Inverdoorn Game Reserve is nestled in a little bowl in the Klein Karoo. An arid countryside greets you as you pass from Ceres to the valley where Inverdoorn sits.
This cracked landscape appears barren at first glance. The summer sun beats down on the bone-dry valley, and you find yourself wondering ‘how can anything survive in this heat?’
The geological history of the Klein Karoo
The ‘Klein Karoo’ is a semi-desert region in the Western Cape of South Africa. It is a cousin of the greater Karoo, which spills across the northern and central part of the country. The Karoo refers to the geology as much as it does the climate. The area is known for its hot summers, arid air and chilling winters. But it wasn’t always so. It was once a thriving ecosystem, and the evidence of this booming life is found in the geology.
The geography of this region is a system of mountains and valleys. The valley where Inverdoorn lies dates back to the Cretaceous period. This was a tumultuous time. Where the Klein Karoo lies was once part of an inland sea. The big Cape Fold Mountains that flank the south-west of Africa were initially formed through layers of sedimentary rock compounding on each other on the sea floor. This layering also trapped the fossils of many species from that period. A subsequent tectonic movement led to the upliftment of these rocks to form the Cape Fold Mountains that grace our Winelands region today.
Over the next few million years, the raised mountains started eroding away. This carved out the little valley where Inverdoorn lies now.
The wild beauty of the Karoo
Now the Klein Karoo is home to a very different climate. The once inland sea is now a bare ocean floor, compact with history. It has given birth to a unique biome that has sprouted succulent plants and fynbos that survive in these desert-like conditions. Sometimes, after a rare rainfall event, some grasses spring up overnight. Some of the larger flora include the ‘threethorn’ (Rhigozum trichotomous), ‘bitterbos’ (Chrysocoma ciliate) and ‘sweet thorn’ (Acacia karroo).
It also took very tough animals to survive in these harsh conditions. This sandveld region of the Klein Karoo was originally home to the Cape Mountain Zebra, the ostrich, cheetah and the occasional meerkat. Most of these animals you can still see at Inverdoorn Game Reserve today. They are specially adapted to feeding and finding water in this sparse corner of the world.