South Africa can easily be called safari country – in addition to being home to the world famous Kruger National Park, there are at least a dozen more parks and reserves of considerable significance here. Listed below are 10 top parks a South Africa safari must include.
Kruger National Park
This two million hectare stretch of bush on the borders of Zimbabwe and Mozambique was established to protect South African wildlife. This mandate was achievedvery successfully, and today Kruger National Park is known around the world as a pioneer in techniques and policies. This factor combined with its diverse wildlife has propelled Kruger to the top of the safari heap. Visitors looking for the Big Five won’t be disappointed, since all of them (lion, elephant, rhino, buffalo and leopard) can be found in abundance here. In fact the park’s rhino population is the largest in the world. Visitors can tour the park on foot accompanied by local South Africa armed guides or in vehicles.
Royal Natal National Park
The Royal Natal is where hiking and trekking enthusiasts should head. The park has some of the top trails within its boundaries, given that it is home the best-known peaks of the Drakensberg range. While here, remember to check out the Amphitheatre, a 5 km long ridge that rises above 300 meters in height – quite dramatic. Best weather to visit is between April and July, the weather is mild making hiking more enjoyable.
Golden Gate Highlands National Park
Best known and named for its golden sunsets, this national park is to be traveled at leisure. Its wide, open spaces invite the visitor for a relaxing tour in the fresh mountain air. Its unusual scenery of expanses of striped rock turn a beautiful gold at sundown, which is when it should be best appreciated.
Table Mountain National Park
Table Mountain is located in the most unusual place – bang in the middle of Cape Town city. Interesting location aside, the park offers a host of activities including numerous hiking paths up the table. There’s also paragliding and rappelling for visitors keen on action.
Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park
Located on both sides of the South Africa-Botswana border, this park lies within the Kalahari Desert. Surprisingly, the Kalahari’s unforgiving environment is home to a host of wild animals, mainly big cats. The Kgalagadi is one of the world’s largest conservation areas, an astounding 36,000 square kms.
Cederberg Wilderness Area
Known for its bizarre rock formations, the Maltese Cross and the Wolfberg Arch, the Cederberg range is also very popular with hikers. Rock climbing is permitted as long as the surface of the rock remains intact.
Mapungubwe National Park
Located in the Limpopo province, this national park was home to an indigenous tribe during the Iron Age. Declared a World Heritage Site, the famous golden rhino figurine was excavated from here. Today, it is home to baboons, leopards, elephants and giraffes.
Blyde River Canyon Nature Reserve
The third largest canyon on Earth, the Blyde River Canyon also has the distinction of being the largest ‘green canyon’ in the world because of its dense subtropical cover. This is a park famous for its views – the Three Rondavels, God’s Window, Bourke’s Luck Potholes and the Pinnacle to name a few.
ISimangaliso Wetland Park
An ecotourist’s delight, iSimangaliso means ‘miracle’ in Zulu. Rightly so, because it is home to such diverse natural wonders that are rarely found together – swamp forests, lakes, coral reefs, estuaries and coastal dunes to name a few. It also has more than 200 kilometers of coastline, giving you the chance to spot a rhino and a whale at the same time!
Namaqua National Park
Visit this park from mid August to mid September and you’ll witness nature’s glory in full bloom – literally. Namaqualand erupts in a multicolored carpet of spring daisies and flowers, transforming the dull and barren landscape into a piece of heaven!
Credits: Kruger National Park by Terrence Franck, CC BY-ND; Royal Natal National Park by Darren Glanville, CC BY-SA; Golden Gate Highlands national park by Pavel Tcholakov, CC BY; Table Mountain National Park by harrison&peterson, CC BY-SA; Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park by Joachim Huber, CC BY-SA; Blyde River Canyon Nature Reserve by khym54, CC BY; ISimangaliso Wetland Park by Vaiz Ha, CC BY; Namaqua National Park by Malcolm Manners, CC BY.