Three nights under the stars and I was a dedicated Tankwa junkie, comfortably settled in to a ‘we’re the only people on the planet’ mode. Story and pictures by Ron Swilling

It’s the variety of landscape that will take you by surprise. Tankwa Karoo National Park is part arid expanse with dust-devils sweeping across the dry plains. Yet it is crossed by the verdant lines of the Tanqua (the park’s namesake) and the Rhenoster rivers with their yellow pom-pommed sweet thorn trees and riverine vegetation, and towered over by the impressive layered Roggeveld mountain range.

Photo by Ron Swilling.


In the south, the Oudebaaskraal Dam proffers a bright ribbon of shimmering blue, fringed with Phragmites reeds and surrounded by tawny colours, where ducks quack merrily and flamingos gather. Come equipped with your bird book and binos (and star guide!).

Photo by Ron Swilling.


Tankwa gives campers the choice of two ‘formal’ campsites, both situated in kloofs, with modern and attractive kitchen and bathroom facilities, and a selection of ‘informal’ campsites with no water or ablution facilities for ‘wild camping’. All are reasonably priced – and fascinating.

The informal campsites are sited at old farmsteads with ruins and a fontein (spring), and sometimes a windmill, a koppie or a copse of trees. They can be exposed in a barren landscape with a forever view or nestled in a pocket between mountains. Be prepared for extremes: wind, weather, thunderstorms, a star-studded sky, a sunset light-show and morning magnificence.

Our favourite was Perdekloof campsite, in the mountain gorge, comprising three small and separate buildings, with back-to-back private facilities marking the location of six camping spots.

Bookings: or +27 (0)12 428 9111