South African National Parks (SANParks) will be opening its 12th annual SA National Parks Week at Golden Gate Highlands National Park from 18 to 22 September 2017. This initiative in partnership with Total SA and FNB is in line with SANParks vision statement of ‘A sustainable National Park System Connecting Society’.
The week grants free access to most of the 21 national parks for day visitors, especially people from the local communities. It should be noted that free access to parks does not in include free access to accommodation facilities and other tourist activities. For more info, visit the South African National Parks Week page.
Explore nature under the cover of night
When darkness falls, there’s no more exploring to be done on your own outside of the rest camps in South Africa’s national parks. But nightfall is the time when many animals come out to play. When evening comes, don’t crawl into bed and shut your eyes just yet. While you can easily explore the trees in the rest camp with a torch at night, we looked at some other options to keep you up a little longer.
Iconic Landmarks lit up
There is a long list of famous icons visible at night. The famous Brandwag Buttress in the Golden Gate Highlands National Park, the waterfall in the Augrabies Falls National Park, and Table Mountain are a few that are visible at night. Most visitors don’t leave without an iconic photo of these gems. Next time, why not try to capture them with your camera in the moonlight? The iconic Agulhas Lighthouse in the Agulhas National Park is also spectacular after sunset.
Extra cost: No additional cost.
Keep in mind: Only overnight visitors can capture the Augrabies waterfall at night.
Sunset or night game drives
One great thing about these guided drives is that you head out of the rest camp when everyone else has to return. Parks that offer sunset and night drives are Kruger, Mapunguwe, Marakele, Addo Elephant, Karoo, Mountain Zebra, Mokala, Kgalagadi and Augrabies Falls National Parks.
Extra cost: Park dependent – contact the parks for more details.
Keep in mind: Pack snacks and something warm to keep the chill away.
Spot the stars
Most of the national parks that are further away from the city are great for starry scenes at night, especially during new moon. Parks such as the Tankwa Karoo, Kgalagadi and Richtersveld offer the best views of the stars, but many others also have spectacular stars at night.
Cost: No cost.
Keep in mind: Pack that tripod, torch and shutter release cable if you have one.
Get the muscles moving during full moon
Do you fancy a hike or something even more extreme? If you find yourself in the Mother City, hike up Lion’s Head in the Table Mountain National Park during full moon. It has become a popular bucket list activity that is enjoyed by many people every month. For something more extreme, join the Desert Knights MTB Tour (happening in April and September annually), a canoe and cycling event in the Richtersveld. The cycling section takes place at night. In October every year, the Augrabies Falls National Park is the place for endurance runners, where the Kahalari Augrabies Extreme Marathon (KAEM) is staged over 250km in moonlight.
Cost: Free to hike Lion’s Head, R15 000 for the Desert Knights and R22 750 for the KAEM.
Enquiries: www.desertknights-mtb.com, www.kaem.co.za
Keep in mind: The extreme events are not for the faint-hearted and a medical certificate might be required. If you plan a hike up Lion’s Head at night, leave your dog and alcohol behind, wear sturdy hiking shoes and stay on the designated footpaths.
Don’t just listen to the roar of the lions and the laugh of the hyenas nearby, watch them from the comfort of an underground hide. The main rest camp in the Addo Elephant National Park boasts an underground hide with a floodlit view, allowing closer encounters with wildlife.
Cost: No additional cost.
Get a bird’s eye view
Ever fancied a night high above the ground? Sleeping in a tree offers a great vantage point for watching nocturnal game, stargazing and even birding. If you want to experience the bush up close and personal at night, there are a few options for you. The Garden Route National Park offers a luxury treetop chalet in Knysna while Mokala National Park has the Kameeldorn Tree House.
Cost: Knysna’s Treetop chalet from R1245 per night while Kameeldoorn will cost R1100 for the night. Prices are for two people and subject to change.
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Words by René de Klerk
Photograph by Paul Sutton