South African National Parks: 4 to Explore in the Eastern Cape

South African National Parks is like a family member, or rather 19 family members, which are scattered all over South Africa. Some big, some small, some wild.

It is only good manners to stop and visit – even if it is just for coffee or to meet the “kids” and see the new “garden” – when a family member lives en route to your next destination. Or perhaps the family member is the destination and it invites you (or you just invite yourself) to experience all it has to offer with the bonus of diving into fresh linen at night and a warm friendly welcome every single time, even if you prefer to camp out in their yard. 

But fresh linen is only the tip of the SANParks family mountain because you share the same interests with your family members, and you can chat for hours about conservation, nature, South Africa’s cultural heritage, the trees, the bees and the seas. 

You can’t choose your family, but you can choose your South African National Park.

Visit these 4 South African National Parks in the Eastern Cape

South African National Parks (SANParks) manages a system of parks – in arid, coastal, mountain and bushveld habitats – and it represents the indigenous fauna, flora, landscapes and associated cultural heritage of South Africa.  

There are four parks in the Eastern Cape, one as diverse as the other, with Addo Elephant National Park as South Africa’s third largest park – proclaimed in 1931 – stretching its conservation arms over an area of 178 000 hectares.

Have a look at the South African National Parks in the Eastern Cape and plan your next family visit. 

And for an in-depth guide and tales about our country’s parks, get yourself a copy of Roxanne Reid’s e-book: A Walk in the Park: Travels in & around South Africa’s national parks (I’m guilty of being in possession of this but still haven’t read it).

Addo Elephant National Park

It goes without saying that Addo Elephant National Park offers visitors a lot of diversity since it is home to the big seven (lion, elephant, leopard, rhino, buffalo, Southern right whale and the great white shark). There is more to the park than just the game viewing area at the main camp; there is the Zuurberg Mountains with its panoramic views, Darlington Dam for some off-road adventures and Woody Cape, where you can find the longest stretch of untouched dune fields in the Southern hemisphere. Sylvester the lion also resides in Addo Elephant National Park at Kuzuko Lodge.

South African National Parks

Nearest city/town: 50 km from Port Elizabeth.

Game drives: Visitors can enjoy self-guided game drives on the park’s clearly marked roads, opt for a guided game drive (starting from R370 per person) or even hire a hop-on guide to accompany you in your own vehicle (starting from R210 per car).

Off-road adventures: You can get on the Bedrogfontein 4×4 trail at Kabouga, about 40 km from Addo’s main camp, and drive the 45 km route towards Darlington Dam; it is graded 2-3 and can be completed within six hours. Accommodation is available at Kabouga in a cottage (R560 for the first two people) or at Mvubu campsite (R140 for the first two people). Access to the trail is R550 per vehicle per day.

Hiking trails: The Alexandria Hiking Trail is a two-day circular trail (32 km) in the Woody Cape section of Addo Elephant National Park and is R160 per person per night. For something shorter, hike the one hour or three hour trail at the Zuurberg section of the park, or the PPC Discovery Trail at the main camp which also has a 620 meter wheelchair-friendly option (day hikes are free). 

Other activities in the park: Main camp has a bird hide, a floodlit waterhole, picnic facilities and it is also the starting point for the Addo Horse Trails (starting from R470 per person).

Onsite restaurant and shop: Yes.

Swimming facilities: Pool.

Fuel station: Yes.

Day visitor braai/picnic facilities: Yes.

Camp sites: Starting from R305 per night (for the first two people).

Self-catering Accommodation: Starting from R815 per night (for the first two people).

Conservation fee: R62 per adult per day (SA citizens) and R248 per adult per day (foreign visitors). Wild Card holders do not pay the conservation fee.

Also readAnother WOW in Addo: Nyathi Rest Camp and Addo Elephant National Park – A Party in South Africa!

Watch: Nyathi getaway and other adventures in Addo.

For more info, click here.

Mountain Zebra National Park

While Mountain Zebra National Park offers visitors excellent wildlife sightings and also cheetah tracking, the scenery of lone wind pumps and mountainous landscapes, rolling plains and plateau views – stretching as far as the eye can see – as well as the Karoo silence and rock formations, just add to the Mountain Zebra experience.

South African National Parks Eastern Cape

Nearest city/town: 32 km from Cradock

Game drives: Visitors can enjoy self-guided game drives on the park’s clearly marked roads or opt for a guided game drive (starting from R202 per person) during sunrise, sunset or even in the evening to see the Park’s nocturnal animals. There is also a game drive available that will take you to see the San Cave paintings (it involves a bit or clambering over).

Off-road adventures: There are three 4×4 trails in Mountain Zebra National Park; Sonnerust (14.2 km), Juriesdam (10 km) and the more challenging, Umngeni Trail (8 km). No booking is necessary.

Hiking trails: There are no self-guided hiking trails in the park but they do offer a 3-hour guided morning walk (R303 per person), the more challenging Salpeterkop hike (R358.55 per person) and a drive and walk combo of Cheetah tracking is also an option (R363.60 per person).

Onsite restaurant and shop: Yes.

Swimming facilities: Pool

Fuel station: Yes.

Camp sites: Starting from R275 per night (for the first two people).

Self-catering Accommodation: Starting from R1175 (for the first two people).

Conservation fee: R44 per adult per day (SA citizens) and R176 per adult per day (foreign visitors). Wild Card holders do not pay the conservation fee.

For more info, click here.

Tsitsikamma (Storms River Mouth) National Park

Storms River Mouth Rest Camp forms part of Garden Route National Park that also consists of the Western Cape’s Nature’s Valley Rest Camp (De Vasselot) and Wilderness Ebb-en-Flow Rest Camp and the Knysna Lakes Section. Storms River Mouth Rest Camp is situated next to the rugged Tsitsikamma coastline that is famous for its tannin-coloured rivers, indigenous forest and unpredictable ocean. The area is known as South Africa’s adventure capital, and the rest camp is home to numerous hiking trails and it is also the start of the Otter Trail.

Tsitsikamma

Nearest city/town: 15 km from Storms River Village.

Hiking trails: Hikers are spoiled for choice in Storms River Mouth Rest Camp; there is the short 2 km  Mouth Trail that takes you to the suspension bridge, the Lourie Trail (1 km) takes hikers through indigenous forests up to the Agulhas lookout point, the Blue Duiker Trail (3.7 km) takes you through the forest while the longest one, the Waterfall Trail (6 km), goes to the a waterfall that is on the same route of the world renowned Otter Trail. One day hiking trails are free. Multi-day trails include the do-it-yourself Otter trail (42 km over 4 nights and 5 days) and the more luxurious (glampacking) Dolphin Trail (17 km over 2 days and 3 nights) which includes all meals, transportation of luggage and guesthouses as accommodation.

Other activities in the park: Kayaking and lilo adventure (starting from R500 per person for a 2-3 hour adventure), snorkeling (gear hire starts at R100 per person per hour) and scuba diving (courses are available as well as gear hire). Visit Untouched Adventures for more information.

Onsite restaurant and shop: Yes.

Swimming facilities: Pool and ocean.

Day visitor braai/picnic facilities: Yes.

Fuel station: No (nearest fuel station is at Storms River Bridge, 18 km away).

Camp sites: Starting from R300 per night (for the first two people).

Self-catering Accommodation: Starting from R555 per night (for the first two people).

Conservation fee: R49 per adult per day (SA citizens) and R196 per adult per day (foreign visitors). Wild Card holders do not pay the conservation fee.

Also readTime for some Tsitsikamma Tranquility and Let the Garden Route WOW you.

Watch: Storms River Mouth.

For more info, click here.

Camdeboo National Park

If you ever want to be in complete mouth-on-the-floor awe of South African geology, make your way to Camdeboo National Park and visit the Valley of Desolation that formed hundreds of millions of years ago. The park is popular for birdwatchers with its 250 species and while the game viewing area of Camdeboo National Park might seem small (none of the big five can be viewed here) the park actually stretches over 19 405 hectares. 

South African National Parks Eastern Cape

Nearest city/town: 5 km from Graaff-Reinet.

Game drives: Visitors can enjoy self-guided game drives on the park’s 19 km of gravel roadways and while the park does not have any of the big five animals, it boasts nearly 250 different bird species.

Off-road adventures: There are two off-road trails in Camdeboo National Park. Koedoeskloof Trail (accessed via the Valley of Desolation) is graded 3-4 and takes about 3 hours (but add a few more hours to enjoy the scenic vistas). Driekoppe Trail is easier and offers views of the Camdeboo plains and a circular hiking trail is optional if you want to spend more time in the Karoo.

Hiking trails: There is the Crag Lizzard Trail (1.5 km, 45 minutes) winds its way up to the Valley of Desolation’s viewpoints, the Eerstefontein Day Trail starts at Spandaukop gate and offers the option of a 5 km, 11 km, or 14 km route and the Gideon Scheepers Trail is an hour long walk which starts at the Gideon Scheepers Monument and ends at Barbergat. Hiking trails are free.

Other activities in the park: Visit the Valley of Desolation’s viewpoints and enjoy birdwatching on Nqweba Dam.

Fuel station: No (nearest fuel station is in Graaff-Reinet).

Camp sites: Starting from R225 per night (for the first two people).

Self-catering Accommodation: Starting from R650 per night (for the first two people).

Conservation fee: R35 per adult per day (SA citizens) and R100 per adult per day (foreign visitors). Wild Card holders do not pay the conservation fee.

Also readGraaff-Reinet: Under the Karoo’s Spell and Letters to Graaff-Reinet

For more info, click here.

South African National Parks Week – 18-22 September 2017

South African National Parks (SANParks) is in its 12th year of the South African National Parks Week which allows South African citizens to enter for free (no conservation fee) for one week, from the 18th until the 22nd of September 2017. The theme of 2017 SANParks week is “Know your National Parks” and the aim is to cultivate a sense of pride for natural and cultural heritage among South Africans. 

The majority of the parks do offer free entrance during this week for all South Africans (just take your ID along) with the exception of a few parks operating on different conditions. Click here to find out whether or not your nearest park will allow free entrance.

Inner Animal 1

Enter for “FREE” every day with your Wild Card

If you visit our South African National Parks frequently your best bet would be to invest in a Wild Card which allows you unlimited entry to more than 80 parks and reserves in South Africa (it included SANParks, Msinsi, EKZN Wildlife, Cape Nature and Swazi Cluster Parks) for one whole year at a fixed price. 

There are 3 different options: Individual (R515 per year), Couple (R845 per year for two people) and Family (R1035 for up to 7 people, maximum two adults).

With the Wild Card you don’t have to pay the daily conservation fee (even if you spend a night in a park a conservation fee still applies) and it makes it financially easier to make quick a SANParks coffee or lunch stop en route to your next destination (which is why I can’t drive past Tsitsikamma National Park).

Just to put things into perspective: if you spend a week in Kruger National Park your conservation fees for seven days will be R532 (R76 per day).

R515 per year does not seem so bad now, does it?

*SANParks and Wild Card pricing is for 2016/2017.

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