South African National Parks (SANParks), manages a system of parks which represents the indigenous fauna, flora, landscapes and associated cultural heritage of the country. Of all the national parks, most have overnight tourist facilities, with an unrivaled variety of accommodation in arid, coastal, mountain and bush-veld habitats.
National parks offer visitors an unparalleled diversity of adventure tourism opportunities including game viewing, bush walks, canoeing and exposure to cultural and historical experiences. Conferences can also be organised in many of the parks. More info available on the SANParks website.
ADDO ELEPHANT NATIONAL PARK
The third largest national park in South Africa, Addo Elephant National Park has expanded to conserve a wide range of biodiversity, landscapes, fauna and flora. Stretching from the semi-arid karoo area in the north around Darlington Dam, over the rugged Zuurberg Mountains, through the Sundays River Valley and south to the coast between Sundays River mouth and Bushman’s river mouth, Addo covers about 180 000 hectares (444 700 acres) and includes the Bird and St Croix Island groups.
The original elephant section of the park was proclaimed in 1931, when only eleven elephants remained in the area. Today this finely-tuned ecosystem is sanctuary to over 600 elephant, lion, buffalo, black rhino, spotted hyena, leopard, a variety of antelope and zebra species, as well as the unique Addo flightless dung beetle, found almost exclusively in Addo.
The park can exclusively claim to be the only national park in the world to conserve the “Big 7” – the Big 5 as well as the southern right whale and great white shark off the Algoa Bay coast. Plans are currently afoot to include the proposed proclamation of a 120 000 ha (296 500 acre) Marine Protected Area which includes islands that are home to the world’s largest breeding populations of Cape gannets and second largest breeding population of African penguins.
Five main attractions/things to experience: Lion (found mostly in the southern section of the park); Herds of elephant at Hapoor dam; The Interpretive Centre at main camp; The picturesque Zuurberg Mountain.
Activities available include: Game Drives, Horse Trails, 4×4 Trails, Hiking Trails and Marine Eco Tours.
AUGRABIES FALLS NATIONAL PARK
Few sights are as awesome or a sound as deafening as water thundering down the 56m Augrabies Waterfall when the Orange River is in full flood.
The Khoi people called it ‘Aukoerebis’, or place of Great Noise, as this powerful flow of water is unleashed from rocky surroundings characterised by the 18 km abyss of the Orange River Gorge.
Picturesque names such as Moon Rock, Ararat and Echo Corner are descriptive of this rocky region. Klipspringer and kokerboom (quiver trees) stand in stark silhouette against the African sky, silent sentinels in a strangely unique environment where only those that are able to adapt ultimately survive. The 55 383 hectares on both the northern and southern sides of the Orange River provide sanctuary to a diversity of species, from the very smallest succulents, birds and reptiles to Hartmann’s mountain zebra, springbok, gemsbok and giraffe.
Areas Of Special Interest
The Falls: As the Orange River approaches Augrabies Falls it divides itself into numerous channels before cascading down the 56 meter high waterfall. The river then continues its path through an 18 kilometer gorge. The sight and sound of the power of the water will not be easily forgotten.
Moon Rock: A massive exfoliation dome or “whaleback” which is a prominent landmark of Augrabies Falls. Walking to the summit will give one of the best views of the park and its surroundings.
Swart Rante: These foreboding black hills are another distinct landmark in Augrabies. Quartz-poor, these igneous rocks seem to form a natural border between the harsh environment of the gorge area and a more fertile area on the other side. The contrast between the two landscapes can best be seen from the top of Swart Rante.
Oranjekom & Ararat: These viewpoints give visitors the best opportunity to observe the massive gorge area as well as the wildlife that makes it their home. Essential to spot are the nesting Verreaux’s (Black) Eagles, which prey on the abundant rock hyrax populations, as well as the Cape clawless otter which are sometimes seen below in the river in the morning or late afternoon.
Echo Corner: The furthest view point from the Rest Camp, the road to Echo Corner takes you through some of the park’s most stunning scenery. As the name implies a long-lasting echo can be produced.
5 things to seek in Augrabies Falls National Park: Rock hyrax (dassie); Broadley’s Flat Lizard; Klipspringer; Verreaux’s (Black) Eagle; Hartmann’s Mountain Zebra.
AGULHAS NATIONAL PARK
Geographical extremes capture the imagination. From ancient mariners to contemporary mankind, the quest has always been to reach the poles, sail around the tips of continents, conquer the highest peaks and dive to the ultimate depths.
This is the same spirit that captivated the explorers of yesteryear who braved one of the most challenging sea crossings of their time: the Atlantic-Indian Ocean crossing via Cape Agulhas. As the southern-most tip of Africa, it has always had its mysteries and adventure, and still captures the imagination of contemporary explorers.
Amongst the mysteries associated with this region, is the legendary ‘Cape of Storms‘ which wrecked many ships en route to the east via Cape Agulhas. Ancient people also left their mark on the landscape. For example, archaeological middens remind contemporary man of a successful hunter-gathering culture that was in harmony with its natural environment; and a cultural heritage that dates back thousands of years to when the Khoi-khoi people trapped fish using ingeniously constructed tidal traps.
This windswept, ruggedly beautiful coastal plain at the southernmost tip of Africa, with its rich cultural and natural heritage, was proclaimed as the Agulhas National Park on the 23rd of September 1999. The park started as a 4 ha portion of land at the southern tip and has grown through the additions of 36 portions, bringing the area of the Park to 20 959 ha.
5 Things To Seek: The Southern Tip of Africa; Southern Right Whale; African Black Oystercatcher; Damara Tern; Cape Platana.
BONTEBOK NATIONAL PARK
Bontebok National Park is a place of simplistic beauty and peaceful charm. The majestic Langeberg Mountains provide a picturesque backdrop for this Park of colorful riches.
Explore the smallest national park of the South African National Parks‘ stable – on the banks of the Breede River, just 5km from the town of Swellendam in the Western Cape. Part of the Cape Floral Kingdom, a World Heritage Site, Bontebok National Park is always boasting something in bloom. Discover the beauty of the park through a day visit or overnight stay – watch the Bontebok grazing from your chalet window, or spy on the many birds home to the park from the viewing deck at the picnic and braai area.
Main attractions: Picnic and braai at Die Stroom; Camp on the banks of the Breede River; Game viewing self-drives; Bird watching.
CAMDEBOO NATIONAL PARK
Formed hundreds of millions of years ago, the Karoo of South Africa is one of the great natural wonders of the world. Camdeboo National Park provides the visitor with insights into the unique landscape and ecosystem of the Karoo, not to mention awesome scenic beauty.
A unique feature of the 19 405-hectare park is its location, practically surrounding the town of Graaff-Reinet in the Eastern-Cape.
The greater portion of the park is situated between 740 and 1480 metres above sea level on the foothills of the Sneeuberg range, while a small section of the low lying-plains is included. The Nqweba Dam lies within the park and covers about 1000 hectares when full. At some places, dolerites form jointed pillars – the best examples of which are found in the Valley of Desolation where erosion of the softer sedimentary beds has left dolerite pillars which rise to heights of 90 – 120 metres.
Visitors to the Game Viewing Area are requested to remain in their vehicles in order to protect the interests and expectations of other tourists. Visitors are also advised to leave the area in event of heavy rainfall, in order to avoid the risk of getting stuck or cut off by flash floods.
GARDEN ROUTE (TSITSIKAMMA, KNYSNA, WILDERNESS) NATIONAL PARK
Along the South Coast of South Africa lies one of the most beautiful stretches of coastline in the world, home to the Garden Route National Park.
A mosaic of ecosystems, it encompasses the world renowned Tsitsikamma and Wilderness sections, the Knysna Lake section, a variety of mountain catchment, Southern Cape indigenous forest and associated Fynbos areas. These areas resemble a montage of landscapes and seascapes, from ocean to mountain areas, and are renowned for its diverse natural and cultural heritage resources.
Managed by South African National Parks, it hosts a variety of accommodation options, activities and places of interest. A jewel in South Africa’s crown, the Park is a prime example of the country’s unique fauna and flora and will offer unforgettable views and life-long memories.
Activities available include: Hiking and Nature Walks; Forest Excursions; Birding; Mountain Biking; Water Activities; Kayaking; Otter Trail.
GOLDEN GATE HIGHLANDS NATIONAL PARK
Nestled in the rolling foothills of the Maluti Mountains of the north eastern Free State lies the Golden Gate Highlands National Park.
The park derives its name from the brilliant shades of gold cast by the sun on the park’s sandstone cliffs, especially the imposing Brandwag rock, keeping vigil over the main rest camp.
This 11 600 hectares of unique environment is true highland habitat, providing home to a variety of mammals – black wildebeest, eland, blesbok, oribi, springbok and Burchell’s zebra – and birds, including the rare bearded vulture (lammergeier) and the equally rare bald ibis, which breed on the ledges in the sandstone cliffs. Ribbokkop, the highest point in the park, reveals a breathtaking tapestry of red, yellow and purple hues as its warm shades merge with the cool mountain shadows towards evening.
Areas Of Special Interest: The Van Reenen family graveyard; The Impressive Brandwag buttress rock formation; Vulture Restaurant; Cathedral Cave (Guided Walk); Interesting lookout points and viewpoints – Zuluhoek lookout point, Generaalskop viewpoint, the third highest point in the park; Oribi basin and Drakensberg view.
5 Things To Seek: Bearded Vulture; Bald Ibis; Black Wildebeest; Eland; Oribi.
KGALAGADI TRANSFRONTIER PARK
Where the red dunes and scrub fade into infinity and herds of gemsbok, springbok, eland and blue wildebeest follow the seasons, where imposing camel thorn trees provide shade for huge black-mane lions and vantage points for leopard and many raptors… this is the Kgalagadi Transfrontier National Park.
An amalgamation of the Kalahari Gemsbok National Park in South Africa (proclaimed in 1931) and the Gemsbok National Park in Botswana, the Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park comprises an area of over 3,6 million hectares – one of very few conservation areas of this magnitude left in the world.
Red sand dunes, sparse vegetation and the dry riverbeds of the Nossob and Auob show antelope and predator species off to spectacular advantage and provide excellent photographic opportunities. Kgalagadi is also a haven for birders, especially those interested in birds of prey.
5 Things To Seek
- Gemsbok – these large striking desert antelope are the emblem of the park.;
- Suricate (Meerkat) – these hyperactive little omnivores have a wonderfully intricate family structure;
- Black-maned Kalahari Lions – Physically impressive, they are the kings of the Kalahari Desert. See Lions of the Kgalagadi by Lara Raubenheimer;
- Sociable weavers – the busy little birds construct huge communal nests;
- Pygmy falcons – the park is famous for its birds of prey. This is the smallest falcon in Africa and is often seen around Sociable Weaver colonies preying on the birds.
No foreign currencies will be accepted in Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park (KTP) on the South African side, only ZAR (South African Rand) will be accepted within the KTP.
Kindly note that the roads in the Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park are not sedan friendly, although the roads are maintained on a monthly basis, sedan vehicles find it difficult to cope with the conditions. Vehicles which will be using any of the 4×4 routes in the park must note that the recommended ground clearance should be 190mm, to make the drive more enjoyable.Tourists wanting to exit the park other than the point of entry must kindly note that all immigration controls must be done at Twee Rivieren / Two Rivers, and that a 2 night stay in the park is compulsory.
No children under the age of 12 is allowed at any of the park’s Wilderness camps.
Please also note that no firearms or wood will be cleared via the Mata Mata border control. Individuals wishing to clear firearms or wood should do so via Rietfontein border control.
|AI-|AIS/RICHTERSVELD TRANSFRONTIER PARK
Conjure up a desolate and forbidding landscape, seemingly devoid of life, except for some people dotting along the horizon.
Make a startling discovery upon closer inspection when the mirage dissolves into the human-like half-mens (half person) and the harsh environment prove to be a treasure-chest containing the world’s richest desert flora. Miniature rock gardens, perfectly designed by nature, cling precariously to cliff faces. Tiny succulents, mere pinpoints against a backdrop of surreal rock formations, revel in the moisture brought by the early morning fog rolling in from the cold Atlantic Ocean.
Rugged kloofs, high mountains and dramatic landscapes that sweep away inland from the Orange River divulge the fact that you are now in the vast mountain desert that is the |Ai-|Ais/Richtersveld Transfortier Park, an area managed jointly by the local Nama people and the South African National Parks. This is a harsh and unpredictable land where water is scarce and life-sustaining moisture comes in the form of early morning fog – called ‘Ihuries’ or ‘Malmokkies’ by the local people – which rolls in from the cold waters of the Atlantic Ocean, sustaining a remarkable range of small reptiles, birds and mammals. A staggering assortment of plant life, some species occurring nowhere else, is to be found here, with gnarled quiver trees, tall aloes and quaint ‘half-mens’ keeping vigil over this inscrutable landscape.
The park is only accessible by means of a 4×4 vehicle, but vehicles with high clearances such as combi’s and LDV’s do travel in the park. Sedan vehicles are not permitted. There is no specific route that can be booked in advance.
5 Things To Seek: Rock Hyrax; Ground Squirrel; Jackal Buzzard; Half-men (Half Human); Hartmann’s Mountain Zebra
WEST COAST NATIONAL PARK
Just inland from the secluded harbour of Saldanha Bay, and only 1,5 hour’s drive from Cape Town’s City Centre, one finds the azure waters of the Langebaan Lagoon, focal point of the West Coast National Park.
Thousands of seabirds roost on sheltered islands, pristine golden beaches stretch endlessly into the early morning mist and brooding salt marshes are home to vast concentrations of migrant waders from the northern hemisphere.
During the spring the strandveld is embroidered with a tapestry of multi-hued flowers, while in the Postberg section many antelope are to be seen in a setting that is as unique as it is idyllic.
Main Attractions: Flower Season: August – September; Eve’s Footprint and Trail; Activity Galore
TANKWA KAROO NATIONAL PARK
Just a four hour drive from Cape Town brings you to the ideal destination of Tankwa Karoo National Park (TKNP) for those seeking the brightest stars of Africa, a once in a lifetime glimpse of a rare endemic bird, or perhaps nothing more than a silence that reaches deep into the soul.
As luminous clouds of dust swirl through the ancient landscape, a tortoise patiently wanders in search of succulent morsels; a lizard basks in the sun while gemsbok and red hartebeest share the arid plains with mongoose, orb-web spiders, skinks and leggy toktokkies…
Main Attractions: Stargazing; 4×4 Trails; Self-Drive Game Viewing; Bird Watching; Scenic Viewpoints.
There are no formal entrance or exit gates for this Park.
- No travelling is permitted during the following times:
- 1 October to 31 March: 19:00 – 05:30
- 1 April to 30 September: 18:00 – 06:30
- Exemption is granted to visitors arriving on a Friday by no later than 21:00 at reception, to travel by means of most direct route to the reception and from the reception to their booked accommodation.
TABLE MOUNTAIN NATIONAL PARK
This natural World Heritage site, and Natural New 7 Wonder of the World, is a haven of magnificent mountains plunging into crystal seas fringed with bleached white sands of the Cape Peninsula. The mountain chain stretches from Signal Hill in the north, to Cape Point in the South and is also home to the world’s smallest, yet most diverse floral kingdom, The Cape Floristic Region.
Table Mountain National Park is a must-visit for anyone in Cape Town, local or international. From open access hikes and beautiful forest walks to pristine picnic and day-visit spots to secluded picturesque accommodation facilities throughout the park, there is plenty to do, see and experience.
Conservation fees are payable at only three access-controlled sections of the park, Cape of Good Hope, Boulders Penguin Colony and Silvermine.
Must sees for this park include: Cape Point, Cape of Good Hope; Boulders Penguin Colony; Silvermine; Table Mountain; Signal Hill and Lions Head.
NAMAQUA NATIONAL PARK
As if by magic a tapestry of brilliant colours unfold enticingly along the winding roads of the Namaqua National Park. Butterflies, birds and long-tongued flies dart around among the flowers, seemingly overwhelmed by the abundance and diversity.
Every turn in the road paints an unforgettable picture: valleys filled with Namaqualand daisies and other spring flowers that pulse with sheer energy and joy. Next to some eye-catching succulents, a porcupine and a tall aloe pay witness to a baboon overturning a rock and pouncing on a scorpion. During early August and September, seemingly overnight, the dusty valleys of Namaqualand are transformed into a wonderland, carpeted with wildflowers. With its winter rainfall, Namaqualand is home to the richest bulb flora of any arid region in the world and more than a 1 000 of its estimated 3 500 plant species are found nowhere else on earth.
Escape to the land of contrasts, where the rigorous climate has created a myriad of life forms superbly adapted to their specific habitat. Fields of flowers, star studded nights, quiver trees, enormous granite outcrops and the icy Atlantic are but a few wonders that await the visitor to what is truly the Creators’ playground.
5 Things To Seek: Carpets of flower (in season); Quiver trees; Klipspringer; Unspoilt coastline; Quartz Patches.
- Namaqua National Park is situated in one of only 2 arid biodiversity hotspots
- It is home to the world’s smallest tortoise, the Namaqua Speckled Padloper
- It conserves the world’s richest succulent flora
- It is world renowned for its spectacular spring flower displays
MOUNTAIN ZEBRA NATIONAL PARK
Invigorating crystal clear air, beautiful scenery, tranquil ambience and an abundance of wildlife offer you a special and personal African wilderness experience at Mountain Zebra National Park.
Situated near Cradock in the malaria-free Eastern Cape, this national park was originally proclaimed in 1937 to save the dwindling Cape mountain zebra population. Now, at over 28 000 hectares, the park boasts a conservation success story, protecting over 700 zebra as well as wildlife such as endangered black rhino and cheetah.
6 Things to seek: Aardwolf; Cape buffalo; Cheetah; Cape mountain zebra; Blue crane; Denham’s bustard
MOKALA NATIONAL PARK
Mokala National Park is SANParks’ newest park. It is situated approximately 70km south-southwest of Kimberley, and west of the N12 freeway to Cape Town. Nestled in the hills, Mokala’s landscape boasts a variety of koppieveld (hills) and large open plains.
The isolated dolerite hills give the place a calming feeling of seclusion. A big surprise awaits you when you pass through the hills and are confronted by the large open sandy plains towards the north and west of the Park. Drainage lines from the hills form little tributaries that run into the plains and drain into the Riet River.
Mokala is a Setswana name for a Camel Thorn (Kameeldoring). These trees occur in dry woodland and arid, sandy areas and are one of the major tree species of the semi-desert regions of Southern Africa. This immensely important species has a great range over the Northern Cape and varies from a small, spiny shrub barely 2m high, to a tree up to 16m tall with a wide, spreading crown.
The Camel Thorn is an incredible resource to both wildlife and humans who survive in often harsh conditions characteristic of this area. Traditionally, the gum and bark have been used by local tribes to treat coughs, colds and nosebleeds. Some even use the roasted seeds as a coffee substitute.
Things to Seek: Tsessebe; Roan antelope; Black Wildebeest; White Backed Vulture; Indigenous plant species.
MARAKELE NATIONAL PARK
Contrasting majestic mountain landscapes, grass-clad hills and deep valleys characterize the park. Rare finds of yellowwood and cedar trees, five metre high cycads and tree ferns, are some of the plant species found here. All the large game species from elephant and rhino to the big cats as well as an amazing variety of birds including what’s probably the largest colony of endangered Cape vultures (more than 800 breeding pairs) in the world, have settled here.
Areas of Special Interest: A narrow tar road takes visitors up to the top of the Waterberg massif. Views and scenery are spectacular. One is also in the proximity of the vulture colony and these large birds will soar past at close quarters.
5 Things To Seek
- Cape Vulture – the park hosts one of the world’s largest breeding colonies of this endangered species. While birds may be seen in the air catching thermals anywhere in the park, the drive up to the Sentech Towers is nearest to the colony and close encounters with these enormous birds will leave visitors breathless;
- African Elephant – while some elephant had been previously reintroduced into the park, it was the release of the Tuli elephants in 1999 that captured the public’s and media’s imagination;
- Leopard – Large predators such as brown hyena, leopard and now also lion, occur in the park;
- Kudu – as browsers these antelope are in their element at Marakele. Look out for the bulls with their magnificent spiral horns;
- The not-so-often-seen-elsewhere antelope species such as reedbuck, mountain reedbuck, eland and tsessebe can be found here.
MAPUNGUBWE NATIONAL PARK
Come and join these diverse pilgrims and share unforgettable moments sipping sundowners at the confluence of the legendary Limpopo and Shashe Rivers, watch the eagles soar over Botswana and Zimbabwe’s skies, hear the echo of elephant trumpets, take a tree top walk or just relax and absorb the surroundings. Mapungubwe National Park and World Heritage Site is rich in biodiversity, great scenic beauty and the cultural importance of the archaeological treasures of Mapungubwe.
Areas of Special Interest
The Lost City: Visit Mapungubwe Hill, where a far developed African civilization prospered between 1200 and 1270 AD. The area was already inhabited by a growing Iron Age community from 900 AD and became rich through trade with faraway places like Egypt, India and China. This is the place where archaeologists excavated the famous golden rhino and other evidence of a wealthy African kingdom.
Wildlife and Mystic Scenery: Sandstone formations, mopane woodlands and unique riverine forest and baobab trees form the astounding scenic backdrop for a rich variety of animal life. Elephant, giraffe, white rhino, eland, gemsbok and numerous other antelope species occur naturally in the area. Lucky visitors might spot predators like lions, leopards and hyenas. Birders can tick off 400 species, including kori bustard, tropical boubou and pel’s fishing owl.
The Mapungubwe Interpretation Centre: The Centre which is built near the main gate of the Mapungubwe National Park won the building of the year competition in 2009 and is home to the famous Golden Rhino. The Centre provides both day and over-night visitors the opportunity of a tour, showcasing the amazing landscape that the National Park has to offer.
Joining Nations: The Iron Age civilization of Mapungubwe was not limited by the Limpopo river and animals have always been able to wander around in the area of present-day South Africa, Botswana and Zimbabwe. This is why South Africa signed a memorandum of understanding with Botswana and Zimbabwe on June 22nd setting out principles for the Limpopo-Shashe Transfrontier Conservation Area (TFCA).
KRUGER NATIONAL PARK
The world-renowned Kruger National Park offers a wildlife experience that ranks with the best in Africa. Established in 1898 to protect the wildlife of the South African Lowveld, this national park of nearly 2 million hectares, SANParks – Kruger National Park is unrivalled in the diversity of its life forms and a world leader in advanced environmental management techniques and policies.
Truly the flagship of the South African national parks, Kruger is home to an impressive number of species: 336 trees, 49 fish, 34 amphibians – , 114 reptiles, 507 birds and 147 mammals. Man’s interaction with the Lowveld environment over many centuries – from bushman rock paintings to majestic archaeological sites like Masorini and Thulamela – is very evident in the Kruger National Park. These treasures represent the cultures, persons and events that played a role in the history of the Kruger National Park and are conserved along with the park’s natural assets.
5 Things To Seek
- The Big Five – Buffalo, Elephant, Leopard, Lion and Rhino;
- The Little Five – Buffalo Weaver, Elephant Shrew, Leopard Tortoise, Ant Lion and Rhino Beetle;
- Birding Big Six – Ground Hornbill, Kori Bustard, Lappet- faced Vulture, Martial Eagle, Pel’s Fishing Owl and Saddle-bill Stork;
- Five Trees – Baobab, Fever Tree, Knob Thorn, Marula, Mopane;
- Natural/Cultural Features – Letaba Elephant Museum, Jock of the Bushveld Route, Albasini Ruins, Masorini Ruins, Stevenson Hamilton Memorial Library, Thulamela.
KAROO NATIONAL PARK
The Great Karoo is a vast and unforgiving landscape of which the Karoo National Park is but a small portion. Being the largest ecosystem in South Africa, the Karoo is home to a fascinating diversity of life, all having adapted to survive in these harsh conditions. Karoo National Park is dominated by the lofty Nuweveld Mountains and rolling plains, where many species that originally occurred here now occupy their former ranges.
The Karoo National Park has a wide variety of endemic wildlife. Many species have been relocated to their former ranges – such as brown hyena, lion and Cape mountain zebra. Over 20 breeding pairs of black eagle find sanctuary within the park. There is also a wide diversity of succulent plants and small reptiles.