National Parks in South Africa: A Park for Every Experience

National Parks in South Africa: A Park for Every Experience

With more than 20 national parks in South Africa, the country is, without doubt, a wildlife and eco-destination in a class of its very own.

Each of the national parks offers a very unique experience, so whether you’re a wildlife lover, serious cyclist, passionate birder, bucket list chaser or just in it for those peaceful breaks – There’s a national park just for you!

National Parks in South Africa

For the Safari goer: Kruger National Park

National Parks in South Africa - Kruger

The Kruger National Park is one of South Africa’s most iconic attractions – a safari goers dream destination with nearly two million hectares of pristine wilderness waiting to be explored and as many as 147 mammal species and more than 490 bird species waiting to be discovered. It is one of the top destinations to visit when seeking out the famous Big 5.

The Kruger is a year-round safari hotspot and hosts 21 rest camps positioned in prime game viewing areas of the park. These self-catering rest camps offer a variety of affordable accommodation options; including camping, chalets, and guesthouses. From each camp, guests have the opportunity to self-drive the park or embark on a number of guided safari activities.

You have the option of guided game drives, wilderness and eco trails, guided walks, 4×4 adventure trails, mountain biking, golfing, and bird watching.

There are also two overnight hides for more adventurous travellers. The Sable Sleepover Hide is situated a short distance away from the Phalaborwa Gate and overlooks the Sable Dam where an abundance of animals gather to drink. It is not uncommon to hear lions roar and hippos grunt during your stay here.

The Shipandani Sleepover Hide nestles on the Tsendze River, south of the Mopani area. Large herds of buffalo and several elephant bulls love to visit this area frequently. This is your chance to experience an African safari at its very best.

Being out in the bushveld is what visiting the Kruger is truly about and a trip here is not complete without the experience of an evening bush braai. You are led to an open area of the Kruger that has been lit up with lanterns and roaring fires. Your meal is prepared perfectly over an open fire and served beneath a spectacular starry sky. Nothing beats dining out in the African bush, with animals often calling in the distance.

 

Highlights in the Kruger National Park: 

  • Guided game drives
  • Walking safaris
  • Big 5
  • Bird watching
  • Self-drive safaris
  • Sleepover Hides

 

For the Cyclist: Augrabies National Park

National Parks in South Africa - Augrabies Falls

If you are a cyclist and love a little off-road bike riding then Augrabies National Park is the perfect spot for you. Provided you remain on the official roads, cycling through the park is a great way to explore the Augrabies Waterfall along with other viewpoints that offer stunning vistas of the park, the gorge, and the Orange River.

The park is home to 49 mammal species, including the African wild cat, bat-eared fox, free-tailed bats, aardwolf, small spotted genet, many antelope species, giraffe, and leopard (rarely seen but a sighting remains highly possible). Hartmann’s Mountain Zebra are also present in the park but as they are an endangered species, they are closely monitored by the park rangers.

During the day, visitors to the park are welcome to take a leisurely drive in their own vehicle in search of wildlife but at night guided game drives are offered at the self-catering rest camp, showcasing the abundant nocturnal life in the park.

The Klipspringer is often seen in the park, usually in pairs, and the Klipspringer Hiking Trail is the best place to see them. The hike is 3 days long and visitors do need to book this experience in advance. The trail is closed from October to March when it is extremely hot and humid.

The Dassie Nature Trail is a five-kilometer self-guided hiking trail that starts at the rest camp and winds along the gorge to Arrow Point, before heading out into the veld by the Potholes and Moonrock.

For the 4×4 enthusiasts, Wilderness Road is 94 kilometers long and will take approximately six hours to complete. There is a very scenic picnic site midway which is equipped with ablution and braai facilities. This spot is well-known for its birdlife.

 

Highlights in Augrabies National Park:

  • Cycling
  • Walking trails
  • Guided game drives
  • Bird watching
  • River rafting
  • 4×4 adventure trails


For the Bucket List Chasers: Agulhas National Park

National Parks in South Africa - Agulhas

Agulhas National Park is a bucket list destination positioned at the southernmost tip of Africa and is of great historical value. There is no place like it on this earth – it is where two oceans meet and indigenous fynbos adapts and thrives.

In bad weather, this region can be devastating for shipping, whilst in good weather it is a sight to behold. It is for this reason that the park was labelled by legendary explorer Bartholomew Dias as the “Cape of Storms”. When visiting the park, you can look forward to unrivalled views of the coastline, graveyard of shipwrecks, and iconic Agulhas lighthouse which was built to aid early explorers on their challenging sea voyage.

You may even get to see Cape fur seals and a variety of whales, dolphins, and porpoises. The southern right whales generally arrive in the bays from the months of August to November to breed.

With an ecosystem that resembles much of a tropical forest, the Agulhas National Park is a vital component of the Cape Floral Kingdom – featuring as many as 2 000 species of indigenous plants, of which 100 are endemic to the area.  There are three hiking trails that are within easy reach of the rest camp and bring you up-close viewing of this incredible coastal fynbos.  

Driving along the Struisbaai-Elim route, you are sure to come across an abundance of bird species, especially at the salt pans and along the wetlands. It is not unlikely to see endangered species such as the African Black Oystercatcher, along with hundreds of Lesser and Greater Flamingos.

Surrounding the park are some incredible wine farms and quaint towns that are also well worth the visit.

 

Highlights in Agulhas National Park:

  • Shipwreck graveyard
  • Swimming
  • Fishing
  • Bird watching
  • Walking trails
  • Indigenous Fynbos

 

For a Peaceful Getaway: Golden Gate Highlands National Park

National Parks in South Africa - Golden Gate

Nothing is more peaceful than escaping to the mountains, away from the hustle and bustle of the city. It is the one place in South Africa where you can do as much or as little as you like.

The park boasts some of the most incredible scenery to be seen in South Africa, with the main attraction being the sandstone cliffs that light up with the rays of the sun, emitting hues of orange and golden yellow.

The park boasts a rich diversity of fauna and flora and absolutely no predators, affording visitors, particularly families, the opportunity to take walks in the park without risk. The park is home to an abundance of wildlife, including black wildebeest, blesbok, springbok, black-backed jackal, Burchell’s zebra, and a variety of birds. It is an incredible place to spot rare bearded vultures and the bald ibis who love to breed on the sandstone cliffs.

From the self-catering camps in the park, guests have access to a number of activities, including white-river rafting, hiking, game drives, abseiling, canoeing, nature walks, horse riding, swimming, golfing, shooting, arts and crafts, quad and motorbike trails, zip lining, paintball, archery, fly fishing, visits to game farms, rock art sites, trips to Lesotho, visits to the Katse Dam, snowboarding, and skiing.

 

Highlights at Golden Gate Highlands National Park:

  • Wilderness trails
  • Basotho Cultural Village
  • Horse riding
  • San rock art sites
  • Canoeing
  • Abseiling

 

For Bird Watching: Bontebok National Park

National parks in South Africa - Bontebok

Bontebok is a World Heritage Site and forms part of the Cape Floristic Region of South Africa. It is the ideal location for a relaxing getaway and a top destination in South Africa for bird watching. Boasting plenty of natural viewing spots, visitors have the opportunity to see as many as 200 bird species, including the Denham’s (Stanley’s) Bustard, blue crane, spur-winged goose, secretary bird, southern black korhaan, malachite, and southern double collared sunbird.

From the self-catering rest camp, it is not uncommon to see the fiscal flycatcher, Klaas’s cuckoo, acacia pied barbet, red-faced mousebird, and Pearl-breasted swallow. Whilst along the edge of Breede River, one may get a glimpse of the swee waxbill and water thick-knee.

There are a number of other relaxing activities to enjoy in the park, including self-drives, three wilderness trails, swimming in the Breede River, canoeing and kayaking, mountain biking, angling, and picnicking. Sighting bontebok, grey rhebuck, red hartebeest, and several smaller mammals are part of the experience at Bontebok National Park.

 

Highlights in Bontebok National Park:

  • Self-drives
  • Wilderness trails
  • Swimming
  • Fishing
  • Cycling
  • Canoeing


For Elephants – Addo Elephant National Park

National Parks in South Africa - Addo

Addo Elephant National Park is South Africa’s third largest game park and offers some of the best elephant sightings in the world.

With over 600 elephant living in the park and up-close encounters with the other four of the Big 5, Addo is a diverse safari destination perfect for families, couples, and solo explorers alike. The landscape comprises of forest, fynbos, nama karoo, coastal dunes, and grassy plains.  

Aside from the Big Five, there are also thirteen antelope species and twenty-two predator species – including cheetah, hyena, and wild dogs. Lions and hyenas are frequently spotted on game drives in the early mornings and evenings.  

From the self-catering rest camps in the park, visitors have the opportunity to experience guided game drives, horse riding safaris, hiking trails, 4×4 adventure trails, bird watching from the bird hide in the main camp, spot game from the floodlit waterhole and underground hide, or relax in the Addo Indlovu Spa.

A visit to Addo can also be combined with a marine safari, affording travelers the rare opportunity of seeing the Big 7 (includes the great white shark and southern right whale).

 

Highlights in Addo Elephant National Park:

  • Incredible elephant sightings
  • Big 5 game drives
  • Wilderness trails
  • Bird Hide
  • Marine Eco Tours
  • Horse riding

 

Whether you looking for a peaceful retreat, exhilarating safari experience, or bird watching paradise; there are nineteen national parks in South Africa waiting to be explored. Let us help you find the right one today.