Get out: National parks we love

Nature for the win

By Paula-Ann Smit

Get out: National parks we love

national parks SA

Full disclosure, I’m not a happy camper. Or any kind of camper. But I do like an adventure or two, and visiting all the South African National Parks (SANParks) is on top of my bucket list.

There are currently over 19 parks in the national park stable, and these are spread across eight of the nine provinces (sorry, KwaZulu Natal, you’ll have to travel between provinces for the park experience).

These parks are not only great for viewing game and appreciating a good old nature reserve, but also play a pretty important role in conservation. Plus, you don’t have to pay an arm and a leg to get in. Prices for day visitors range between R50 to R100 (depending on the park) for South African residents on a day visit. Accommodation is pretty nice (can I get a whoop-whoop from all the non-campers?), with chalets, cottages and even houses to choose from. Fret not, campers, there’s always a spot for you.

I still have a long way to go on the bucket list, but here’s a bit of info on five of the parks I have visited:

Camdeboo National Park: Eastern Cape

Location: Outside Graaff-Reinet

How lucky am I to live less than 5km from this stunning park? The Camdeboo is home to the Valley of Desolation, and let me tell you, the views are breath-taking. Game lovers will appreciate the majestic kudu found in these areas. Remember your hiking shoes because you won’t want to miss out on the Eastern Cape Crag Lizard Trail.

Addo Elephant National Park: Eastern Cape

Location: Sundays River Valley, near Port Elizabeth

This is by far one of my favourite parks; who doesn’t love an ellie? This is the third largest national park in South Africa, and home to over 600 elephants. Elusive lions also live in the park, but I’ve never spotted a big cat. However, game drives are available and I’m sure they know all the right spots.

Mountain Zebra National Park: Eastern Cape (are you seeing a trend?)

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Why go to an island if you can see an eland? 🦓

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Location: Outside Cradock

This park is perfect for visits during the hot Karoo summers, as day visitors can cool off in the (really nice) public pool. Beware that monkeys don’t snatch your towel though, and public pools are currently closed due to Covid-19 regulations.

Back to the animals, this park is where you can spot wildlife like never before. Emphasis on spots. At Mountain Zebra, you can track cheetahs on foot with the help of a guide.

Karoo National Park: Western Cape

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🏠 🏠 🏠

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Location: Outside Beaufort West

Some might remember big cat Sylvester, who escaped from the park in 2015 (and roamed over 350km). He was found and returned, and has since become a responsible dad (aww). Mountain bikers can enjoy the Sylvester Single Track in the camp area, named after this ‘spook’ lion.

The ongoing drought in Beaufort West is evident in this park, so make sure to use water sparingly (or even better, take your own). Nevertheless, it’s a beautiful park with loads of activities. The famous fossil trail tells the story of ancient Karoo, with fossils dating back 250-million years ago. This trail is tarred, and so is the Lammertjie Leegte Loop in the park, but I suggest going in a 4×4-friendly vehicle for the rest of the rocky area.

Table Mountain National Park: Western Cape

What would this list be without one of the Natural New 7 Wonders of the World? Those not keen for a hike need not worry: the Table Mountain Cableway will reopen on 1 September. Views of crystal seas and sunny beaches, here we come.

Looking for a SANPark near you? Head on over to