Safari and Trekking South Africa
Safari and Trekking in South Africa
South Africa has a broad spectrum of varying nature from a diverse coast, deserts, savannahs, and mountainous areas and has a good tourist infrastructure, with a lot to offer travellers interested in nature. Over 500 reserves total 642,000 km², an area larger than Spain and Portugal combined.
Trekking tours are popular in the Drakenstein Mountains, in the Kwa Zulu Natal province, with a terrain of up to 3,500m altitude and 1,000 km length in the east of South Africa. There are countless spectacular tracks .
Many of the South African national parks offer excellent trekking tours and walking safaris on so-called nature trails. Some parks also offer the opportunity to use a mountain-bike for a trek through the wilderness. All activities such as safaris, hiking tours, trekking tours, and any outdoor activities are normally organised through the national park management, who accept all the bookings. The internet address of the South African parks management is http://www.sanparks.org.
Flight connections: Nearly all major European airlines fly to South Africa. Most connections go to Johannesburg and Cape Town.
Germany offers direct flights from Frankfurt and Munich to Johannesburg with Lufthansa and South African Airways.
The park management of South Africa has set up a website for queries and bookings of accommodation and camping grounds.
Cape region, Garden route and southern provinces of South Africa
- Addo Elephant National Park
The Addo Elephant National Park is based in Eastern Cape province, 70 km from Port Elizabeth, and has within an area of 1,649 km² the most densely populated elephant herds of southern Africa. At the moment there are about 450 elephants and the animals have reached their biological maximum for the space available. Discussions are in process on how and whether to extend the park. Lions were introduced to the park in 2003 and black rhinos are also numerous. The coast-line within the park offers whale watching, and the great white shark is also present. The national park offers trekkers the opportunity to explore the wilderness by horseback and there are two horseback safari trails to choose from.
Trekking is available with the Alexandria Hiking Trail, a two day round trip with a total length of 36 km. The trek follows coastal forests over the beach to the cliffs and on to Langebos hut which only provides shelter. Trekkers need to carry all equipment and provisions. Bookings can be made with the park management.
- Agulhas National Park
Trekkers can hike all the way to the most southern spot of the continent using various pathways. Several so-called nature trails offer insight to the extremely diverse flora of the park. With much luck, one might see whales at the convergence of the Atlantic and Pacific oceans.
- Bontebok National Park
Bontebok National Park, at Westkap province is about 240 km from Cape Town and has an area of 27.6 km². The park gives shelter mainly to the bontebok antilope, which has grown from the last 17 animals of this species to about 3,000 animals. The base camp is on the shores of Breede river and several hiking trails for walking safaris start from there. There are kayak tours on the river as well as a swimming hole.
- Camdeboo National Park
Camdeboo National Park is located in the eastern Cape region in the middle of the Karoo and rises to an altitude of 1480m at the base of the Sneeuberg Range. The park offers a few interesting trails and trekking tours:
Craig Lizard Trail (45 min) starts at the parking area in the valley;
Eerstefontain day walk with three trip options ranging from 5, 11, and 14 km in length;
Driekoppe Trail: The trail offers a trekking tour over two days. Accommodation is available in a hut, which must be pre-booked with the park management;
- Knysna National Lake Area
The park is based in the centre of the ‘Garden Route’ near a lagoon. The seascape is a unique wetland and offers very nice and long trails for tourists wanting active holidays. Otteniqua trail starts at Beervlei, is 108 km long, and leads through the Diepwalle and Gouna forests. South African Parks Management offer a brochure with a description of the route (link://www.sanparks.org/parks/knysa/tourism/activities.php). A further hiking opportunity is afforded by the Mathee Trail which follows the old trails of the wood cutters and miners.
- Table Mountain National Park
Table Mountain National Park incorporates the Cape of Good Hope as well as Table Mountain. Fauna and flora cover most diverse habitats with mountains, coastal areas, forests, and the sea. Hikers and outdoor aficionados can choose between activities from mountain biking to high sea fishing, paragliding to rock climbing; and there are a few interesting trails like the Hoerikwaggo, a hike over several days – and Cape of Good Hope Trails. Reservations can be made through the park management.
- Tsitsikamma National Park
Tsitsikamma National Park extends for 100 km along South Africa’s coast and surrounds not only the last remains of the primeval coastal forest, but also the coastal region and the sea to 5 km offshore. The park can be reached by sealed road from Cape Town (615 km) or Port Elizabeth (195 km).
The park is known for longer trekking tours over several days – ideal for safari tours through varied natural surroundings. The following trails are offered in Tsitsikamma and can be booked through the park management. Overnight stays take place in huts and camping grounds within the park:
Otter Trail – 5 days, 4 nights, 42 km
Dolphin Trail – 4 days, 3 nights
Several nature trails from 1-3 hours
Tsitsikamma Trail – 6 days, 5 nights
- Wilderness National Park
Wilderness National Park lies in the centre of South Africa’s Garden Route, 450 km east of Cape Town and 410 km west of Port Elizabeth. The area covers forests, lakes, mountains, the coast line, and a coastal strip of sea. The park is ideal for bird watching, and with luck, whales and dolphins may also be seen. In addition to hiking trails, there are canoe trips, mountain bike tours, fishing and kloofing (abseiling into a waterfall) expeditions.
The following trekking trails are available:
Half Collared Kingfisher Trail 1 -3 hours, 2 km
Giant King Fisher Trail, 3 -4 hours, 3.5 km
Pied Kingfisher Trail, 3 -4 hours, 10 km
Brown Hooded Kingfisher Trail, 2 -3 hours, 5 km
Cape Dune Nolerat Trail, 2 -3 hours, 3 km
Campervans stay at camping grounds and a camp with huts is also available.
Northwest and western South Africa
- Augrabies Falls National Park
The town of Upington is the point of departure for trips through Augrabies Falls National Park. The park winds along the Orange River on the border between South Africa and Namibia and encompasses an area of 820 km². The area provides for excellent trekking tours. Several trails are offered for a relaxed adventure – there are no lions in the park.
Klipspringer Hiking Trail lasts for three days and two nights (during April to September);
Dassie Nature Trail is a 5km circular trail which can be managed without a guide;
Mountain biking is also possible and the park has a few bikes for rent, although it is advisable to bring your own due to the limited numbers.
- Kgalagadi Transfrontier National Park
Kgalagadi Transfrontier National Park is based in the Kalahari desert on the borders of South Africa, Botswana and Namibia. Upington is the point of departure, about 200 km away. It is possible to cross the borders within the park.
Trekking and hiking tours are not possible due to the well known lions of the Kalahari. The park offers many permanent camps. Safari by organised jeep is possible and advisable.
- Marakele National Park
Marakele National Park (450 km²) is based in the Waterberg mountains, near the border with Botswana. The reserve is home to both rhino species in reasonable numbers. Park management offers so-called bush walks. Accommodation options include a camping ground and a permanent tented camp.
- Pilanesberg Game Reserve
Pilanesberg Game Reserve lies 110 km north east of Pretoria in North West province and unites large animal life (Big Five) with the extraordinary landscape of Pilanes Mountain. Sun City is nearby and offers alternative entertainment for the visitor tired of nature. The park offers plenty of accommodation, and night safaris are popular to spot lions and leopards. Lions were reintroduced in 1995 and have established well in the park. The park is close to Sun City, and a four hour drive away from Johannesburg Intenational airport.
- Namaqua National Park
Namaqua National Park (686 km²) is based in the Northern Cape province, near the town of Springbok, about 490 km from Cape Town. Trekking and hiking tours are interesting, especially during August and September, when the whole park bursts into flower. There are no dangers from lion or buffalo. This park is a delight for bird watchers with more than 160 bird species.
- Richtersveld Transfrontier National Park
Richtersveld Transfrontier National Park (1,642 km²) is shaped by the unique landscape of the Richtersveld, a kind of mountain desert. The park is 870 km away from Cape Town with little tourist infrastructure and is known in South Africa as an ‘insider’s tip’. The reserve connects to the south with Richterveld Cultural and Botanical Landscape, a world heritage site established by UNESCO.
The park has more than 200 bird species and offers a few hiking trails such as the four days Vensterval Trail, the three day Lelieshoek-Oemsberg Trail and the two day Kodaspiek Trail. All three trails can only be used between April and September. The park only offers absolute basic accommodation and nearly everything including water has to be brought in.
- West Coast National Park
West Coast National Park (363 km²) lies about 100 km north of Cape Town in Western Cape province. The centre of the area is a lagoon with adjoining salt marshes which offer home to many thousands of birds, including migrating species. The park must be visited during the South African summer in order to spot the migrating birds. The park is ideal for bird watching and also has the two day Postberg Hiking Trail, a beautiful safari hike. Alternatively, there is also a day hike, the Steenbok trail.
Eastern Provinces, Kruger National Park, Drakensberge
- Golden Gate Highlands National Park
Golden Gate Highlands National Park is in Free State province, on the border with Lesotho, and has an area of 116 km². The rocky region offers paintings of the San as well as a pleasant circular hiking trail. The Rhebok Hiking Trail lasts two days and one night through a picturesque landscape full of red sandstone cliffs. This track needs to be booked with the park management, but the many shorter trails do not need prior arrangements.
- Hluhluwe Umfolozi Game Reserve
Durban, 280 km away, is the starting point for Hluhluwe Umfolozi Game Reserve in Kwa Zulu Natal province. The game park is the oldest wildlife park in Africa and was established in 1895. The Big Five can be observed here, as well as black and white rhinos. This park saved the last white rhinos from extinction and the current population supplies the breeding base of the now 9,000 animals of the species. Walking safaris are offered by various tour operators and day trips can be booked from Durban.
- Kruger National Park
Kruger National Park is the biggest and most important park in South Africa, with an area of 19,633 km², a north-south extension of about 350 km and an east-west extension of about 60km, located in the north east of the country, near its border with Mozambique. The park’s biodiversity is impressive: 336 tree species, 49 fish species, 34 amphibian species, 114 reptile species, 507 bird species and 147 mammals, all of which contribute to the unique and special recognition of the park within South Africa. The tourist infrastructure in and around the park is first class; safari accommodation is available from basic camping grounds to luxury lodges and all kinds of safaris are on offer to service every travel budget. A unique place to photograph leopards is at Sabi Sands.
Walking safaris have been conducted in the park since the 1970s. Park management offers several so-called wilderness trails: Wolhuter, Olifants, Nyaland, Bushmans, Metsi Metsi, Sweni, and Napi. The trails all start on Wednesdays, last until Saturday, and are guided by an armed ranger. Further information is available at the websites of the South African parks management under http://ww.sanparks.org. Golden rules for walking safaris: do not forget the malaria prophylactics, and leave the mobile phone at home.
- Mapungubwe National Park
Mapungubwe National Park is a UNESCO World Heritage Park based at the outer north east of the country near the borders of Botswana and Zimbabwe, on the shores of the Limpopo River. The area offers a multitude of fauna (only a few lions, but many antelope species, wild dogs, giraffes, elephants and some cheetahs) as well as the archeologically interesting ruins of the city of Mapungubwe, which dates from the iron age. The city was in its heydays during the 13th century and was the centre of a rich African kingdom, as supported by many artefacts.
The animals migrating over the borders give rise to a variety of viewing opportunities. The park managers offer a 2.5 hour ‘heritage tour’ and a ‘tree top tour’, as well as guided trails through the reserve. Queries and reservations need to be directed to the park management. A choice of accommodation is available from camps, some of them with a pool, to camping grounds, to a luxury lodge with eco trails.
- Royal Natal National Park
Royal Natal National Park is located in Kwa Zulu Natal province, in the Drakensberg region, and is an extremely interesting terrain for trekkers. The park offers some spectacular trails and very good tourist infrastructure. International airports for the Drakensberg region are Johannesburg, Pretoria and Durban. The park offers an excellent network of tracks and tours and innumerable day trips in all areas of the Drakensberg, with durations of between 1 and 9 hours. The park itself has trails with starting points at Monks Cowl and Giants Castle. The Kingsroute stretches over 5 days from the amphitheatre to Cathedral Park.
- Greater St. Lucia Wetland Park / iSimangaliso Wetland Park
St Lucia is the centre of the park and is the largest lake in South Africa with a length up to 50 km and a width up to 15 km. The national park covers an area of 3,480 km² and its wetlands are host to the largest colonies of hippos and crocodiles in the country. Rhinos, buffalo and leopards can be found in the adjoining savannah. The park is easily accessible from Durban. Walking safaris are available and on offer.
Central South Africa
- Karoo National Park
Karoo National Park has 831 km² and is in Weskap province. The Karoo semi- desert is home to a lot of endemic animals, some of which have been resettled in the park, like the Cape Black Rhino and Verraux’s eagle.
Hiking enthusiasts have a choice between the Bossie Trail (800m) and Pointer’s Hiking Trail (10 km). Both may be walked without guides or bookings.
- Mokala National Park
Mokala National Park is located between the Kalahari and Karoo, in Nordkap province, and is South Africa’s newest park after its opening in 2007. Both types of Rhino can be seen, and the park offers mountain bike and trekking tours with a good choice of lodges and camp grounds.
- Mountain Zebra National Park
Mountain Zebra National Park has 284 km² and is located 240 km north of Port Elizabeth. The main focus of the park is the protection of the mountain zebra. The park management offers various hiking tours as well as the Impofu tour over two days with a night in the bush. Accommodation options include a guest house and a camp ground.
South Africa’s Cape region and garden route around Cape Town
Cape Town was founded in 1652 and now covers an area of 1,644 km² with a total of 2,375,910 inhabitants ( 2005). The population density is 1,445 inhabitants per km². Cape Town has been the exclusive seat of parliament since 2004. The Cape of Good Hope is 45 km further south and is named in relation to the capital. South Africans call Cape Town the ‘Mother City of South Africa’ due to its historic past.
Best travel time for Cape Town: The suggested preferred travel time is between December and April, but the climate is pleasant all year round. Water temperatures in the Atlantic are very cold during summer and the sea should only be entered by hardened swimmers or water sport enthusiasts with special equipment.
Cape Town International Airport:
Cape Town International Airport, known in the past as D.F. Malan airport, is the second largest airport in South Africa. Domestic and international flights are offered daily, including flights to America and Europe. The main airline is South African Airways, but most major European airlines have daily flights to and from Cape Town.
Travel itineraries and public transport systems in Cape Town:
Cape Town is serviced by a railway system, the so called ‘Metrorail’, together with a regional bus system, named the ‘Golden Arrows’, which may not meet European standards of comfort or punctuality. Use of the bus system is not recommended for travellers due to the prevalence of pick pocketing incidents and muggings. Travellers may is use the mini taxis who also function as shuttles and will stop anywhere if signalled. There are no bicycles. Town planning has made it difficult for pedestrians who often end up on motorways, and tourists should attempt to walk anywhere.
Places of interest in Cape Town:
One of the most important sights is Table Mountain with the botanical garden, Kirstenbosch, at its foot, as well as the Victoria and Alfred water-front and the Victorian parts of the harbour, with their boutiques, restaurants, museums and the Two Ocean Aquarium. The inner city hosts historic buildings and museums as well as the National Gallery and South Africa’s National Museum. Long Street is known as the amusement corner. Robben Island has gained celebrity status through the term of imprisonment of Nelson Mandela, and is one of the greatest tourist attractions in Cape Town and South Africa.
Special features in Cape Town:
Even if Cape Town’s crime statistics are not as high as frequently reported, tourists should take precautionary steps. Jewellery and other valuable items like cameras should not be displayed. Taxis and hire cars are the best means of transport. It is advisable to lock doors and windows during journeys, to avoid car-jackings. Cape Town’s inner city should be avoided after close of business and during the weekends, and tours to other townships should always be guided.
What to observe on arrival in Cape Town:
German, Austrian and Swiss passports need at least a six-monthly expiry date on entry. Tourists will also need a return or continuing ticket which they must present at Customs control. The tourist visa is supplied at the Customs post at either the airport or the border, and it is advisable to have one or two spare pages in your passport. Provisional passports issued by German Customs and valid for 30 days are not acceptable.
Visa Regulations in South Africa:
The entry visa has a validity of three months and may be extended twice at the Department of Home Affairs.
- Vineyards and Garden Route:
One of the largest wine growing areas lies 50 km north east of Cape town in the Paar regionl. The hot and dry climate and absence of cold sea breezes, produces exceptional wine. The granite soil structure around Paal determines the unique quality and character of the wine Other grape growing areas differentiate by soil types, the Table Mountain area with sandstone, and the extremely sandy soil at Berg River. Sunny summers and mild winters with rain guarantee the quality of South African wine.