Mount Camdeboo, in the glorious Great Karoo

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The wonderful textures and colours of the Mount Camdeboo landscape © Tessa Buhrmann

When on a road trip it’s almost inevitable that there be a curve ball of some kind… and this trip was no different! But thankfully we carried on towards Graaf Reinet and the Great Karoo for our first stop, the MOUNT CAMDEBOO PRIVATE GAME RESERVE. Being later than expected, we were both surprised and delighted at the concerned phone call we received from Jaunita, enquiring if we were ok, she laughed and commiserated with us about said ‘delay’. This level of personal service was experienced at every level.

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High tea served in the garden © Tessa Buhrmann

From the high tea on our late arrival, wonderful game drives (first time sightings of aardwolf and bat-eared fox) and intimate dining experiences, to the infinite patience of Lesley our ranger when being asked to stop a zillion times for that perfect photo opportunity. Lesley’s passion for this land is inspiring, having grown up in the area he has an incredible knowledge of both fauna and flora as well its fascinating history.

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The historic Camdeboo Manor © Tessa Buhrmann

We stayed in the historic Camdeboo Manor, the original Groenkloof house dating back to the 1800s, and one of three restored homesteads on Mount Camdeboo, all tucked into one of the hidden valleys in the Sneeuberg Mountains, a range that played a part in the Second Boer War. Our second morning game drive saw us emerge out of the misty valley through the Groenkloof Gorge, following a similar path to that of a British column under the command of Colonel Harry Scobell.

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Following a similar path to that of the British column under Colonel Harry Scobell © Tessa Buhrmann

They had received word that a small Boer commando under the command of Commandant Lotter were taking refuge in a sheep kraal. This was where we stopped for our morning coffee and where Lesley told the account of the Battle of Groenkloof, a quick, yet bloody battle that resulted in the death of 10 British troopers, 13 commandos and the capture of Lotter and his remaining men.

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We relive that fateful night as the story unfolds… © Tessa Buhrmann

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The sheep kraal where the Boer commando had taken refuge for the night © Tessa Buhrmann

The bullet holes are still visible in the corrugated roof of the kraal, as are metal buckles and buttons – I hold them reverently. We enter the enclosed memorial site for the British soldiers that perished, and I sadly consider the futility of war.

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The rusty belt buckles and buttons… © Tessa Buhrmann

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Les pointing out the names and ages of the young British soldiers who perished © Tessa Buhrmann

The 14,000 hectares of Mount Camdeboo  were once farmland, overgrazed and in need of restoration. Conservation and sustainable utilisation is key, and an integrated ecological management plan ensures the restoration of the Karoo fauna and flora, such as the endangered Cape Mountain zebra, cheetah and blue crane. Vegetation ranges from the dwarf shrubland of the Nama Karoo, dense bushveld and forested ravines, hillsides dotted with of aloes and spekboom to the expansive grasslands of the mountain plains.

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A Gemsbok in the shrubland of the Nama Karoo © Tessa Buhrmann 

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Aloes and spekboom on the hillside as we make our way through the early morning mist © Tessa Buhrmann

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Mountain zebras graze on the plains of the mountain plateau © Tessa Buhrmann

Our experiences at Mount Camdeboo were as diverse as the landscape and vegetation, as special as the sightings of aardwolf and bat-eared fox, and as memorable as the silhouette of an Oryx against the setting sun.

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The setting sun… with blesbok, not Oryx © Tessa Buhrmann

Read part 1 of our #GreatCapeEscape here

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