SANParks’ National Parks Week will soon be upon us, and if you’re not sure which of SA’s national parks to visit for free during this time, here are seven that you shouldn’t miss…
Table Mountain National Park
Those not familiar with Cape Town would be excused for thinking that the Table Mountain National Park is a national park found on Table Mountain in Cape Town. But the Table Mountain National Park is in fact made up of a host of stunning natural areas and attractions in the broader Cape Town area, and not just the mountain.
The places to explore during National Parks Week that are officially part of Table Mountain National Park are: Silvermine, Cape Point at the Cape of Good Hope, Signal Hill and Lion’s Head, and of course, Table Mountain (excluding the Cableway) itself.
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Tsitsikamma National Park
The Tsitsikamma National Park forms part of the Garden Route National Park and is a definite must-visit during National Parks Week. It is home to indigenous Afromontane forest, rivers and dramatic coastline giving life to the abundant plant, marine and animal species. The Big Tree (a massive 800-year-old Yellowwood Tree), the famous Otter Trail and wild Storms River Mouth coastline form part of the park.
Kruger National Park
You can’t think of national parks without a thought towards one of South Africa’s safari gems, the ever-popular Kruger National Park. Perched in the heart of the Lowveld region in the Limpopo Province, Kruger National Park offers some of the best wildlife viewing and safari adventures, tough to find anywhere else in the world! Apart from the magnificent wildlife and birdlife to witness at Kruger National Park, visitors can also experience 4×4 adventures, mountain biking and even a few rounds of golf nearby.
Golden Gate Highlands National Park
Nestled in the luscious green fields on the foothills of the Maluti Mountains, you will find the stunning treasure that is the Golden Gate National Park in Clarens. This dream in the Free State is the epitome of relaxation and natural beauty and keeps visitors coming back again and again. This sunset paradise boasts a huge variety of some of South Africa’s most beautiful and unique flora and fauna and is a must visit.
West Coast National Park
Not only is the 27 600-hectare West Coast National Park, stretching from Yzerfontein in the south, home to the stunning Langebaan Lagoon but it also shelters more than 250 bird species. However, the jewel in the park’s crown appears, for a fleeting moment only, from August to September (just in time for National Parks Week) when fields of wildflowers carpet the Postberg Reserve. This section of the park is closed for most of the year to protect the biodiverse ecosystem. A MUST see!
Mapungubwe National Park
At the northern tip of Limpopo and South Africa, and bordering Zimbabwe, lies the Mapungubwe National Park. Situated at the meeting point of two mighty rivers, the Limpopo and Shashe rivers, the park is incredibly rich in wildlife. You will find a number of animals here, including elephant, hippopotamus, white rhinoceros, lion, leopard, cheetah, Cape wild dog, hyena, klipspringer and lots more.
It’s also the site of an 11th-century African civilization, South Africa’s first kingdom, once home to some 5 000 people. Stop by the Mapungubwe Interpretation Centre near the park’s entrance where you can see relics of how this ancient civilization lived 800 years ago. Artefacts include glass beads, gold necklaces, pots, as well as some remains of the kingdom’s palace.
Addo Elephant National Park
The Eastern Cape’s Addo Elephant National Park is unsurprisingly most famous for the over 600 elephants that roam its thick bushveld and plains. In fact, this reserve can proudly boast about being home to the highest density of elephants on earth. But there’s more to see than the roaming herds of gentle giants. The 1 640 km² national park is also home to the Big Five, over 13 species of antelope and other species such as the elusive cheetah and rare African Wild Dog.