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19 Day trips to take in the South African National Parks

West Coast National Park

Just a quick visit

By René de Klerk

Photographs by Petro Kotze

Looking to head out to the parks this holiday seasons but haven’t made a booking? Don’t fret. Simply pack the car and head to one of your favourite national parks for the day.

1. For an active day – Golden Gate Highlands National Park

Park at reception, get a permit and take a hike up the famous Brandwag Buttress. The hike is not too strenuous, but the last section is quite steep. Set aside about two hours to get up and down.

Remember:  Water and sunscreen. The weather is unpredictable, so be prepared.

2. Spectacular views and soaring vultures – Marakele National Park

Take a drive up the Lenong Viewpoint. Look out for the Cape vultures flying overhead. They nest nearby so your patience might be rewarded.  Set aside about an hour to get there.

Remember: Binoculars

Marakele National Park

3. Meet the neighbours – Mapungubwe National Park

The confluence and viewing decks are a great choice for a laid back day. The Shashe and Limpopo Rivers meet here, uniting South Africa, Zimbabwe and Botswana.

Remember: Picnic basket

4. Relaxed game drive and picnic – Addo Elephant National Park

Head towards Jack’s Picnic Spot, a lovely picnic site tucked away in a botanical reserve inside the main game area. The spots are semi-private and also attract a variety of bird species. It will take at least 30 minutes to get there.

Remember: Picnic basket.

Addo Elephant National Park

5. A view from the top – Karoo National Park

Book a guided walk up the Pointer Hiking Trail. The trail culminates in a spectacular viewpoint overlooking the Karoo scenery.

Price: R210 per personka

Remember: Water, sunscreen and suitable shoes

Karoo National Park

6. Ancient art – Mountain Zebra National Park

Spend time on foot visiting some of the park’s cultural heritage sites. The San people left evidence of their lives in a number of rock shelters in the park.

Price: R202 for adults and R101 for children under 12.

Remember:  Water and sunscreen.

7. A view over the valley – Camdeboo National Park

The spectacular scenery of the Valley of Desolation and Toposcope attracts large amounts of visitors annually. Walk the Crag Lizards Trail while you are there to truly appreciate the beauty.

Remember: Water, sunscreen and suitable shoes

Camdeboo National Park

8. A (board) walk to remember – Augrabies Falls National park

The main attraction in the park is the waterfall. Explore it via the boardwalk along the gorge. Stop at the main waterfall and the Twin Falls.  Watch out for the cute rock hyrax along the way.

Remember: The camera.

Augrabies Falls National park

9. Imprints in stone – Ai/Ais-Richtersveld Transfrontier Park

If you find yourself passing through the park on the way to Namibia, take a detour and see the Hand of God. It is approximately 15km from Sendelingsdrift and is a giant boulder with a handprint on it.

Remember: You need a 4×4 to drive in the park

Ais-Richtersveld Transfrontier Park

10. Historic times – Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park

Auchterlonie about 35km from Twee Rivieren is the spot to be if you want to learn more about the park. It is the perfect distance to travel and still have time for photos if you enter as a day visitor.

Remember:  A high rise vehicle is preferred.

11. Endangered species – Mokala Natioanl park

This park is home to sable, tsessebe, roan and disease free buffalo. See if you can find all of them in a day.

Remember:  Arrive early to make the most of your day.

12. Expolore the coast – Namaqua National Park

Think historical caves, seal colonies, rocky shores and white sandy beaches when you opt for a drive on the Caracal Eco Route.  It is a 4×4 route with some very sandy sections.

Remember: Check route options beforehand as the entire trail can take eight hours or more.

Namaqua National Park

13. Hike the famous icon – Table Mountain National Park

Instead of taking the cable car to the top, take a hike to the top via the Platteklip Gorge. You will get a lovely view of Cape Town from the top, but it is also the most steep, direct route.

Remember: Good hiking shoes and relative good fitness levels.

 14. Birds of a feather – West Coast National Park

This park is a birder’s paradise with a handful of hides to enjoy waders from. When you are tired of sitting, take a drive around for different bird species in the fynbos vegetation.

 West Coast National Park

15. Lighthouse and walk – Agulhas National Park

First take in the history of the lighthouse before taking the steep stairway to the top. From here you can really appreciate the views of the surroundings.

Price: R28 for adults and R14 for children under 12.

Remember: Also visit the southernmost point of Africa.

Agulhas National Park

16. Laid back day – Bontebok National park

Die Stroom Day visitors area is ideal for a laid back family day right on the banks of the Breede River.

Pack the picnic basket, bring the fishing rods and remember the swimwear.

Remember: Bring your own braai grid.

17. Gannaga Pass – Tankwa Karoo National Park

If you find yourself in the vicinity and need a fun roadtrip, head in the direction of the Gannaga Pass. Experience the striking contrasts between the top of the Roggeveld Mountains and the Tankwa Karoo plains below.

Remember:  Distances are vast

Tankwa Karoo National Park

18. Moments with giants – Garden Route National Park

Spend some time in the forest and visit some of the giants that still stand today. There is the Woodville Big Tree in Wilderness, the Diepwalle Big Tree in Knysna and the Tsitsikamma Forest Big Tree. All of these Outeniqua Yellowwoods will leave you in awe at their sheer size.

Price: R16 for adults and R9 for children

Garden Route National Park

19. Roadtrip where the game viewing is rich – Kruger National Park

Get to Crocodile Bridge Gate as it opens. Pack padkos for the drive along the S28 dirt road past Ntandanyathi Dam. Stop in for lunch at Lower Sabie or Mlondozi Dam Picnic Site. Head back along the H4-2 tar road and take a detour via Hippo Pools before you head back out the gate. With only a day in the park, an area such as this where game viewing is best.

Remember: Picnic basket

Keep in mind

A Wildcard will give you free entry. Alternatively visit www.sanparks.org for park entrance fees.

Disclaimer: All prices were correct at time of publication.

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