South Africa is full of wild and wonderful natural spaces and we’re all for exploring as many of those as we can. For that reason, we called on our community of outdoor appreciators, as well as SANParks and Wild Card Magazine to guide us in our attempt.
Keep reading to see the most popular national parks (in order of popularity, based on this) and to get better acquainted with what they have to offer.
Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park
For its spectacular display of red dunes - where scrub fades into infinity and herds of gemsbok, springbok, eland and blue wildebeest follow the seasons, where imposing camel thorn trees provide shade for huge black-maned lions and vantage points for leopard and many raptors.
Insider tips: Doringhout makes a great campfire, rainy season is a good time to visit the park, and the big open spaces make for incredible photos.
Garden Route National Park
Described as “heaven on earth”. With a choice of mountain, ocean or forest adventures by day and cosy log cabins with sea views at night in the Tsitsikamma, Knysna and Wilderness regions. It is the ultimate road trip destination along one of the most beautiful stretches of coastline in the world.
Insider tips: The waterfall above Ebb & Flow Rest Camp in the Wilderness is a must-see. There’s a magical hideaway situated at the head of a wide valley in the Harkerville Forest – Knysna. You haven’t lived until you’ve done the Otter Trail multi-day hike.
Kruger National Park
Where nearly 2 million hectares of unrivalled diversity of life forms fuses with historical and archaeological sights. The Kruger National park offers a wildlife experience that ranks with the best in Africa.
Insider tips: Camping in the Kruger is the best value for money. Be sure to work in a trail while you’re there - Wolhuter and Sweni are great options. Leopards like to lie in trees.
West Coast National Park
If you want to experience the raw, authentic, outdoors side of the Western Cape, the vast West Coast National Park is where you should do it. Endless natural beauty, a string of secret beaches, uncrowded braai spots, loads of exhilarating outdoor adventures, and some of the best wildflower-spotting in the land.
Insider tips: Don’t miss the Potsberg Flower Overnight hike. Be sure to try the seafood while you’re exploring the area. The houseboats in Kraalbaai are amazing.
|Ai-|Ais/Richtersveld Transfrontier Park
Hauntingly beautiful and seared by a blistering sun, the lava mountains and sandy plains form southern Africa’s largest Mountain Desert Park. You can explore it from the comfort of your 4x4 or paddle the river, taking in the awe-inspiring, seldom-seen purity of a mountain desert wilderness
Insider tips: The terrain is rough, be sure to carry a spare tyre, tools and enough food and water. Don’t even think about exploring this park without a map. The Hand of God rock formation is a must-see. The Fish River Canyon hike is a must-do.
Addo National Park
A world of diversity in one park. Despite having ‘elephant’ in the name, Addo Elephant National Park also extends right down to the ocean and currently protects some very important islands in Algoa Bay too, namely St Croix and Bird Island.
Insider tips: Go to the spekboom tented bush-camp to experience the magic of elephants breathing next to your tent at night. Lions and hyenas are most often seen early morning or late evening. Hot days at the waterholes are best for elephant viewing. Add the Alexandria hiking trail to your itinerary.
Table Mountain National Park
This natural world heritage site is a haven of magnificent mountains plunging into crystal seas fringed with bleached white sands of the Cape Peninsula. Main attractions include Cape Point, Boulders Penguin Colony, Silvermine, Table Mountain, Signal Hill and Lion’s Head.
Insider tips: Make a day trip of your Cape Point mission to discover the secret beaches, trails and braai spots. Get up early to hike Lion’s Head so that you can watch the sunrise, with a coffee. Skip the cable car and explore the wonderful trails of Table Mountain.
Golden Gate National Park
Nestled in the rolling foothills of the Maluti Mountains of the north eastern Free State lies the Golden Gate Highlands National Park.
Insider tips: Explore the park by horse. Don’t miss a visit to Cathedral Cave while you’re there. Add Ribbbok Hiking trail to your list of to-dos.
Agulhas National Park
Geographical extremes capture the imagination. From ancient mariners to contemporary mankind, the quest has always been to reach the poles, sail around the tips of continents, conquer the highest peaks and dive to the ultimate depths.
Insider tips: Discover the legendary 'Cape of Storms'. Stand at the Southernmost tip of Africa, where two oceans meet. Explore the historic Cape Agulhas lighthouse. Marvel at the shipwrecks that dot this rugged, beautiful coastline. Meander through the surrounding wine farms and quaint towns that tell stories of yesteryear.
Namaqua National Park
Escape to the land of contrasts, where the rigorous climate has created a myriad of life forms superbly adapted to their specific habitat. Fields of flowers, star-studded nights, quiver trees, enormous granite outcrops and the icy Atlantic are but a few wonders.
Insider tips: A great way to explore the popular Skilpad is by mountain bike. Work in a 4x4 trip on the Caracal Route to see the best views in Namaqua – from Kamiesberg to the inland dunes and along 50km of breathtaking West Coast. Check out Luiperdskloof Cottage en route.
Augrabies Falls National Park
The Khoi people called it "Aukoerebis", or place of Great Noise, as this powerful flow of water is unleashed from rocky surroundings characterised by the 18km abyss of the Orange River Gorge.
Insider tips: Chase the waterfalls, even though TLC tells you not to. Walking to the summit of Moon Rock will give you one of the best views of this park and its surroundings. Swart Rante is a must-see.
Bontebok National Park
A place of simplistic beauty and peaceful charm. The majestic Langeberg Mountains provide a picturesque backdrop for this Park of colourful riches.
Insider tips: Perfect for a day visit, although it is wonderful to overnight here and watch the Bontebok grazing from your chalet window first thing in the morning. Die Stroom is a great spot for a picnic or braai. Don’t forget to look at the birds.
Tankwa Karoo National Park
As luminous clouds of dust swirl through the ancient landscape, a tortoise patiently wanders in search of succulent morsels; a lizard basks in the sun while gemsbok and red hartebeest share the arid plains with mongoose, orb-web spiders, skinks and leggy toktokkies.
Insider tips: Accommodation in this area is top-notch. Sunsets are to die for. If you love wide open spaces and stargazing then this park is for you. Do the Tankwa Camino hike if you can. Braaivleis at night is mandatory as well as a nice local vintage from the winelands to wash it down.
Mapungubwe National Park
Mapungubwe National Park and World Heritage Site is the ideal location for anyone interested in wildlife and birds, to those in search of serenity, identity and the extraordinary history of this Park.
Insider tips: The Lost City is a must-see. The best way to explore the cultural landscape, which encompasses parts of Botswana and Zimbabwe, is on the Tour de Tuli cycling event.
That’s more than enough inspiration to get you out there. But before you leave for your day trip, overnight trip, weekend getaway or multi-day hike, stop by our online store to gear up.