TRAVEL NEWS - There are 19 National Parks in South Africa, each with a diverse landscape and unique collection of experiences to enjoy.
The Kruger National Park and Table Mountain National Park are two of the most popular parks, seeing more than one million travelers pass through the gates each year.
Unfortunately not all the parks are as popular but there are a few that are worthy of a visit!
1. Mountain Zebra National Park
The 28 000 hectare Mountain Zebra National Park nestles near the town of Cradock and incorporates elements of three biomes: the Nama-Karoo, Grassland and Thicket.
Much like the Karoo, the scenery is breathtaking and the air is crystal clear, affording incredible sunsets and stargazing. The park is a real gem because it’s home to some of South Africa’s most endangered animal species - Cape mountain zebra, black rhino, and cheetah.
Activities on offer in the park include self-drives, guided game drives, visits to San cave painting sites, morning walks, 4x4 trails, guided cheetah trekking, and two self-hike trails: 2.5km Black Eagle Trail and 1km Imbila Trail.
The fenced off Rest Camp offers a comfortable guest house, two mountain cottages, family cottages, a campsite with communal facilities, an a la carte restaurant, swimming pool, and a shop.
2. Bontebok National Park
Bontebok National Park is relatively smaller than most parks in South Africa, located on the banks of the Breede River just a short drive from Swellendam. Bontebok is flanked by the majestic Langeberg Mountains and has a diversity of plants and trees. The park is perfect for travelers looking to immerse themselves in nature and experience a true sense of tranquility.
The Lang Elsie’s Kraal Rest Camp was named after a Khoe-Khoe Chieftain who lived there with her clan in the 18th century and offers the most breathtaking views of the mountains from each of the ten chalets. Bontebok are frequently seen grazing from the chalet windows first thing in the morning.
The park is a conservation success story, saving the bontebok species from extinction. There are approximately 158 Bontebok inhabiting the park, along with other wildlife such as grey rhebuck, steenbok, grysbok, Cape mountain zebra and red hartebeest.
Enjoy a drive around the park, bath in the Breede River, go on a nature hike or mountain bike ride, or glide along the Breede River on a canoe or kayak.
3. Golden Gate Highlands National Park
Positioned in the untouched foothills of the magnificent Maluti Mountains, the 11 600 hectare Golden Gate Highlands National Park got its name from the sandstone cliffs that shimmer like gold when the sun catches. The Brandwag rock is the most impressive and well worth the climb.
The park is home to an abundance of wildlife, including black wildebeest, eland, blesbok, oribi, springbok and Burchell’s zebra. There are more than 250 species of birds found in the park, including the rare bearded vulture and bald ibis.
Things to do in the park include game drives, abseiling, canoeing, hiking and nature walks, horse riding, swimming and visits to a cultural village. Ribbokkop is the highest point in the park and can be hiked to with a guide.
Other attractions near the park include golfing, white water rafting, quad and motorbike trails, zip lining, paintball, archery, fly fishing, game farms, rock art sites, trips to Lesotho, visits to Katse Dam, snowboarding and skiing.
The Highlands Mountain Retreat offers a secluded getaway in eight luxurious log cabins that have striking views of the surrounding Malutis, whilst the Golden Gate Hotel offers a variety of luxury accommodation and excellent facilities. The Glen Reenen Rest Camp offers more affordable rondavels and guest cottages, as well as a camping site for the more adventurous.
4. West Coast National Park
Although it is possible to visit the West Coast National Park in one day, the park is the perfect place for travelers looking to explore untouched beaches and go hiking in pristine wilderness.
Depending on the amount of rainfall during the winter months of August and September, the West Coast National Park boasts a popular and colourful flower season.
Other attractions include numerous walking trails, a 25 kilometre long beach, cycling and mountain biking, seasonal whale watching and bird watching. The largest concentration of mammals is found in the Postberg section which is only open to the public during the annual flower season. Animals such as eland, red hartebeest, Cape grysbok, caracal and rock hyrax are plentiful in the rest of the park.
West Coast National Park boasts a number of beautiful and tranquil self-catering accommodations within the park. The Geelbek restaurant nestles on the picturesque Langebaan lagoon and offers a variety of South African dishes and an incredible collection of house wines.
5. Kgalagadi Transfrontier National Park
The magnificent Kgalagadi Transfrontier National Park borders with Botswana and Namibia and covers an area of over 3.6 million hectares. It is often considered to be one of the top conservation sites in the world, characterised by a rather sparse vegetation, along with dry riverbeds and never ending red dunes.
The park is great for viewing gemsbok, meerkats, black-maned Kalahari lions, and weavers. There is also 280 bird species of which approximately 92 are resident and the remainder are nomadic, migratory and vagrant species.
Activities offered in the park include self-drives, guided game drives & walks, and 4x4 trails.
There is accommodation in the three main camp rest camps, namely Twee Rivieren Rest Camp, Mata-Mata Rest Camp and Nossob Rest Camp, which offer a range of accommodation options.
Twee Rivieren is the park’s largest rest camp and nestles on the banks of the Dry Nossob Riverbed. The camp is well equipped with a reception, shop, fuel, restaurant, information centre and swimming pool.
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