By South African Tourism
The Kruger. Addo Elephant. Golden Gate. These iconic names conjure images of majestic wildlife, indigenous flora and fauna and glorious sunsets. In September, South Africans have the chance to enjoy 19 of South Africa’s most beautiful national parks for free during the South African National Parks Week (SANPW) between 8-15 September 2019. And for the first time, the week-long celebration will extend free access until Sunday instead of the Friday, as was previously done in the past.
With its theme, Know Your National Parks, SANParks looks to encourage and restore national pride in these areas. SANPW takes place in Tourism Month, and just before Sho’t Left Travel Week, which takes place from 23-29 September.
South African Tourism’s Hub Head: South Africa, Mashoto Mokgethi believes that increasing access to national parks will provide South Africans the impetus to travel and explore their own country. “SANPW complements South African Tourism’s mandate of getting South Africans to explore their own country. One of the barriers to domestic travel is cost and by making these parks free and accessible will encourage locals to travel and discover the richness of their own land.”
“The first five months of 2019 has seen a steady increase in domestic travel when compared to last year, and the SANPW along with Sho’t Left Travel Week will further stimulate domestic travel and ensure we push towards our 5-in-5 objective of increasing domestic holiday trips by a further one million by 2021.”
Here are some of the best parks to visit during South African National Parks Week.
Bontebok National Park
Parks Weekwill be launched atBontebok National Parkin the Western Cape and according to SANParks, it is a place of simplistic beauty and peaceful charm. The majestic Langeberg Mountains provide a picturesque backdrop for this Park of colourful riches. Named after the bontebok that can be found in abundance at the park, Bontebok is a great place to unwind with your family for the day.
Picnic at the Die Stroom, which is the name given to the banks of the Breede River. If you wish to extend your stay, you can pitch a tent or caravan under the stars with great views of the Breede River. Besides bontebok, grey rhebuck, red hartebees as well as many smaller mammals can be found there.
Golden Gate Highlands National Park
Situated just 18 kilometres from Clarens in the eastern Free State the Golden Gate Highlands National Parkis one of South Africa’s greatest unsung tourist attractions. Incorporating the colossal Maluti Mountains, the park is great for hiking, horse riding, and exploring caves. And there is no greater way for South Africans to get in touch with their heritage than through The Basotho Cultural Village.
This 18th century styled village will allow you to try out Sotho cuisine, the traditional sorghum beer umqombothi. You’ll also get a chance to meet the chief, his wives and the village’s traditional healer. Other attractions near Golden Gate Highlands National Park include white water rafting, Quad and motor bike trails, paint ball shooting and when it snows, skiing.
Camdeboo National Park
Camdeboo National Park, which surrounds the historic town of Graaff-Reinet in the Eastern Cape, is home to one of the world’s most unique landscapes. Formed hundreds of millions of years ago, this 14 500ha park lies up against the foothills of the Sneeuberg range. An estimated 100 000 people visit the Valley of Desolation to marvel at the dolerite pillars that have formed there.
Augrabies Falls National Park
Stand on one of the viewpoints at the Augrabies Falls and just savour the beautiful noise from the waters crashing into the 18-kilometre abyss of the Orange River Gorge. The Khoi people called it “Aukoerebis”, place of Great Noise and for good reason. We may not know the decibels but the roar of the water is deafening.
Mountain bikes are allowed inside the park provided cyclists remain on the official roads. If you have a 4×4, hit the Wilderness Road, a 94-kilometre stretch of endless beauty. There is a scenic picnic spot halfway along the road with ablution and braai facilities.
For a full list of parks participating in National Parks Week, visit www.sanparks.org