The Best Parks and Reserves in South Africa

South Africa, as a landscape, has diversity in spades. You have both the Kalahari Desert and the Bushveld, and you have both beautiful beaches and snow-topped mountains. If you want to get the absolute best from the country, you’ll have to visit its parks and reserves.

A showcase for the most stunning locations, each park is different and each park is incredible. If you’re hoping to see some of the famous Big Five, you’ll have to go to a reserve. Here are some of the best.

Watching the Wildlife – Kruger National Park

Bordering Zimbabwe and Mozambique, the Kruger Park stretches for roughly 20,000 km2. It is home to the Big Five – Lion, Rhino, Buffalo, Leopard and Elephant – so if you’re hoping to catch them all (not in a Pokémon sort of way), this is the place for you.

The world’s largest population of rhinos lives in this Wales-size piece of land, alongside 145 other species of mammals. Come in winter – animals herd together at watering holes, the lack of vegetation will help you see more clearly, and the risk of malaria is greatly decreased.

African elephant
Kruger National ParkArno Meintjes Wildlife / / CC BY-NC

Hollywood Sunset – Golden Gate Highlands National Park

The Golden Gate Highlands are situated at the feet of the Maluti Mountains, 200 miles or so northeast of Bloemfontein. You’ll be able to see antelope bouncing around the gorgeous grasslands as the sandstone cliffs stretch off into the distance.

The park gets its name from the golden lustre given off as the sun hits these cliffs – it is a truly beautiful sight, so make sure you come along as the sun is setting, sometime between December and March. Divine.

Brandwag Butress, Golden Gate Highlands National Park
Golden Gate Highlands National ParkKleinz1 / / CC BY-NC-ND

Get Active – Table Mountain National Park

There’s a whole lot of activities just waiting to be completed in this national park not far from Cape Town, one of South Africa’s three (three!) capitals. Stretching from Table Mountain, down the Cape Peninsula, all the way to the Cape of Good Hope, the area is certainly sizeable.

So what can you do here? Well, that choice, my friend, is entirely up to you! Fancy taking to the skies? Then take a tandem paraglide trip from the 669m high Lion’s Head! Like climbing? Then try hiking up Table Mountain! Maybe you’re very much into your flowers? In that case, you’ll love the Kirstenbosch Botanic Gardens!

Tablemountain kabelkar
Table Mountain National / CC BY-SA

Basically, whatever you like to do, South Africa has you covered. Check out, book your flights, then get over there – you won’t regret it!

Head to the Beach – iSimangaliso Wetland Park

iSimangaliso means “miracle” in Zulu – a very apt name for the 3000-odd km2 World Heritage Site. With eight different ecosystems, you can explore everything from swamp forests and coral reefs to estuaries and lakes. You can kayak, ride horses, dive, watch whales and more, but what you really want to make the most of is the coastline.

Grooming Kudu bull, Isimangaliso Wetland Park
iSimangaliso Wetland ParkPim Stouten / / CC BY-NC

With more than 200 kilometres of beautiful beaches fronting onto the temperate Indian Ocean, you are spoilt for choice as to where to lay down the towel. It’s gorgeous, so come on out and soak up the sun!

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