The story behind how the cape mountain zebras were saved from extinction is wonderful to hear from the people who continue to keep it that way.Back in 1937, farmers managed to conserve a small herd of the endangered animal that became the founder population for the Park. Later 11 more zebras were donated to the Park and today there is a zebra herd of over 1000.Even more reason to celebrate is the downlisting of the animal from the endangered species list at last year’s CITES CoP17.Mountain Zebra National Park (MZNP) turned 80 last month and extended their rest camp with eight new accommodation units.From Port Elizabeth, getting to the Park requires a bit of road trip as it is about a three hour drive from the airport, just outside the town of Cradock. Packing comfortable clothing is an essential for this. It’s also important to make sure to pack warm clothing if you intend to visit the Park during the winter months as the mornings and evenings get chilly.
The cottage I spent my first night in was one of the eight new two-sleepers that have been added to the park.
The look and feel of the cottages is modern and spacious compared to the older four-sleeper family cottages. The newer ones are tiled throughout with a fireplace and a bigger bathroom. My cottage did not have a bathtub option which may irk people who enjoy a good soak after a long journey.
In addition there are 20 four-sleeper family cottages, the Doornhoek guest house that sleeps six people, two mountain cottages that can take up to 10 people in three bedrooms and 25 camping and caravan sites.
Two new luxury rock chalets have been built at the top of the main accommodation area. The view of the Park from the spacious two bedroom four-sleepers is breathtaking.
The bathrooms are ensuite and there is an additional outside shower for when the temperature sky rockets to up to 40 degrees during the warmer seasons.
Ranger Sinethemba Tiem took our group on an early morning game drive to spot some of the animals and later in the day a cheetah tracking trail.
Black rhino, Gemsbok, brown hyenas and four cheetahs were reintroduced into the Park in the early 2000’s. Mountain Zebra was proclaimed a national park with just 1712 hectares of land. Today its current size is 28 386 hectares so there is a lot of land to see and three of the Big Five including lions which were introduced into the park in 2013, after a 130 year absence.
In 2011, cheetah tracking guided trails started. There are seven collared cheetahs in the park for monitoring and this allows the rangers to know where the animals are and how their movements affect their behaviour. A telemetry device is used to determine the location of the cheetahs by picking up the collar signal through a radio aerial.
Once the location is known rangers walk guests on a guided route to the cheetahs. Angela, the collared cheetah we tracked, was born in the Park. Tiem reminded us to remain calm and refrain from trying to run away in case we bumped into any other animals along the way. The cheetahs are calm and are used to human interaction.
Other interesting activities at MZNP include San cave painting tours, 4x4 trails, bird watching, guided morning walks and self-drive game viewing.
MZNP is part of the Camdeboo Protected Environment. This means that the land, totalling 286434 hectares, is conserved and protected in collaboration with farmers who own land surrounding the parks.
If you are looking for a place to relax and calm the outside noise of Johannesburg, MZNP should definitely be on your list of go to national parks.