Bontebok National Park

Bucking the trend with a stay in Swellendam

+27(0)28 514 2734
Cape Peninsula
http://sanparks.org.za
Bontebok@sanparks.org
SANParks
SAN Parks - Bontebok National Park

Bucking the trend with a stay in Swellendam

Bontebok National Park: a haven for chill-seekers

With three hours of highway behind us (coming from Cape Town) we enter Bontebok National Park; a reserve six kilometres outside of Swellendam in the Western Cape. Already its simple charm has me winding down the window, flooding the car with the scent of fynbos.

This park is the smallest of South Africa’s National Parks (SANParks), and is home to, you guessed it, a large population of bontebok and other buck. We spy some of the former in the tufted grass along the road; the white colouring on their faces bears an eerie resemblance to a tribal mask—hiding the wearer behind.

Once checked in, we head to our chalet: lucky number seven, and it’s the best of the bunch. Aloe sentinels frame the view of the Breede River, and bouncing birds punctuate the stillness with the occasional song.

The chalet is a simple pleasure; all caramel wood with a wraparound porch and viewing chairs, and of course, the ubiquitous braai. Inside, the space is neat and compact, there’s a self-catering kitchen, a large, luxurious bed, and a bathroom with a shower; all infused with the scent of heat trapped in pine (like so manychildhood summers).

Armed with cameras (the only shooting you’re allowed to do), we explore. This isn’t a park where the mission is to cross the Big Five off your list; it has more subtle pulls: seemingly boundless space curtailed by the stretch of the Langeberg Mountains, rare and intriguing flora, and the feel of genuine relaxation—there’s no need to dash off to the waterhole before sunrise here.

The park was established in the 1930s to protect the last 30 bontebok left in the wild. These days they’re flourishing. We also spot, hopping through the grass, a pair of bunny-tailed grey rheboks.

Even before it was a conservation effort though, the land was once a Khoikhoi stomping ground, the graves of a chief called Lang Elsie and his kinsmen are said to be on the property. The exact burial site is difficult to locate as the grounds are covered in hardy renosterveld, but legend has it that the tribe haunts the park. And, if you dare, you can pay a visit to Lang Elsie’s kraal to see for yourself.

All the drama

The Langeberg Mountains have been holding back for dusk. Like a crimson-hued firework display the sunset bursts over the horizon. The drama is momentarily dazzling, and we watch the sky darken into purple and gold. Later back at the chalet, we star-gaze, braai, and toast our glasses.

The next morning the call of the fish eagle wakes us, swooping over the Breede River looking for breakfast, and we decide to follow suit.

As we leave the park, bontebok flank us on each side; silent, and ancient. And just for a moment, we think fancifully that it’s Lang Elsie and his kinsmen hiding behind those masks.

Things to do

  • These boots were made for walking. Feeling energetic? There’s a six-day hiking trail that winds through the Langeberg Mountains, or you can stick to the somewhat more moderate (but still beautiful) 1 to 5-kilometre trails in the park. The hikes are also accessible to day visitors.
  • The Breede River runs through the park, and there are allocated spots for birdwatching, swimmingfishing and kayaking.
  • Braai, both day and overnight visitors can enjoy a fire in the bush.
  • Visit Swellendam, one of South Africa’s most historic towns: from museums, restaurants, wine estates and berry orchards to fairyland itself.
  • Mountain bike along a 9.2 kilometre trail, and make friends with the bontebok you encounter along the way.

Where to stay

Rest Camp
There are 10 fully equipped self-catering chalets (complete with braai facilities and outside furniture). They sleep two adults, but can accommodate up to two adults and two children or three adults with mattresses and a sleeper couch.
Wow factor: the view of the Breede River as the sun sinks.

Camp sites
Lang Elsie’s kraal rest camp accommodates six people per site, with or without electricity. The Riverside campsite, which is open between November and April, also accommodates six per site (no caravans allowed).
Wow factor: the ghost stories about Lang Elsie you can tell around the campfire.

Trivia: Die Stroom is a game drive route that passes along the ‘old racecourse’,where horse races were held in the late 1800s by Europeans who used the small in stature Khoikhoi as jockeys.

Words by Malu Lambert

Conservation fees: for South African residents, adults R30, children R15. Standard fee: adults R80, children R40. 

Looking for an idyllic Swellendam farm-style getaway, boutique wedding or big group stay with some unique experiences? Have a look at Rotterdam Guest Farm in Swellendam.

---

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter to keep up-to-date with what'shappening in our pretty city. Plus, subscribe to our weekly newsletter for a seven day weather forecast.

Cape Town Events Calendar
January 2020
SUN MON TUE WED THU FRI SAT
1 2 3 4
5 6 7 8 9 10 11
12 13 14 15 16 17 18
19 20 21 22 23 24 25
26 27 28 29 30 31

UCT_summer_schoolLearn At Your Leisure With UCT’s ...

You can learn about anything from dinosaur hunting to the Fourth Industrial Revolution

Children’s_Interactive_TourDiscover Stories From Africa In The ...

Kids interact with artworks through creative play, drawing, writing, reading and ...

the_om_revolution_2019Sunrise To Sunset Yoga On The Beach Or ...

Sociable, mindful, fun and affordable group yoga classes in the park or on the beach

freedom_friends_yogaFREE Sunset Yoga with Freedom Friends ...

Salute the sun for free with Freedom Friends And Kafui Awoonor and others

Polkadraai_and_popcorn_popcorn_and_wine1Polkadraai & Popcorn Wine Pairing Back ...

Check out the anti-serious wine pairing in the Western Cape with Polkadraai & Popcorn

african_relish_2019Prince Albert From Morning to Evening

Epic foodie experiences from coffee to dinner Monday to Saturday at the African Relish ...

aroundaboutnew3Season Specials And More With ...

From R200 vouchers and free upgrades, drive away with more value adds

William_Kentridge_2A Monumental Exhibition At The Norval ...

The iconic South African artist’s largest exhibition in Africa in over a decade

sotano_lambIt’s (Lamb) Burger Wednesdays at ...

... and while you eat, chill out to reggae by locals The Rivertones

sotano_lambTwo Lamb Burgers For the Price Of One

R110 gets you two fully stacked meals at both Sotanos

Seafood, sunsets and sushi at Blowfish BloubergHalf-Price Sushi Every Wednesday and ...

And drink in the sunset and view (and a cocktail)

Kinky BootsSmash-Hit Kinky Boots Extended To 2020 ...

With music by Cyndi Lauper, several Tonys and a Laurence Olivier Award

Cherry_Glamping3Team Building is For Bonding, So Ditch ...

Hiking, biking, canopy tours and luxury glamping just 50 minutes outside of Cape Town

zingara_bombay5 Happy Hours, Every Day of The Week

And Cafe Paradiso has a weekend seafood platter special for two

vredenheim_2019_9Picnic Among The Golden Wildebeest on ...

A family game drive with a difference at Vredenheim

kaskaziBoost Your Week With A Hump Day Kayak ...

The chance to see ocean and bird life at sunrise and get to work on time

cocosafar_steak1From Rib Eye To Vegetarian – Here Are ...

Gourmet burgers and steak, as well as cocktails, are now on the menu at this all-day cafe ...

La Paris_Deli2Wednesday Delights at La Paris Deli in ...

A bakery and bistro experience at one of the most beautiful winelands wedding venues, now ...

asamisOverload On Asami’s Sushi And Noodles

Get sushi and noodle specials three days a week

galileo_kirstGet Comfy at Kirstenbosch Movie Nights ...

Great films, fabulous scenery, delicious food and cosy seats – look forward to a night ...

HaskellVineyards 6Save On A Meal and Wine For Two At This ...

Haskell Vineyards offers patrons a delicious meal and glass of wine at a discounted price

beluga_whisylounge2-for-1 Whisky Wednesdays at Beluga

Your midweek escape just got a whole lot better with the 2-for-1 Wednesday whisky special ...

GrubandVine_food4Wine Tasting Every Wednesday at Grub ...

Grub & Vine’s #VineNight hosts a different wine farm every week

WeatherGiveawaysTravel Tips