Golden Gate Highlands National Park, South Africa
Golden Gate Highlands National Park is a South African national park located in Free State near the Lesotho border. The park sits on area of approximately 340 square kilometers with different features. Among the most notable features include the park’s golden, ochre, and orange hued, deeply eroded sandstone cliffs and the outcrops especially the brand wag rock. Other features in the park include numerous caves and shelters that display the San rock paintings.
The location of the park was named Golden gate in 1875 by a farmer called J.N.R Van Reenen who had a stopover in the area as they were heading to their new farm in Vuurland. He named the area Golden gate after seeing the last rays of the setting sun falling on the cliffs. Later in 1963, the area which was 47.92 square kilometers was proclaimed as a national park to mainly protect and preserve the scenic beauty of the area. In 1981, the park was enlarged to 62.41 square kilometers, and in 1988 it was enlarged to 116.33 square kilometers and then in 2004, it was joined with the neighboring national park of QwaQwa thus increasing to 340 square kilometers.
Golden Gate Highlands National Park is 320 kilometers from Johannesburg and it is close to the villages of Clarens and Kestell which are in the upper regions of the Little Caledon River. It is positioned in the Rooiberge of the eastern Free State in the hills of Maluti Mountains. The park has got different natural boundaries including the river of Caledon which form the southern boundary, as well as the border between the Free State and Lesotho. The highest peak in the park is known as Ribbokkop which is also in the Free State and it is at 2,829m above the sea level.
Vegetation of the park
Golden Gate Highlands National Park has a rich Highveld and montane grassland flora. It has over 60 grass species and a variety of bulbs and herbs. The park also inhabits Afro montane forests and the high altitude Austro Afro alpine grassland which is very scarce in South Africa. The common tree in the park is known as Ouhout and this is an evergreen species. The tree – Ouhout is a favorite habitat for beetles and others species which are over 117.
Wildlife in the park
Golden Gate Highlands National Park hosts a variety of wildlife species including the mammals, over 12 mice species, 10 carnivores’ species and about 10 species of antelopes. The park is not a home to any of the big five African animals and instead of introducing one, the sun gazer lizards and water mongoose were the ones reintroduced. Among the mammals in the park include the mountain reedbucks, elands, black wildebeest, Burchell’s zebra, oribi, Blesbok, Chacma baboon, male springbok and others.
Golden Gate Highlands National Park records over 210 bird species including the resident and migratory birds. Among the birds in the park include the cape vultures, bearded vultures, secretary birds, blue crane, verreaux’s eagle and many others.
The park is a home to a variety of species including the reptiles. Among these include the snakes and fish. Examples of snakes in the park are; puff adders, rink Hals, mountain adders and others. Among the fish species in the park include the carp, chubby head barb, rainbow trout and others.
Accommodations in the park
There is a variety of improved, affordable and comfortable accommodation facilities at Golden Gate Highlands National Park. Among these accommodations include the rest camps and hotels. Hotels at the park include; Golden Gate hotel, Glen Reenen camp and many others.