South Africa is a mind-boggling diverse country. To see the best of its unique and stunning landscapes, South Africa’s 73 000 hectares of national parks is a good place to start. The following five are well worth a visit.
Camdeboo National Park
Where: Near Graaff-Reinet, Klein Karoo
Formed hundreds of millions of years ago, the Karoo of South Africa is one of the great natural wonders of the world. Camdeboo National Park provides insight into the unique landscape and ecosystem of the Karoo, not to mention the scenic beauty. Camdeboo National Park is a world of two extremes: Very hot summers and very cold winters with snowfalls in the high-lying areas in winter.
Attractions: Camdeboo has a number of 4×4 routes including the Camdeboo Koedoeskloof 4×4 Trail. Other attractions include the Valley of Desolation, Nqweba Dam, game viewing (bat-eared fox, Kudu, Cape Buffalo, Oryx, mountain zebra, wildebeest and many more). Visit the nearby historical town of Graaff-Reinet.
Contact: Camdeboo National Park on +27(0)49 892 3453 or email email@example.com
Golden Gate Highlands National Park
Where: Near Clarens, Free State
In the dreamy foothills of the Maluti Mountains, near Clarens in the Free State, lies Golden Gate Highlands National Park. The park’s name comes from the shades of gold cast by the sun on the cliffs, especially the imposing Brandwag rock, which overlooks the main rest camp. The best time to view the surrounds is at sunset, when the cotton-wool clouds become pink flecks and you might spot a lone silhouetted kudu.
Attractions: Abseiling, canoeing, game drives, games, 4×4 trails, hiking and nature walks, horse riding and swimming. Trace the footsteps of the first occupants of the area along the culture route aimed at cultural awareness. There’s also a herbal trail (medicinal herb guide) and museum tour.
Contact: Golden Gate National Park on +27(0)58 255 1000 or email firstname.lastname@example.org
Augrabies Falls National Park
Where: Near Upington, Northern Cape
The desolate, semi-arid landscapes of the Northern Cape is home to the Augrabies Falls National Park. It follows the course of the Orange River from outside of Kakamas to the Namibian Border. One of its biggest draw cards is the Orange River which cascades powerfully down the 56 m Augrabies Falls. The Orange River gorge is about 240 m deep and run for about 18 km through the park, creating dramatic geological formations along the way.
Attractions: Moon Rock, a massive weather granite dome that rises out of the desert landscape, towing 30 m above the park. Viewpoints in the park include Oranjekom, Ararat and Echo Corner. Expect to see springbok, gemsbok, kudu, African wild cat, giraffe and leopards.
Contact: Augrabies Falls National Park on +27(0)54 452 9200 or email email@example.com
Mountain Zebra National Park
Where: Near Cradock, Eastern Cape
The Mountain Zebra National Park near Cradock was formed to conserve the last remaining population of the Cape mountain zebra. Its success means the park’s focus has shifted beyond a ‘species park’ to conserving the biodiversity of the region. As such, the park offers a unique African Karoo wildlife experience. Escape to the craggy peaks or indulge in a late afternoon game drive, Mountain Zebra offers a rare, rewarding wildlife experience.
Attractions: There are two main routes to explore: Along the Kranskop and Rooiplaat loop. Here you can spy everything from tiny klipspringer antelope, mountain reedbuck, black wildebeest, Oryx, brown hyenas, cheetahs and Cape Buffalo. With 216 bird species (ostrich, secretary bird, blue crane) and vegetation biomes (grassland, Nama Karoo, thicket, savannah), it all contributes to the wild beauty of the park.
Contact: Mountain Zebra National Park on +27(0)48 881 2427 or email firstname.lastname@example.org
Mokala National Park
Where: Near Kimberly, Northern Cape
Mokala is SANParks’ newest park. Nestled in the hills, Mokala’s landscape boasts a variety of koppieveld (hills) and large open plains. This region is the transition zone of the savanna (Kalahari and Nama Karoo) biomes; the former being flat and sandy dotted with camel thorns, umbrella thorns, puzzle bushes and haystack-like sociable weaver nests constructed in the larger trees, and the latter characterised by rocky lava outcrops, clacrete and shales.
Attractions: The park has loads of opportunities for outdoor adventure, including guided game drives, bush braai and dining experiences, guided rock art tours (cultural heritage), fly-fishing and several picnic areas. Expect to see black rhino, white rhino, buffalo, Tsessebe, roan antelope, kudu, ostrich, steenbok, duiker and springbok.
Contact: Mokala National Park on +27(0)53 204 8000 or email email@example.com
South African National Parks (SANParks) is the body responsible for managing South Africa’s national parks. SANParks was formed in 1926, and currently manages 22 parks consisting of over 73 000 hectares – about 6% of the total area of South Africa. Visit www.sanparks.org for more information.