadows add detail and the pastel colors soften the empty environment.

Weather & Climate

Drought often exacerbates the dry winter (May to September) at Karoo. This can be accompanied by bitterly cold conditions at night, with temperatures never really heating up that much in the daytime. The summer (October to April) doesn’t see that much rain either. It mainly arrives in the form of occasional showers and storms. These months are also characterized by hot days, with the average daytime temperature hanging around 31°C/88°F.

Best Time to Visit

Animals can be seen year-round at Karoo. The timing of your trip should, instead, depend on the weather. The heat of the so-called Wet season (October to April) may dissuade you from visiting then, although it’s the best time to see migrating birds. The milder Dry season (May to September) is a more attractive option, assuming you don’t mind warding off the cold when the sun goes down.

Want to Visit Karoo NP?

Karoo NP Safari Reviews

  • Wildlife
  • Scenery
  • Bush Vibe
  • Birding
  • Wildlife
  • Scenery
  • Bush Vibe
  • Birding
Most Helpful Expert Review
A glimpse of the past
3/5

This small, scenic park preserves only a tiny fraction of the immensity that was once South Africa’s great Karoo. Nonetheless, it has a certain stark beauty and offers an excellent spectrum of wildlife, including some species that you may...

Latest User Review
3/5

Very remote but Karroo had an exceptional amount of fossils which is really cool if that is your thing otherwise we mostly just saw Impala