Tis’ the season once again, and for South Africans that means it’s summertime and the weather is fine! As people look for vacation trips that are a little closer to home but still offer the same chances to relax, unwind, and discover new experiences, this summer holiday presents the perfect opportunity for South Africans to visit the country’s beautiful array of national parks. South Africa’s stunningly diverse 21 national parks provide travellers with the ability to escape from the bustling, buzzing, and always connected life within the city into the tranquillity of nature. They also offer travellers a chance to experience activities such as game viewing, bush walks, or canoeing while providing exposure to a number of different cultural and historical experiences.
With retail facilities, restaurants, camping, and accommodation, visitors can choose to enjoy either a day outing into the extraordinary wilderness or stay overnight in the more than 6 000 beds and 10 000 camping and caravan sites able to accommodate nearly 12 000 overnight guests. “People today are increasingly prioritizing and adopting more sustainable lifestyles and nature-based travel and experiences present a unique way to connect with the wonders of South Africa’s beautiful landscapes, flora, fauna, and wildlife,” says Debra Addison, Communications Director at Wild Africa Fund. “This is particularly true for young people who are the most socially and environmentally conscious generations as they’re looking to enjoy new experiences that are as good for the environment as they are for them.”
Established to conserve our country’s unique biodiversity, protect crucial environmental ecosystems, and encourage the appreciation of nature whilst also driving the growth of our economy, South Africa’s national parks play a vital role in ensuring we preserve the wellbeing of communities and usher in a sustainable future. “Not only are our parks idyllic and picturesque, but they also play a big role in the conservation and restoration of these vast and panoramic areas of wilderness and natural beauty,” adds Addison. “Our national parks are some of the best funded in the country, but only 25% of their income is state-funded while 75% is driven by tourism. As such, the conservation work they do is mainly supported by tourists and as locals we need to take an active interest in supporting this work. By simply visiting our parks, we can help to ensure the resilience and sustainability of the local communities which surround them while also protecting the environment and local wildlife.”
To help South Africans take the opportunity to explore the distinct features, wildlife, and landscapes of South Africa’s most beautiful nature reserves, we’ve compiled this list of the most unique and lesser-known national parks to travel to this Christmas:
Addo Elephant National Park
The third largest game reserve in the country, Addo not only offers visitors the chance to view the parks’ large herds of elephants but also the Big Five. Founded in 1931 with the purpose of protecting the remaining 11 elephants in the area, the reserve now counts more than 600 elephants as its residents. Situated close to Gqeberha in the Eastern Cape, the park boasts a range of accommodation, including Addo rest camp which offers proximity to a waterhole enabling close encounters with local wildlife. Visitors are able to take part in activities such as game drives, relax at the titular Addo Indlovu Spa, or take a marine eco tour as the park’s presence near the coast allows travellers to visit Algoa Bay and go whale watching or see White Sharks. Additionally, the park has hiking and 4×4 trails for the adventurous to take advantage of.