Adventures under the cover of darkness


When darkness falls, there’s no more exploring to be done on your own outside of the rest camps in South Africa’s national parks. But nightfall is the time when many animals come out to play. When the evening comes, don’t crawl into bed and shut your eyes just yet. You can easily explore the trees in the rest camp with a torch at night, but we looked at some other options to keep you up a little longer.

Iconic Landmarks lit up

There is a long list of famous icons visible at night.

  • The famous Brandwag Buttress in the Golden Gate Highlands National Park,
  • The waterfall in the Augrabies Falls National Park,
  • Table Mountain, Table Mountain National Park
  • The iconic Agulhas Lighthouse, Agulhas National Park

Most visitors don’t leave without an iconic photo of these gems. Next time, why not try to capture them with your camera in the moonlight?

Extra cost: No additional cost.

Keep in mind: Only overnight visitors can capture the Augrabies waterfall at night.

Sunset or night game drives

One great thing about these guided drives is that you head out of the rest camp when everyone else has to return. Parks that offer sunset and night drives are Kruger, Mapunguwe, Marakele, Addo Elephant, Karoo, Mountain Zebra, Mokala, Kgalagadi and Augrabies Falls National Parks.

Extra cost: Park dependent – contact the parks for more details.

Keep in mind: Pack snacks and something warm to keep the chill away.


thorny sunset

Photo: René de Klerk

 Spot the stars

Most of the national parks that are further away from the city are great for starry scenes at night, especially during new moon. Parks such as the Tankwa Karoo, Kgalagadi and Richtersveld offer the best views of the stars, but spectacular skies are also seen from many other parks.

Cost: No cost.

Keep in mind: Pack that tripod, torch and shutter release cable if you have one.


Photo: René de Klerk

Get the muscles moving during full moon

Do you fancy a hike or something even more extreme? If you find yourself in the Mother City, hike up Lion’s Head in the Table Mountain National Park during full moon. It has become a popular bucket list activity that is enjoyed by many people every month.

For something more extreme, join the Desert Knights MTB Tour (happening in April and September annually), a canoe and cycling event in the Richtersveld. The cycling section takes place at night.

In October every year, the Augrabies Falls National Park is the place for endurance runners, where the Kahalari Augrabies Extreme Marathon (KAEM) is staged over 250km in moonlight.

Photo: Nardus du Plessis

Cost: Lion’s Head – no cost.


Keep in mind: The extreme events are not for the faint-hearted and a medical certificate might be required. If you plan a hike up Lion’s Head at night, wear sturdy hiking shoes and stay on the designated footpaths.

Go underground

In addition to listening to the roar of the lions and the laugh of the hyenas nearby, watch them from the comfort of an underground hide. The main rest camp in the Addo Elephant National Park boasts an underground hide with a floodlit view, allowing closer encounters with wildlife.

Cost: No additional cost.


Photo: Abraham Mouton

Get a bird’s eye view

Ever fancied a night high above the ground? Sleeping in a tree offers a great vantage point for watching nocturnal game, stargazing and even birding. If you want to experience the bush up close and personal at night, there are a few options for you.

  • The Garden Route National Park offers a luxury treetop chalet in Knysna
  • Mokala National Park has the Kameeldoring Tree House.

Cost:  Knysna’s Treetop chalet from R2 341 while Kameeldoring will cost R1 360 for the night. Prices are for two people and subject to change.


*Original article published in the September 2016 edition of the SANParks Times


Leave A Reply