Things To Do in KamieskroonCaracal Eco Route
Where? Namaqua National Park, Northern Cape, South Africa
When? You need to book!
How? Call +27 (0)27 672 1948
How much? Price on request
The Caracal Eco Route is a 4x4 mountain to ocean experience in the yet-to-become-famous Namaqualand National Park. Some describe it as a wilder, more rugged, alternative to the flower route. Others describe it as a little piece of heaven.
Covering a distance of between 175-200 km (depending on whether you add alternative tracks), the self-drive trail is long and, whilst you can do it in a day, it is best done as an overnight drive (there are numerous campsites on the reserve's coast). You can also opt for shorter versions of the route. Bar the odd sandy patch, steep incline and donga, it is not difficult.
The Caracal Eco Route is named such by the park, where it is considered a 'nature drive' rather than a 4x4 trail. You need the offroad vehicle to manage the sometimes very badly corrugated gravel roads, but the drive is not there to test your mettle so much as it is a chance to connect with the landscape.
The trail starts at Skilpad Rest Camp, where the park has its headquarters and reception. And yes, there are lots of tortoises. The route is not difficult to navigate as it is well signposted, and the Skilpad office provides a route booklet and GPS co-ordinates.
During the flower season the park is busy. People already know that to see the veld at this time of year is to see it at its best. The Groen and Spoeg rivers flow, the veld breaks into flower and the beauty is hard to beat. The downside is that the wet season makes the route harder to drive.
What makes the route exceptional is the range of Namaqua habitats it manages to incorporate – from mountains to coast
The trail descends the Kamiesberg Mountains in amongst huge red kopjes where you can spot the odd gemsbok, and turns off to Soebatsfontein towards Kookfontein, one of several abandoned settlements and on to the Wildeperdehoek grass plains. The highlight of the trail is descending Wildeperdehoek pass with views out to the coast, but this is an alternative detour.
Next the route travels through the Namaqua flatlands. This unusual landscape is one of the only grassy parts of the Namaqualand. It connects to the coastal section of the park, crossing Hondeklip Bay road to enter the Groen-Spoeg section before the route ends at Groen River mouth.
The route is named after the caracal, a mostly nocturnal wild cat that is slightly larger than a domestic cat and lives in the dry mountainside of the park.