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TThe Bontebok National Park was proclaimed specifically to save the elegant bontebok antelope 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.
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 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 1 000 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 3 000. 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 in hand. In summer, you won't be able to resist slipping into its cool, clean water.
TTravel tips & planning info
Who to contact
Bontebok National Park
Tel: +27 (0)28 514 2735
How to get here
Swellendam is a 3-hour drive from Cape Town and situated beside the N2 highway. From the town, it's a short drive south to the entrance of the park.
Things to do
You can hike and bike in the park, or swim and fish (with a permit) in the Breede River.
What will it cost?
Park entry for foreign day visitors is about R120 for adults, and R60 for children.
Length of stay
Most people visit the park as a day trip, but the peaceful beauty may convince you to stay overnight.
What to pack
In summer, don't forget your swimming costume. The Breede River is clean and cool and doesn't have crocodiles.
Where to stay
There's a rest camp called Lang Elsie's Kraal within the park, designed for minimum environmental impact and maximum community benefit. There are also wheelchair-friendly chalets, or you could camp. Swellendam also offers plenty of options.