Image by author

Bush diaries of a teen and his family: Bontebok National Park

The Bontebok National Park is a place of beautiful, simplistic charm.


Image by author

The majestic Langeberg Mountains provide an exquisite backdrop for this park of colourful riches.

Getting to the park

South Africa’s smallest national park is situated in Swellendam, roughly half way between Knysna and Cape Town. A drive of five kilometres off the N2 takes you into the park.


Both camping and chalet options are available at Bontebok in a single rest camp. The Lang Elsie’s Kraal Camp, named after the first female Khoe-Khoe Chieftain who lived in the area. When my family and I visited a few years ago, we stayed in a family chalet (a four-bed option).

It was comfortable and spacious enough for us to really enjoy our stay. The camp winds its way down and along the Breede River for a short way, and camping is possible along the riverbanks.

Activities and game viewing at Bontebok National Park

The park gets its name from the herds of bontebok that dot the veld. Grey rhebok, red hartebeest, plains zebra and many other smaller mammals make for interesting self-game drives.

We were able to spend time out on the banks of the Breede River as a family, a short walk from our chalet. There are designated braai and picnic areas for day and overnight visitors set along the river. Swimming is also allowed. I gave it a go when we visited the park, however since it was the middle of June my attempt did not last long. But, in summer I can definitely see the river being a popular spot.

Several hiking trails begin in the rest camp and wind their way through the park exploring the hills and pristine fauna and flora that make up the region, collectively covering more than 13 kilometres. Each trail has something unique to offer, with distances to suit every visitor.

The Blue Crane trail passes the Skilpad Dam and offers sightings of bontebok and red hartebeest which regularly frequent the perennial water hole. The Aloe Hill trail winds up to a view point from which you can view the spectacular Langeberg Mountains and the Breede River. The shortest trail in the park, The Acacia Trail, winds around the camp and up a lush hill next to the Breede River. My whole family was able to venture along this trail which offers a great opportunity for bird sightings. Bontebok National Park is home to more than 200 species of bird, a veritable bird-watcher’s paradise, and is known as an excellent place to view Denham’s (Stanley’s) Bustard. There are no formalised bird hides within the park, but the open skies, viewpoints, hikes and landscapes make for good spotting.

Bontebok is bicycle friendly, which is great for kids who can cycle around the camp. You can even cycle out on the roads within the immediate vicinity of the camp, bringing you closer to nature. There is a mountain biking trail that covers over nine kilometres around the Mooi Dam.

The Bontebok National Park is a spectacular place to spend a weekend away or as a stop on a road trip. Even though it is small, it is not short of activities, beauty and relaxation. I can’t wait to return.

This content has been created as part of our freelancer relief programme. We are supporting journalists and freelance writers impacted by the economic slowdown caused by #lockdownlife.

If you are a freelancer looking for a small fee to contribute to The South African, read more here.