SA National Parks Week begins today and South Africans can visit various national parks for free. Kruger, Addo, Augrabies, Agulhas, Table Mountain in the Cape and the Tsitsikamma section of the Garden Route have free access until Friday. All the other parks will be open until Sunday, except for Boulders National Park which is excluded from the free access week.
Although nearly 600,000 people have visited national parks free since the programme began in 2006, due to the Covid pandemic the number of free access guests will be subject to gate quotas. So, you’ll have to get in early if you want to beat the rush.
As the country’s third-largest park after Kruger and Kgalagadi, according to SANParks, Addo in the Eastern Cape has all the megafauna and much of the predator species one could hope for. And it is home to the largest remaining population of dung beetles.
It’s also home to the most relaxed elephants you’ll have the pleasure of seeing.
Unlike their cousins in Kruger who have generational memories of being hunted and poached, the Addo elephants have been largely isolated from the horrors of humans.
The park was proclaimed in 1931 to protect the 11 elephants left in the area, and the population has since expanded to more than 600.
The Addo elephants are believed to be of the same general species, although only the bulls grow tusks.
For twitchers there are more than 400 species, many of which are endemic to the area. It’s the only park in the country which offers the “Big Seven”: elephant, lion, leopard, rhino, Cape buffalo, the Southern Right whale and Great White shark. The last two come courtesy of Addo’s marine section in Algoa Bay.
And the dung beetle? Instead of wings under its hard shell, it uses this space for carbon dioxide storage which creates a unique breathing system which allows it to conserve water.
Parks for the people
- SANParks was formed in 1926.
- It currently manages 19 parks consisting of 3 751 113 hectares.
- This is over 3% of the total area of South Africa.
- Kruger National Park is the largest of SA’s wildlife reserves.