SANParks’ National Parks Week is HERE, and if you’re not sure which of SA’s national parks to visit for free during this time, here are five that you shouldn’t miss…
Agulhas National Park
Why you should visit: Home to the Southern-most tip of Africa, the Agulhas National Park is a SANParks National Parks gem. Often referred to as the Agulhas Plain, this area has rich natural and cultural features, and is of international significance due to its rich plant biodiversity, with around 2000 species of indigenous plants including 100 which are endemic to the area. In spring and early summer, southern right whales are also known to frequent the waters off the Agulhas coast.
Augrabies Falls National Park
Why you should visit: Named Aukoerabis in the local language, meaning “the place of great noise,” the Augrabies Falls is a 60-metre high waterfall that forms an oasis in the semi-arid desert surroundings. It crashes into the 18 km abyss that is the Orange River Gorge and is a spectacular sight to behold. The best time to visit the falls is from March to May, when the rains create a gushing water spectacle, but there’s still lots to do in the park itself thoughout the year.
How to get there: The Augrabies Falls lies 120km from Upington.
Tankwa Karoo National Park
Why you should visit: If you’re searching for the “middle of nowhere”, then the Tankwa Karoo is just for you. One of the hottest and most isolated regions of the country, the Tankwa Karoo stretches as far as the eye can see. It’s no wonder, then, that local and international travellers alike converge on this area for the annual Afrikaburn event as the greatest escape from the comforts of urban modernity.
How to get there: The Tankwa Karoo National Park is located on the border of the Western and Northern Cape, west of Sutherland and south of Calvinia. Follow the R355 and get ready for seemingly endless dirt road travel.
Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park
Why you should visit: The Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park straddles the border between South Africa and Botswana and, as such, is actually comprised of two entities; Kalahari Gemsbok National Park in South Africa and Gemsbok National Park in Botswana. This wildlife and nature conservancy area offers a true taste of the Southern African Kalahari, typified by rolling red sand dunes and sporadic pockets of hardy vegetation. If a Kalahari animal safari is what you’re after, the park is home to lions, cheetahs, leopards and hyenas.
How to get there: The Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park is nestled in the northernmost reaches of the Northern Cape, in the stretch of South African territory between Namibia and Botswana. The park is located approximately 250km due north of Upington. To experience its full splendour, you’ll need to cross over into Botswana, which houses nearly three quarters of the park.
Marakele National Park
Why you should visit: Located in the heart of the Waterberg Mountains, the Marakele National Park, as its Tswana name suggests, has become a ‘place of sanctuary’ for an impressive variety of wildlife due to its location in the transitional zone between the dry western and moister eastern regions of South Africa. Here you can enjoy unique bush and mountain pass walks up to incredible views close of a Cape vulture colony. Marakele is also home to most of the large mammals found within the African bush, including elephants, leopards, lions and the like.