There are many places to visit including some top South African national parks. From snowy mountains and bush land to subtropical beaches and the Kalahari, South Africa is a wonderfully diverse country.
South African national parks and game reserves offer stunning scenery and are great places to experience true wilderness and get up close to Africa’s famous wildlife.
If you add private reserves, there are hundreds of South African national parks and game reserves. Some of these reserves focus on wildlife encounters, while others are primarily wilderness or camping areas.
Here are the best South African national parks to add natural wonders to your South Africa safari itinerary.
Find the List of Top South African national Parks below
Kruger National Park
This is among the top South African national parks for wildlife viewing. Kruger National Park is one of the world’s greatest viewing destinations.
Some of Africa’s most iconic species – elephant, lion, leopard, cheetah, rhinoceros, buffalo, giraffe, hippo and zebra – share the bush with 136 other mammals and more than 500 bird species.
Beautiful granite kopjes (hills) rise in the south, while the Lebombo Mountains rise above the savannah in the east, and tropical forests cover the northern part of this 7,520 square kilometer park.
Yes, we admit that Kruger can sometimes be crowded with South African safari groups and yes, you may have to wait in line to see those lions around the kill.
On the other hand, Kruger’s extensive road network makes it one of the most accessible wildlife parks in Africa and perfect for families. You can explore in your own vehicle or join a huge selection of guided wildlife safaris, and accommodation is plentiful and well-priced.
Royal Natal National Park
This is among the best South African national parks for mountains. Rising from the highest peaks of the Drakensberg mountains, the 30 square kilometer Royal Natal National Park surpasses its modest size.
Among the most dramatic and accessible landscapes in the Drakensberg, the park is crowned by the majestic amphitheater, a 5 km (3 mi) rock and canyon wall that is spectacular from below and even more dramatic from above.
Here, Tugela Falls falls 95 meters (3,100 feet) in five stages; the highest level often freezes in winter. Behind is the Mont-aux-Sources at 3282 meters, where the rivers Tugela, Elands and West Khubedu originate.
This last river later becomes the Senqu (Orange) River and flows all the way to the Atlantic Ocean. This South African national park is known for excellent day walks and more ambitious multi-day tour options.
Golden Gate Highlands National Park
One of the best South African national park for sunsets. Just before darkness sweeps the remaining spots of color from the sky, something magical happens in Golden Gate Highlands National Park.
The jagged sandstone outcrops at the foot of the wild maroon Malut Mountains glow gold in the fading light. Lemon yellow rays can silhouette a lone kudu standing motionless in a sea of mint green grass before the sky explodes in a fiery clash of purple and red.
You may not find any of the big 5 animals that the other South African National parks have, but in Golden Gate Highlands National Park, you should look out for some amazing sunsets.
However, the park is rich in wildlife, including gray rhebok, blesbok, eland, Oribi antelope, Burchell’s zebra, jackal and baboons.
There are many bird species, including the rare bearded and cape ibis and the critically endangered bald ibis. The park is popular with hikers for long hikes, but there are also shorter walking trails.
Table Mountain National Park
This is among the best South African National Park for Activities. Stretching from Signal Hill to Cape Point, Table Mountain National Park is a natural wonder and South Africa’s most famous natural feature.
The surrounding national park includes granite and sandstone mountains, huge pebble beaches and shady forests. For most visitors on South Africa safaris here, the main attraction is the 1,085 meter high table-like plateau, which is easily reached by cable car from the outskirts of Cape Town.
The park offers an impressive range of adventure activities such as hiking, paragliding, mountain biking, abseiling, rock climbing, snorkeling, birding and wildlife watching and diving.
Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park
Find one of the best South African national parks for desert landscapes. A long burnt road leads between the purple dunes of Upington to the Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park, one of the last great intact ecosystems in the world.
As soon as you step into this magical park, located next to Namibia in the Northern Cape and spreading into southwestern Botswana, you will see why the trip was worth it.
Kgalagadi is a wild land of harsh extremes and frequent droughts, where shifting red and white sands meet conifers and bone-dry rivers. Despite the desert landscape, the park is still full of wildlife.
About 1,775 carnivores live here, from prides of black-manted lions to howling spotted hyenas. It is one of the top South African National parks best places in the world to see big cats, especially cheetahs.
Add the giant orange orb sunsets and a black-gold night sky full of twinkling stars and you’ll feel like you’ve arrived in storybook Africa.
Looking for one of the best South African national parks for camping? Some of the best scenery in the Western Cape can be found in the desolate Cederberg Wilderness Area.
Here, rocky peaks rise to about 2,000 meters (6,560 ft), with strange rock formations, well-preserved rock art produced by the San people, and clear mountain streams. It is a great landscape for hiking and rock climbing.
The Cederberg is not known for its wildlife, although you may see a baboon, a bat-eared fox or a small antelope jumping between the rocks. Spotted Leopards roam the cliffs at night, but you’d be very lucky to see one.
The area is better known for its flora – montane fynbos (fine-leaved scrub vegetation) is abundant and wildflowers bloom in spring.
Vegetation varies according to altitude, with eponymous cedar forests growing between 1,000 meters (3,280 ft) and 1,500 meters (920 ft). It is also the only place in the world where Rooibos (the red bush) grows and is processed into tea.
Mapungubwe National Park
If you are interested in history, then among the best South African national parks to visit is this. The stunningly steep rocky landscapes of Mapungubwe National Park reflect a cultural intrigue and teem with wildlife.
Mapungubwe, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, contains South Africa’s most important Iron Age site, as well as animals from black and white rhinoceros to meerkats and the rare Peli fish owl.
The wildlife watching is excellent, as is the bird watching, and lions, leopards and elephants are often spotted. But this is one of the top South African national parks much history as wildlife – archaeological finds from the 1930s are on display in an excellent interpretive centre, and the site itself can be visited on a guided tour.
Blyde River Canyon Nature Reserve
For Rock formations and beauty, the best South African national park is this. The spectacular Blyde River Canyon Nature Reserve focuses on the 26km (16 mi) Blyde River Canyon.
Here epic rock formations rise on forested slopes and bird’s-eye views abound at the dramatic meeting of the Drakensberg Escarpment and the Lowveld. It is one of the largest canyons in the world and one of South Africa’s most impressive natural attractions.
Most visitors drive along the edge of the canyon, where the Scenic Route (mostly Route 532) offers many vantage points to stop and gaze in awe, including the three Rondavels, Bourke’s Lucky Mines and God’s Window.
However, if there is enough time, thanks to the numerous hiking trails, you can get to know the canyon even better on foot.
iSimangaliso Wetland Park
For those looking for coastal features, among the best South African national parks to visit is iSimangaliso.
The iSimangaliso Wetland Park, another UNESCO World Heritage Site, contains a wide range of landscapes from the Mozambique border to Maphelan at the southern end of Lake St Lucia.
Across the Indian Ocean and across the lakes, this park protects five distinct ecosystems that include everything from offshore reefs and beaches to lakes, wetlands, forests and coastal forests.
Turtles and leatherbacks nest on the park’s shores, and whales and dolphins are regularly seen along the coast. On land, the park hosts many mammals such as antelopes and zebras, but the park is home to 800 hippos and 1,200 Nile crocodiles.
During the holiday season, large crowds flock to ocean beaches for everything from diving to fishing.
Addo Elephant National Park
If you have a thing for the largest animals on land then the best South African national parks to go to include Addo. The crown jewel of the Eastern Cape is Addo Elephant National Park, South Africa’s third largest national park.
It protects the remains of the once huge herds of elephants that once roamed the Eastern Cape. When Addo was declared a national park in 1931, only 11 elephants remained; today there are more than 600 people in the park and it would be very unfortunate not to see some of them.
A day or two in Addo will be the highlight of your visit to this part of the Eastern Cape, not only for the elephants, but also for the chance to see lions, zebras, black rhinos, buffalo, spotted hyenas and countless birds.
It is also one of the few South African national parks in Africa to have the “Big Seven”, as great white sharks and southern whales have been spotted (in season) along the coast of the park.
Namaqua National Park
For those who love wild plants and asking which of the South African national parks should they go to? The answer is Namaqua National Park.
Flower seekers flock to the small, remote Namaqua National Park each spring when the bushes and old wheat fields come alive with annual wildflowers.
There are short nature trails and driving areas with viewpoints, as well as many places to stop to photograph flowers.
The rest of the year, the national park is largely forgotten, although it is a peaceful place to walk. It is also a good destination for bird watching and is home to many small colorful bird species.
There are many South African National Parks and reserves with different touris attractions in South Africa that one may go to. The question that you may have to answer before choosing which South African National park should I go to is, what is my interest?