Way back in 1827, David Baird, son of the local magistrate, found the first reptile fossil near the frontier town of Beaufort in the Great Karoo. The little town, renamed Beaufort West in 1869, lay in what became the world’s richest collecting grounds for these fossils. Scientists have since described the Karoo and its fossils as one of the great wonders of the world.

Collections of these ancient reptiles are in museums in South Africa, England, the United States and Germany. And all the while scientists work at unravelling the secrets of these fossils to find the truth about life when the earth was young and the Karoo a swamp. Today visitors find out more about them along the fossil trail at the Karoo National Park outside the town.