A guide to South Africa National Parks

Game drives in South African National Parks.
From high grasslands in Kruger over sand dunes in coastal parks like Sodwana to mountain ranges like the Drakensberg and desert areas in the Kalahari, South Africa National Parks offer it all!

South Africa attractions include incredibly beautiful areas like the Greater St Lucia Wetland Park change to total harsh but astonishing conditions, for example in the Ai-Ais / Richtersveld Transfrontier National Park. Spectacular game viewing and scenery as well as diverse sports activities such as kloofing, bungee jumping or adventurous hikes attract a great many visitors like a magnet. Enjoy wonderful South African holidays and explore yourself!

  • Kruger National Park

Known around the world, this magnificent Park is one of the best of its kind ever. There is an incredible density of flora and fauna in the Park, some game animals prefer certain areas. The Big Five animals can be found here as well as a staggering 500 bird species and a myriad of other wildlife including reptiles and amphibians.

This year round destination experiences hot wet summers from October to March and the winter is warm and dry and because of the less dense vegetation at this time game viewing is easier. The rainfall is at its highest in the south-west section of the 350km (217 miles) long Park. This heavily wooded area is favoured by Buffalo and White Rhino.

The grassy plains around Satara and the southern area of the Crocodile River are preferred by Lion. North of the Oliphants the vegetation is preferred by Elephant, Tsessebi, Eland, Roan and Sable antelope. In the very far north, guests on South African holidays can see amazing Baobab trees in an area that receives a higher rainfall, in some places there is riverine forest and of course crocodiles and hippos.

The Kruger National Park also has a number or historical and archaeological sites. The southern areas of the Park have generally been the most popular due to easy accessibility. The northern regions are wilder and more remote the weather also tends to be hotter and drier. A great variety of accommodation is offered and there are excellent wilderness trails to explore.

Hluhluwe-Umfolozi Park

Located 280km (174 miles) north of Durban, this Park is credited with bringing the White Rhino back from extinction. All the Big Five animals can be seen here in one of South Africas oldest and most prestigious Parks covering 96 000 hectares. Hluhluwe-Umfolozi Park covers a vast wilderness area with interesting landscapes and diverse flora and fauna.

It is also a Black Rhino sanctuary with an incredible 400 species of bird having been recorded here where the climate is moist and warm. Guests on South African holidays can enjoy game viewing and wilderness trails or walks as well as a self-drive route.

  • Sodwana Bay National Park

This small coastal park has a slim stretch of forest covered sand dunes and is an anglers haven. It is part of the Greater St Lucia Wetland Park, a World Heritage Site. Antelope can sometimes be seen in the forest and birdlife is prolific.

Sodwana Bay National Park is fairly remote but visitors come from far and wide to drive their 4x4 vehicles on the long beaches and explore the coral reefs, diving amongst the abundant tropical fish and even see Manta Rays and Whale Sharks. The summers are humid and winters are warm making it a great place for a holiday year round.

  • uKhahlamba-Drakensberg Park

    Visotors on South African holidays will love this truly amazing and much loved Natural Park with spectacular scenery and fantastic attractions. uKhahlamba is now a World Heritage Site, a place of outstanding geological features millions of years old. Clearly, this area has always been special as there are at least 35 000 rock art paintings. Winter snows and summer storms characterise this Park and in spring wild flowers carpet the slopes of the mountains.

The sheer cliffs, the magnificent Tugela Falls and the huge amphitheatre, uKhahlamba-Drakensberg Park is a hikers idea of heaven and just the perfect destination for an escape to the mountains for all types of holidays and executive breaks. The adjacent Rugged Glen Nature Reserve is also very rewarding.

  • Mapungubwe National Park

Land of mystery and great beauty, it now has World Heritage Site status. On the confluence of the mighty Limpopo and Shashe Rivers and overlooking the borders of Botswana and Zimbabwe. Mapungubwe has a rich biodiversity and animal life such as Elephant, Giraffe, White Rhino, Eland and other antelope species, also Lion, Leopard and Hyena.

Birdwatchers can count on at least 400 species including Pels Fishing Owl. There is a fabulous treetop walkway and picnic pot overlooking the Limpopo River, also offered are day and night game drives and guided walks. There is a wide variety of accommodation available.

  • Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park

    Covering an immense area of 3.6 million hectares, the Park is an amalgamation of the Kalahari Gemsbok Park in South Africa and the Gemsbok Park in Botswana and forms part of the Kalahari Desert. Encompassing red sand dunes and scrubland this area has significant traces of Stone Age habitation by humans.

Guests on South African holidays can spot Leopard and Kalahari lion (with black manes) as well as Spotted Hyena, Cheetah, Wildebeest, Wild Dog and Black Backed Jackal, there are a number of antelope species and 215 bird species have been recorded. There are good facilities available and activities include 4x4 eco trails, game drives and swimming.

  • Addo Elephant National Park

Close to Port Elizabeth in the Eastern Cape, Addo has recently expanded with more ambitious plans lined up for the future to allow the inclusion of a marine reserve. Animals in the Park include over 450 Elephants, Leopard, Lion, Cape Buffalo, Black Rhino and a variety of antelope species.

Quite unique to the Park is the flightless dung beetle which is vital to the delicate ecological systems, as visitors will notice by the many signs requesting not to run them over! Facilities in the Park are basic with attractive self-catering chalets, a restaurant and there is a waterhole in front of the main lodge. The calls of the Silver Backed Jackal can be heard in the evenings.

  • Karoo National Park

The Karoo is the largest eco-system in South Africa and hosts a great diversity of wildlife which has had to adapt to survive in very harsh conditions. The landscape is enormous and forms a vast plateau, dominated by the Nuweveld Mountains and arid scrubland. This Park has its own kind of beauty and visitors will find a kind of tranquillity and freedom.

The facilities are good, there is a pool and accommodation ranging from cottages, rest camps and caravan sites in shady and grassed settings, fully licensed restaurant, gift shops, laundry facilities and information centres and a public phone. Day and night drives can be undertaken in the Park as well as walking trails, even a Braille Trail.

  • Augrabies Falls National Park

In the far north-west of South Africa, these magnificent falls drop 56 metres into the abyss of the Orange River Gorge, with a great roaring and thundering especially when the river is in full flood. The mighty Orange River is the longest River in South Africa but cannot be navigated by commercial vessels at any stage. Many rapids and minor falls occur after the falls as the river drops 300 metres over its course through the gorge.

The Gorge dominates this Park but there are surrounding rocky landscapes where only the most adaptive animals and plants can survive The Orange River has become popular for canoeing and white water rafting. The facilities are good in the Park. guests on South African holidays can enjoy great driving trails and wonderful views and features, chalets, swimming pools and other amenities.

  • Golden Gate National Park

This most unusual mountain area was established to protect the amazing sandstone highlands that have unique colours and rock shapes. The air is crisp and invigorating here and it is both remote and very peaceful. Many rare and uncommon flowers can be found such as watsonia, arum lily, fire lily and red-hot poker.

Wildlife that can be found here are typical of highland dwelling animals such as Black Wildebeest, Burchell's Zebra, Eland, Oribi, Springbok and birds, including the rare Bearded Vulture and Bald Ibis, which nest and breed on the ledges of the cliffs. There is a guided walk to Cathedral Cave.

  • Ai-Ais / Richtersveld Transfrontier National Park

This incredible area in the far north-west of South Africa looks desolate, forbidding and unable to sustain life. The Nama People of Namibia and SANParks jointly manage the Ai-Ais / Richtersveld Transfrontier National Park. Visitors will be astounded to discover how wrong this perception can be. Containing the worlds richest treasure trove of desert flora, some plants are found nowhere else.

Water is scarce here but amazingly life is sustained by the fog which rolls in from the cold waters of the Atlantic Ocean, small reptiles, birds and mammalshave adapted to survive in this harsh landscape. Visitors on South African holidays can see narled quiver trees, tall aloes and little half-mens which always lean toward the north, also lithops which look like stones until they flower.

4x4 vehicles are the ideal form of transport, although other cars with a high clearance can also be taken in. The scenery varies from flat sandy plains to craggy mountains and volcanic rock, it is quite lush along the Orange River, spectacular guided hikes are very popular here although physical fitness is required to tackle the strenuous trails.

  • Mountain Zebra National Park

Thanks to the establishment of this Park, the Cape Mountain Zebra has been saved from certain extinction; sadly this was not the case for its cousin the Quagga. There are now about 300 Cape Mountain Zebra here amongst other game namely Black Rhino, Black Wildebeest, Cape Buffalo and various antelope species. The Caracal is top predator in the Park.

Accommodation is in traditional Karoo cottages and a restored Victorian farmhouse. There are excellent hiking trails and horse riding excursions, game drives and trips to see cave paintings, visitors can enjoy the full service restaurant, shop and swimming pool.

  • West Coast National Park

Visitors on South African holidays can enjoy this beautiful flower country! Every year in the spring thousands of wild flowers bloom and follow the suns progress across the sky during the day, drawing visitors from far and wide to view them all over the Postberg Peninsula, a narrow finger of land that forms the Langebaan Lagoon. The warm shallow waters take on an azure colour making a most attractive sight and a great place to swim in flat calm water or explore the sandy coves.

Fascinating and famous evidence has been found here in the shape of a young womans perfectly preserved footprints as she walked on the wet dunes dating back 120 000 years, perhaps the earliest date of such a recording in the history of mankind. The waters of the Lagoon are rich in the food source of thousands of migratory birds that come here every year to feed on the little prawns and other tiny creatures.

  • Bontebok National Park

    This reserve was created to protect the rarest antelope on the planet the beautiful Bontebok, these creatures and other rare and endangered birdlife, fynbos and animals are happily doing well in South Africas smallest reserve. The Breede River and Langeberg Mountains provide stunning scenery for hiking, biking and water activities.
  • Wilderness National Park and Knysna National Lake Area

    These two areas fall under the famous Garden Route along the lower east coast of South Africa. The Park encompasses great scenic beauty with lakes, rivers, beaches and estuaries as well as fabulous forest and mountain landscapes.

There are a great many outdoor activities that can be undertaken as well as fantastic hiking and walking trails, mountain biking is a must in the Knysna Forest. There is a variety of accommodation in the Park including log cabins on stilts as well as camping and caravanning.

  • Tsitsikamma National Park

Fabulous scenery from dense forest in the heart of the Park down rocky ravines to the sea, visitors can see dolphins and Southern Right Whales in the waves. The whales come here to breed. Guests also find fantastic hiking trails in the Park.

Various adventure sports like kloofing, bungee jumping, abseiling and climbing also draw people to the Tsitsikamma National Park. There are also mountain bike trails and tree top tours. Visitors can swim at Natures Valley beach or in the swimming pool. Accommodation in various settings is offered as well as camping and caravan sites.

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