The Bontebok National Park was proclaimed specifically to save the elegant antelope of its name from imminent extinction. Today, thanks to careful conservation, bontebok numbers have increased to healthy levels. And this pretty park has become a popular place to visit or stay in the Overberg region.

Did you know?

Bontebok can't jump, but they're expert at crawling under fences.

The Bontebok National Park is one of the best of the historic town of Swellendam's attractions, and is worth a visit to the area in its own right. No matter the time of year, there's always something to see in this pretty park.

For a start, there's always some species of fynbos in bloom here, whatever the season.

Then there are the Langeberg mountains, providing the kind of backdrop any artist would leave home to paint. The gleaming Breede River winds through the park.

But the undoubted star is the rare antelope that gave this park its name. Bontebok means 'pied antelope'. It is a pretty little antelope, with a white blaze on its face and a body delicately shaded in berry-chocolate and vanilla white.

A mercy then, that this species was snatched from the brink of extinction. In 1931, when the Bontebok National Park was proclaimed, there were only 17 individuals left.

Before colonists arrived in the mid 1600s, bontebok were plentiful, seen in herds of up to 1000 or more. But the fact that they lived close to Cape Town meant they came under hunters guns too often.

After decades of careful bontebok conservation, which included moving the park to more suitable land in the 1960s, the world population of this antelope has slowly risen above 3000. Of course, you won't see all of them here. All but 200 have been moved to other parks.

What you'll also see are the rare Cape mountain zebras, uncommon grey rhebok, and more common, but very attractive, steenbok. Be there at dusk, and you'll stand a good chance to catch sight of local predators: jackal, caracal, bat-eared foxes and Cape foxes.

Birders can look out for Denham's bustard, blue cranes, secretary birds and spurwing geese, among many other species.

Best of all, relax on the banks of the Breede with a pair of binoculars to hand. In summer, you won't be able to resist slipping into its cool, clean water.

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