The South African National Parks (SANParks) week will be held from 22 – 28 November this year, the 16th year that the parks will provide a week of free access to the public. This is a chance for us to experience our natural heritage and explore places we have not yet visited.
The Discover Africa Group has developed a National Parks Explorer site, an easy guide to all 19 SANParks with interactive information and videos. Discover the parks best suited to your interests and enjoy a virtual trip if you are unable to visit this SANParks week.
The lesser-known parks have so much to offer, from hiking trails, to birdwatching, to a Big Five safari experience. Let’s have a look at Camdeboo, Marakele, Augrabies Falls and Agulhas, each offering unique experiences in nature.
Camdeboo National Park
Camdeboo is the only national park that surrounds a town, that of Graaff Reinet in the Karoo, and is popular with both overnight and day visitors. The Valley of Desolation is one of the big attractions, formed from lava magma over 180 million years ago. The rock has eroded to produce a haunting cathedral of pillars overlooking the town.
The dam is also popular especially in summer, and fishing is allowed. Hiking trails range from the Eerstefontain Trail (11km) to the Gideon Scheepers Trail (1km), catering for every level of walker, and there are 4×4 tracks for those wanting to test their driving skills.
The accommodation in the park is situated on the floodplains of the Nqweba Dam, where you will find Lakeview tented camp with four two-bedded rustic tents, and the Nqweba Campsites with fourteen stands to choose from. Game in this section of the park includes Eland, Kudu, Mountain Zebra, Springbok and Blesbok, and can be viewed from your own vehicle or with one of the town’s local tour guides in a game viewing vehicle.
Marakele National Park
Marakele is a 70 000 hectare park in the Waterberg region of Limpopo Province. Divided into two sections, one holds the Big Five and can be viewed from your vehicle or on an early morning or sunset game drive. The land was previously used for game farming and has been rehabilitated in an effort to restore the pristine natural environment.
Accommodation ranges from the Bontle and Tlopi rest camps, tented camps with two bed and four bed units and full self -catering facilities, to the 38 campsites with power and shared ablution blocks.
A secluded favourite is the farmhouse turned guesthouse, Motswere, a comfortable 4 bedroom house with two bathrooms and a fully equipped kitchen. The house is fenced and secure, but be aware that you will need a 4×4 vehicle for access and allow enough time to travel the 27kms from the entrance gate. There is also a lodge situated on a 23 thousand hectare private concession within the park, and this can be booked directly at www.marataba.co.za
Augrabies Falls National Park
This Northern Cape park is best known for the 56 metre high and 130 metres deep waterfall, ‘the place of great noise’. There is an impressive boardwalk that takes visitors to the falls, with six viewing decks. Game to be seen includes Eland, Kudu, Springbok and Giraffe. Catch and release fishing has been introduced, and the Dassie hiking trail is available for day visitors.
There is a 3 day, 2 night Klipspringer Trail that needs to be booked for, and it only takes place between April and October due to the extreme heat of the summer months. Mountain bikes are allowed as long as they stay on the main roads.
Accommodation includes 2 and 4 bed chalets and family cottages, and caravan and campsites are available with power and other facilities.
Agulhas National Park
Agulhas National Park can be found at the southernmost tip of Africa in the Western Cape, and is a 21 thousand hectare reserve which boasts historical sites, hiking trails and wetlands with exciting birdwatching. Walk along the boardwalk or head out on the circular hike and then retreat to your peaceful accommodation without TV and cellphone reception. The Cape Agulhas lighthouse is the second oldest on our shorelines and was built in 1848. It has 71 steps and is 27 meters high.
Beautifully renovated historic cottages and comfortable chalets make up the accommodation offering. Two and four bed chalets are found at the Agulhas Main Rest Camp 10kms from the lighthouse, facing the sea and surrounded by natural beauty. The historical Lagoon house (originally built in 1898) now boasts 4 bedrooms, two with en-suite bathrooms, and a 270 degree view of the ocean.
Renosterkop Rest Camp and cottages are situated 31kms from the Cape Agulhas lighthouse and a high clearance vehicle is recommended to reach these restored cottages with a modern touch.
Read the finer details about SANParks week, taking note of exceptions such as that Addo, Augrabies Falls, Kruger and the Tsitsikamma Section of the Garden Route National Park are only available until Friday 26 November. Table Mountain National Park also has an exception: entry to Boulders Penguin Colony is not included in SANParks week.