Parks & Wilderness Areas, Western Cape
Parks & Wilderness Areas of South Africa
The nature of South Africa's conserved areas varies enormously. Many are rugged wilderness areas that are the preserve of hardy mountaineers. Others, particularly those around the dams and populated areas, are easily accessible to all.
There are wonderful botanical gardens and green corridors in the big cities. Some are playgrounds or places to sit with binoculars and watch the birds and the world go by. Most boast captivating landscapes and geological formations or host unique flora or fauna. Many are devoted to preserving rock art and other examples of the country’s rich cultural heritage.
It’s the big game parks that attract the most visitors. The Kruger National Park and KwaZulu-Natal reserves are perhaps the best known of this type, but there are numerous other reserves in Mpumalanga, Limpopo, North West and Eastern Cape where you can see the Big 5.
Although game viewing is also popular in the Northern and Western Cape, the reserves in these provinces are as much about the spectacular scenery, open spaces, starry skies and extraordinary spring flower displays.
Many of the reserves are steeped in history. Historic battlefields are a feature of many of the reserves in KwaZulu-Natal. The province’s Drakensberg Mountains are a veritable outdoor gallery, home to the largest collection of bushman rock art in the world. There is also a high concentration of magnificent paintings in caves throughout the Cederberg Wilderness area. Sites like Mapungubwe National Park are as famous for their archaeological treasures as for their natural heritage. So, whaterver your interests, there is bound to be something to suite your taste.
Articles & Blogs
SA indigenous forest treasure in running for European funding8:52pm 15 Oct
Words Nadia Krige, pics Guillaume Marais
Hidden among the farmlands and fynbos-rich folded mountains of the Southern Cape, lies one of South Africa’s best kept natural secrets: a 15 000ha stretch of land set aside for the conservation of indigenous flora and fauna, of which about 760ha consists of towering, lush Afromontane forest.
Known as the Grootvadersbosch forests, this treasure of indigenous vegetation is home to an astounding diversity of species – from rare birds to endemic frogs and butterflies, and all sorts of creatures in between – making it a...
Take It Easy6:49pm 29 Mar
Words Bridgena Barnard
Why go away if all you want to do is read a book? It’s a question I’ve often been asked, and the answer is obvious: I have a family to consider. So while I was looking for a relaxed weekend to recharge, my nearest and dearest, who had no interest in being transferred to a world of dragons, heroes and romance, had other priorities.
Comfortably seated in a deck chair on the balcony of our log cabin at Lang Elsies Kraal cottage, I paid no attention to my family’s pleas of “I am hungry” or “What are we going to braai tonight?”. Accompanied by bird song and...
Bay of Plenty8:08pm 1 Feb
Words Jade Cooke
Whales just off shore, endemic fynbos as far as the eye can see and a pick-and-mix itinerary of adventure activities make a visit to Grootbos Private Nature Reserve in Walker Bay, frankly, mandatory.
He (or she – it’s not exactly easy to tell) surfaces not five metres from the boat, water streaming down the smooth skin of his (or, again, her) exposed back. Even the mild seasickness I’m inexplicably experiencing for the first time in my life can’t mar this astonishing moment: an adult southern right whale just popping over to say hi on a...
Karoo Back Roads7:14pm 18 Dec
Words and pics Romi Boom
On a three-night breakaway to Karoo National Park, you’ll be able to explore its furthest reaches. Game is plentiful and birding is rewarding, but it’s the vastness that will leave you giddy on atmosphere and beauty.
From the stoep of Embizweni cottage, at sunset, the flat-topped Nuweveld Mountains gradually turned pink, then lilac, then violet. A universe away from city life, the Karoo National Park had been a non-stop visual feast since I’d arrived in the early afternoon. Within minutes I’d spotted Verreaux’s eagles gliding on...
Bontebok National Park9:30am 2 Dec
Bontebok National Park
Perhaps illegally, we’re still unsure, the trip into South Africa’s smallest national park allowed us to exit our vehicle and stalk bontebok for some interesting photographs. We parked on a muddy shoulder that had been cleared by herds of grazing antelope instead of cars, and began moving toward the bontebok. They made little “whoop whoop” noises in warning to one another, but only retreated when we got within thirty metres or so. We stood and watched for what seemed like hours, and what eventually chased us back to our car was an advancing...
Goukamma Lodges6:30am 21 Jul
Nestled in the picturesque Goukamma Nature Reserve sits Buffalo Valley, the site of three new fully-equipped self-catering timber lodges from CapeNature. Able to sleep between four to six people, the lodges are equipped with fireplaces, sundecks, solar-powered lights and gas appliances. They’re both comfortable year round and environmentally sustainable. Just two kilometres upstream from the Indian Ocean, the new accommodation offers safe seclusion in the 175-hectare conservation area and a wealth of activities for the whole family: the Buffalo Valley area includes a...
West Coast National Park8:30am 12 Jul
West Coast National Park
The West Coast National Park is one of our favourite haunts. An hour’s drive from Cape Town centre – this landscape is a literal goldmine of fynbos and wetland biodiversity. f/8, 1/800 sec, ISO-200, 18mm focal length.
Agulhas for 89:55pm 26 Jun
“I wish we could stay for a week,” sighs my friend Heather. We have just arrived at Lagoon House in Agulhas National Park for a weekend and already we are wondering how we can extend our time here. How suspicious would the boss be if we called in sick on Monday?
Situated at the tip of a small peninsula known as Pietie se Punt to the locals, Lagoon House looks out onto the rocky shoreline and...
SANParks Smitswinkel Bay Tented Camp6:30am 26 Mar
SANParks Smitswinkel Bay Tented Camp
Natalie Roos for Cape Town Tourism
A few weekends ago, a couple of friends and I set off to spend the night at the SANParks tented camp at Smitswinkel, just a short walk and a relatively easy amble down the mountain from Cape Point.
The SANParks tented camp at Smitswinkel is luxury camping at its absolute finest. Each fixed tented unit comes equipped with two single beds with comfortable mattresses, electricity, reading lights and an en suite bathroom with a hot shower. The units also have a small...
Merry-Go-Round9:55pm 16 Mar
Words & pics Ron Swilling
Somewhere between Cape Agulhas and Cape Point, between small coastal villages, agricultural land and pine plantations, lie 18000 hectares of pristine veld pulsating with wild energy. Four friends and I took the chance to escape the complexities of life for a day of walking in this.
I entertained the deliciously evocative word ‘heart-land’ as we entered Kogelberg Nature Reserve, anticipating time spent in the...
Easter Holidays at De Hoop 20142:00pm 3 Mar
With a delectable variety of accommodation and activities, De Hoop Nature Reserve is a winner when it comes to guests who like to be spoilt for choice.
During the Easter school holidays, the kids can enjoy a fun-filled Nature Quest, some creative baking, clay modelling, a Marine Walk at low tide, a delicious Kiddies Picnic, the exciting Night Adventurer and Star Stories and Smores under the night sky. Parents can enjoy some well-earned relaxing Spa treatments, some quiet time walking around the magnificent reserve, go on guided birding walks or ocean side discovery trails....
Cape Point6:45am 7 Jan
A Nature Lover at Cape Point
To experience Mother nature in the mother city, I go to Cape Point. Nothing beats spending the day watching wild waves leap against rocky mountain cliffs, spotting lazy seals, (or even a breaching Southern Right whale in winter) and breathing in salty clean air while the wind tangles my tresses and sings through my ears.
Containing more than 11000 plant species, Cape Point (Table Mountain National Park) is the smallest but richest of the Worlds six floral kingdoms. The unique merging of two ocean currents, the Cold Benguela...
Natural Thrills4:45am 6 Dec
Words Bongani Mgayi, pics Riaan Vermeulen.
This school holiday my family and I disappeared into the Little Karoo, far away from the lights of the city, submitting ourselves to the mountains, veld and wild things of Anysberg Nature Reserve. We arrived at twilight, the old symbol of the Karoo, the windmill, ushering us in as we swung open the main gate into the reserve. A curious jackal and a herd of kudu joined the welcome party, immediately...
Over the Hills4:45am 22 Nov
Words Lisa van Aswegen, Pics Alfred Lor, Roger de la Harpe/Africa Imagery/Africa Media
‘We can see the dunes, we simply have to be near the sea!’ my friend kept saying as we drove a gravel road marked ‘to Koppie Alleen’, hoping that this would be the route to get us down to the beach. Our first turn-off took us to De Mond, and what met us was an imposing gated fence with stern signs. A U-turn it was. Now, driving over hill after hill, we were hoping to see...
Walker Bay Fisherman's Trail6:45am 21 Nov
The Walker Bay Nature Reserve comprises five coastal sections between Hermanus and Die Dam, near Struisbaai. Walker Bay is the largest of these and has a coastline of 17km. It features a long beach, Die Plaat, with white sands and rocky limestone outcrops.
The Fisherman’s Trail may well be designated a 4x4 route, but the main reason for going here is the long unspoilt beaches and the air of solitude. We went there on a fine spring morning. Not only were we the only tracks in, but we also drove over our own, undisturbed tracks going out!
The sand track runs for just over...
Fountain Shack11:55am 11 Nov
Adventurer Scott Ramsay is spending a year travelling to South Africa’s most special parks and reserves. He recently spent the night in Fountain Shack, a rustic fisherman’s cottage on the Robberg Peninsula. The cottage looks out onto a rocky island and white-capped waves. “Wake up to this view and try be in a bad mood – I promise you, it’s impossible,” Scott says. Fountain Shack is the only accommodation option in the Robberg Nature Reserve, so if you spend the night here, you’ll have the reserve to yourself. There are rain tanks for water and solar panels for light – you’ll have to carry...
Exploring Bontebok National Park7:49am 8 May
My Bontebok National Park getaway
My exploratory adventures with South African National Parks continues this chilly season and if I thought that quad biking along the West Coast in April was thrilling, I clearly had not seen anything yet.
On an educational tour of Bontebok National Park, South Africa’s tiniest park on the outskirts of Swellendam, I discovered why this wonderful reserve is a must-visit for adventure lovers.
Whether you’re ziplining across the Buffeljachts Dam, putting your taste buds to...
Destination De Mond9:47pm 2 Apr
Words and pics by Kate Collins
A Cape hare with large soft eyes welcomed me to De Mond Nature Reserve. The hare soon disappeared into surrounding fynbos, a special reminder of inhabitants that frequent protected areas. While not as well known as other seaside destinations in the area, for example Arniston, Struisbaai and Agulhas, De Mond offers magnificent scenery and a variety of activities.
The reserve, though small and cosy,...
Year in the Wild: West Coast National Park8:35am 8 Feb
By Scott Ramsay
First there’s the smell, then the sound and, finally, you see them. Skipper William Brink from West Coast National Park was guiding the rubber duck across the swell. We were headed to Malgas Island, several kilometres offshore from the town of Langebaan, where about 30 000 pairs of Cape gannets nest, breed, squabble … and poo. William positioned the boat alongside the jetty, I looked at him, and he just laughed. ‘Don’t worry, you...