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South African National Parks

Travel Guide Africa South Africa South African National Parks

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Introduction

Springbok detail

Springbok detail

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If there is one country in Africa, where you can easily travel around yourself and combine excellent safaris with beautiful nature, and good service, infrastructure, accommodation and food and drinks, it is South Africa. On top of that, it has one of the best range of national parks and most of them fall under the South African National Parks Service (Sanparks), which offers well maintained parks and on top of that offers a wide range of accommodation in almost all their parks. It also has a so-called Wild Card, which is especially efficient and cost effective if you are planning on doing a lot of exploring in their parks. Note that some of the parks listed below don't fall under the Sanparks service, but are called National Park (or Reserve) as well.

Purchasing a Wild Card

Cheetah: a beautiful creature!

Cheetah: a beautiful creature!

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If you are a nature and wildlife enthusiast and you want to visit many parks during your stay, you might consider buying a Wild Card which enables you to unlimited visits of all of the South African National Parks and many others as well, including the Cape parks, Swaziland parks and Kwazulu Natal parks. There are also possibilities to buy 'cluster' cards, for example only the arid parks in the northwest or the parks in Kwazulu-Natal. The card is available for adults/couples/families and is valid for one year after purchasing the card. Especially when you are planning an extensive stay in on of the larger and more expensive parks like Kruger or Kgalagadi, it pays to get one as a 5-6 day stay is already more expensive when paying the per day rate. Wild Cards can be bought online, but also at the entry gates of all the joining parks as well as the park camps if present.

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Addo Elephant National Park

Elephant mother and her young, Addo

Elephant mother and her young, Addo

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Addo Elephant National Park is located in the south of the country, close to Port Elizabeth. Although the park is famous for its elephants, there are many more animals here and species include buffalo, the endangered black rhino, antelope species and lion and spotted hyena are here in small numbers as well. The park is about to be called Greater Addo Elephant National Park as it has been expanded to include several islands and marine wildlife, including African penguins! And whales and great white sharks are in those waters as well and as a consequence the park is promoted as the only park to see the Big 7, which includes the famous Big 5 (elephant, rhino, lion, buffalo and leopard) and the whale and great white shark as mentioned above. A truly unique park which is a very easy to visit and located in a malariafree area. Check Sanparks' Addo Elephant National Park website for more information about getting and staying here.

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Hluhluwe-Umfolozi Game Reserve

Impala

Impala

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Hluhluwe-Umfolozi Game Reserve is located in the east of the country, in KwaZulu Natal, north of Durban. The park is around 96,000 ha big and is the oldest national park in Africa and the only one in KwaZulu where you can see the Big Five. Apart from these (lion, rhino, elephant, leopard and buffalo) you can see crocodile, hippo, cheetah, hyena, wildebeest, jackal, giraffe, zebra, waterbuck, nyala, eland, kudu, impala, duiker, suni, reedbuck, warthog, bushpig, mongoose, baboons, monkeys and wide varieties of birds, over 300! All this can be done by your own car, tours and even boat tours and walking safaris are a possibility. For more information about getting and staying here have a look at the official Hluhluwe Umfolozi National Park website.

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iSimangaliso Wetland Park

The iSimangaliso Wetland Park, formally known as the St Lucia Wetland Park, is a park in the South African province of Kwazulu-Natal. It is the country's third largest protected area, covering 3,300 square kilometres of natural habitat.

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Kruger National Park

Ellie

Ellie

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Kruger National Park is the largest of all of South Africa's game parks with around 19,000 square kilometres to explore. The park is located in the northeast of the country in both the provinces of Mpumalanga and Limpopo, at the borders with Mozambique and Zimbabwe. Recently the park has become part of the Great Limpopo Transfrontier Park, a peace-park consisting of Kruger National Park, Gonarezhou National Park (Zimbabwe) and Limpopo National Park (Mozambique). It is the most visited of all national parks in South Africa and can become very busy during the South African holiday periods. Also, some of the roads are tarred, which makes this park one of the best to visit when you just have a small 2wd vehicle. More about Kruger National Park or visit the official Kruger Park website.

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Madikwe Game Reserve

African Wild Dogs meet White Rhino

African Wild Dogs meet White Rhino

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The Madikwe Game Reserve is an off the beaten track park in the central north of the country. In the north the border of the park forms the border with Botswana. Despite the fact that it might not be known to the general public, it is the 5th largest park in South Africa and is regarded as one of the better conservation areas in Africa. It offers all the major species, including lion, leopard, elephant, buffalo, both white and black rhino (Big Five) along with almost all the regular antelope species on these plains. The park can be reached by a short drive from Pilanesberg National Park (see above) via a good gravel road. You can also take a longer route along tarmac roads, approaching the park from the south instead of the east. From Johannesburg and Pretoria it is roughly a 4-hour drive. It is quite a luxurious place to stay and you need to arrange accommodation before you arrive (you can not drive in the park yourself!). These usually include fullboard and a couple of game drives and sometimes a minimum stay of 2 nights is required (which is actually the minimum to enjoy a stay anyway). There is only one relatively affordable accommodation but prices are already around $200 a night! For more information check the official Madikwe Game Reserve website.

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Pilanesberg National Park

Pilanesberg Park Elephant

Pilanesberg Park Elephant

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The relatively small Pilanesberg National Park (around 580 square kilometres) is located just a few hours of driving northwest from Johannesburg and Pretoria near Sun City and despite the fact that it is small, there are huge numbers of animals. It is a park which is somehow undervalued but for no apparent reason. The park is centred around a crater of a long extinct volcano and Pilanesberg is one of the largest volcanic complexes of its kind in the world, with rare rock types and structures making it a unique geological landmark. The park has enormous numbers of both birds and mammals, and although for some mammals this wouldn't have been their national habitat, numbers have been introduced here in the 1970's and have been growing ever since. Lions, elephants, white and black rhinos, buffaloes, leopards, zebras, hyenas, giraffes, hippos and crocodiles are all present, but not in the numbers you would find in Kruger National Park. On the other hand, you can visit most of the park in 1 or 2 days, so densities are almost comparable. Have a look at the official Pilanesberg Game Reserve website for more information.

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Kgalagadi Transfrontier National Park

Leopard in Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park

Leopard in Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park

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The Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park is located in the arid northwest of the country and is actually comprising two adjoining national parks, namely the Kalahari Gemsbok National Park in South Africa and Gemsbok National Park in Botswana. The part in South Africa is more easily accessible than the park in Botswana and although technically you don't really need a 4wd vehicle, still it is better and gives you the opportunity to visit some more remote parts where several off the self catering wilderness camps are located. The park is located in the southern reaches of the Kalahari desert and red sand dunes with some sparse vegetation is the main vegetation here. Much of the wildlife can be found along the dry riverbeds of the Nossob and Auob rivers and the main gravelroads run along these riverbeds. Animals which you are likely to see are predators like black-maned Kalahari lions, cheetahs, leopards, and hyenas, hunting for animals like oryx, springbok and wildebeest. From December to February it can get extremely hot here, with temperatures well over 40 °C. Access is from the towns of Upington and Kuruman towards the main gate at Twee Rivieren (meaning Two Rivers). Check Sanparks' Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park website for more information. It's advised to book well in advance as accommodation quickly fills up and there are few possibilities of staying outside the park.

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Mountain Zebra National Park

Moutain Zebra NP

Moutain Zebra NP

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The Mountain Zebra National Park is another park in the East Cape Province, just like Addo Elephant NP, and therefore makes for a good combination to visit this park as well. Although it is much smaller, it is especially made a national park to preserve the endangered Mountain Zebra, a subspecies of the common zebra. Apart from zebra, you are likely to see many other mammals within the park like caracal, buffalo, black rhino, eland, black wildebeest, red hartebeest, gemsbok and grey rhebok. Have a look at Sanparks' Moutain Zebra National Park website for more detailed information.

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Table Mountain National Park

Cape Town

Cape Town

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Table Mountain National Park is located in and near Cape Town, South Africa and was established in 1998, for the purpose of protecting the natural environment of the Table Mountain Chain, and in particular the rare fynbos vegetation. The most famous feature of course is the Table Mountain itself: like the 1,000 or so geysers on the world which are named after the Icelandic Geysir, Cape Town's Table Mountain is the grandfather of all table mountains in the world. It towers above the city, while Devil's Peak and Lion's Head tower above the mountain itself. The flat top is about 3 kilometres wide and offers tremendous views over the city and the ocean. There are only small differences in height on this flat, with the cable car station only 19 metres lower than the highest point. Although in 2 to 3 hours you are able to climb (walk) up to the top, the Table Mountain Cableway takes passengers up and down the mountain, ascending over 700 metres from Table Mountain Road.

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This is version 4. Last edited at 14:53 on Apr 4, 12 by Utrecht. 1 article links to this page.

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