South African National Parks
South African National Parks Week 2020

Photo credit: Cape Point South Africa

The first South African National Parks Week was hosted in 2006. Originally the initiative wanted to link the South African national parks system with the bigger global national movement. It creates awareness of the wide range of national parks in South Africa.

The initiative is aimed at giving as many South African citizens as possible the opportunity to experience the incredible variety of national parks our country has to offer. Every year SANParks aims to increase the number of citizens that are granted free access to national parks during this time. Since the launch of the campaign in 2006, some 551 393 South Africans have been afforded the opportunity to enter the various national parks.

This year South African National Parks (SANParks) celebrate its 15th annual South African National Parks Week, again opening its doors for free from Monday, 16 November until Friday, 20 November 2020. As an added bonus parks in the Cape Region i.e. Agulhas-, Bontebok-, Table Mountain-, Tankwa Karoo- and West Coast National Park will be extending South African National Parks Week until Sunday, 22 November 2020. This incredible campaign will allow locals with valid identity documents an opportunity to spend a day at a national park of their choice free of charge.

The week-long campaign will be applicable to all the national parks managed by SANParks, with the exception of the Boulders Beach Penguin Colony and the Table Mountain Aerial Cableway in Table Mountain National Park, as well as Namaqua National Park.

Total South Africa and First National Bank (FNB) are official partners, helping SANParks achieve its vision to create a sustainable National Park System that connects society. SANParks Chief Executive Officer, Fundisile Mketeni added that, “The week in partnership with Total South Africa and FNB is meant to cultivate a sense of pride in South Africa’s natural, cultural and historical heritage and a deeper appreciation of biodiversity. It is important for South Africans to visit and know the importance of national parks.”

While the South African National Park’s free access week typically takes place in September, this year it had to be postponed due to COVID-19. SANParks Chief Executive Officer, Fundisile Mketeni issued the following statement, “SANParks has postponed the free access week which is traditionally held in September, to November due to the global COVID-19 pandemic. Additionally, we have implemented extra visitor management procedures in the parks to manage visitor volumes in line with regulations to further mitigate the risk of the spread of coronavirus at this time.”

The SA National Parks Week

During SA National Parks Week, 21 national parks offer free access to day visitors, encouraging locals to visit the parks. Namaqua National Park, the Boulders Beach Penguin Colony and the Table Mountain Aerial Cableway in Table Mountain National Park are the only exclusions. Free access to the parks does not include free access to accommodation facilities and other tourist activities.

The following are the national parks with easy access from Cape Town.

AGULHAS NATIONAL PARK

  • Dates: 16 to 22 November 2020
  • Distance from Cape Town: +/- 224km
  • This park is an open-access park, with no pay points

Lying in what is known as the Agulhas Plain at the southernmost tip of Africa, the Agulhas National Park is one of the Western Cape’s most glorious natural gems. While the Agulhas National Park is renowned for being the point where the Atlantic and Indian Oceans meet, the park boasts some of the most splendid examples of lowland fynbos and lowland fynbos on limestone soils – considered endangered and restricted largely to the southern Overberg.

Things to do & see in the Agulhas National Park:

  • Visit the renowned Cape Agulhas lighthouse.
  • Explore the southernmost tip of Africa.
  • Enjoy stunning sightings of Southern Right Whales.
  • Visit the graveyard of ships that lie just off the coast once known as ‘the Cape of Storms’.
  • Explore to Cape Agulhas saltpans.
  • View the endemic Cape Fynbos and glorious diversity of indigenous flora, and unique vegetation the Cape Agulhas and Agulhas Plains are known for.
  • Take a slow drive along the Struisbaai-Elim route and enjoy the vast wealth of bird life in and around the Park, especially at the salt pans and along the wetlands. The Agulhas National Park is home to exceptional birdlife, including endangered avifauna, such as the African Black Oyster-catcher. The Soetendalsvlei Western Shore walk also includes great birding opportunities.
  • Great fishing opportunities – Fishing permits can be purchased from the Struisbaai Post Office at the Struisbaai Mall. Rock and Deep-sea fishing is a favourite pass time for most visitors at the Southern Tip.
  • Go hiking – The Agulhas National Park boasts several thrilling hiking trails, including the Two Ocean Hiking Trail, Rasperpunt Hiking Trail, and the Spookdraai Trail.

Click here for more information on the park.

TABLE MOUNTAIN NATIONAL PARK

South African National Parks Week 2020 - Table Mountain National Park

  • Dates: 16 to 22 November 2020
  • Please note: the free entry does not apply to the Boulders Penguin Colony and Table Mountain Cableway. Read our post about the Table Mountain national park

Declared by UNESCO as a Word Heritage Site, the magnificent Table Mountain National Park encompasses the scenic Peninsula mountain chain stretching from Signal Hill in the north to Cape Point in the south, covering a total distance of approximately 60 kilometres. This natural wonder of the Western Cape has two world-renowned landmarks within its boundaries: the majestic Table Mountain and the legendary Cape of Good Hope. The Table Mountain National Park also boasts various majestic mountain ranges, rugged cliffs, picturesque beaches, forests, and oceans – giving rise to an endless variety of things to do, see, explore, discover, and experience.

Besides its unapologetic natural beauty, the Table Mountain National Park is globally recognised for its extraordinarily rich, unique, and diverse flora. It is home to the world’s smallest, yet most diverse, floral kingdom, known as the Cape Floristic Region – With the beloved Cape Fynbos, an ancient indigenous vegetation that is endemic to the tip of the African continent, being one of only six floral kingdoms in the world, and the the only one that occurs entirely in one country. This makes the Table Mountain National Park the ultimate destination for any nature lover at heart.

Main attractions:

  • Cape Point, Cape of Good Hope
  • Silvermine
  • Table Mountain
  • Signal Hill & Lion’s Head

Some of the top activities & experiences:

  • Hiking
  • Overnight Trails
  • Fishing/Extractive Diving
  • Dog Walking
  • Free Guided Walks at Cape Point
  • Scuba Diving
  • Mountain Biking and Road Cycling
  • Surfing/Windsurfing/Kite Boarding
  • Rock/Sport Climbing
  • Hang/Paragliding
  • Horse Riding
  • Forest walk & day walks
  • Have a braai at one of Table Mountain National Park’s many braai spots including, Tokai Forest, Newlands, Silvermine and Oudekraal.

Click here for more information on the park. You can also have a look at our ‘Table Mountain: The ultimate guide to Table Mountain’ blog for everything you need to know about Table Mountain and the Table Mountain National Park.

WEST COAST NATIONAL PARK

South African National Parks Week 2020 - West Coast National Park

  • Dates: 16 to 22 November 2020.
  • Distance from Cape Town: +/- 88km

Located a scenic 60 – 90 minutes from Cape Town along the west coast road is where you’ll find the beautiful and highly sought-after West Coast National Park. Besides it’s untamed natural beauty, one of the West Coast National Park’s main allures is how incredibly multifaceted it is. From the cyan-coloured water of the vast lagoon that meets the postcard-perfect white of the sand, the abundance of rugged scrubs that erupts into a glorious display of colourful wildflowers every spring, picturesque secret beaches, and the variety of wildlife and marine life that calls it home, the West Coast National Park truly has it all.

Main attractions & experiences:

  • Kraalbaai Beach and Information Centre.
  • The famous ‘Preekstoel’ secret beach.
  • Picnic/braai area at Tsaarsbank.
  • Geelbek Visitors Centre.
  • Hiking & walking trails: Geelbek; Bakoor Trail; Strandveld Trail Two-Day Hike; Postberg Two Day Hiking Trails (only during August and September); Steenbok One Day Trail (only during August and September); Eve’s Footprint & Trail.
  • Cycling & mountain biking.
  • Bird watching: The West Coast National Park is home is over 250 bird species, over a quarter of South Africa’s total. Some of these, such as the Curlow Sandpiper, Sanderling and Knot, journey 15 000km from Russia every year to their breeding grounds inside this beautiful National Park on the West Coast of South Africa. There are four bird hides inside the park that give you the opportunity to view some of the many bird species found in this area, such as Flamingo, Ostrich and Black Harriers. Bird hides can be found at Geelbek (two), the Abrahamskraal Waterhole and below the Seeberg Lookout Point.
  • Flower Season (August – September).
  • Southern Right Whale watching & marine life sightings.

Click here for more information on the park.

Read our post about the West Coast National Park

BONTEBOK NATIONAL PARK

  • Dates: 16 to 22 November 2020.
  • Distance from Cape Town: +/-224 km

The Bontebok National Park is one of the smallest parks managed by SANParks. It offers visitors incredible sightings of countless Bontebok roaming around, canoeing along the Breede River Dam, and endless hiking trails to explore.

TANKWA KAROO NATIONAL PARK

  • Dates: 16 to 22 November 2020.
  • Distance from Cape Town: +/- 313 km

Tankwa Karoo National Park gives avid adventurers and thrill seekers the perfect opportunity to tick something truly exhilarating off their bucket-list by experiencing and exploring the most scenic 4×4 routes this park has to offer.

**Important note: All South Africans who enter over the age of 18 years must produce a valid SA ID or SA drivers licence to enter for free during South African National Parks Week. No electronic copies of IDs will be accepted. Due to COVID-19, all the parks will be operating under capacity constraints, and a first come – first serve basis principle will apply.

Visit Visit a national park this year for free during SA National Parks Week, to see what it has to offer and do your part by getting to know your national parks, celebrate your rich heritage, and experience first-hand the iconic beauty and plethora of natural flora and fauna.

Issued by:
South African National Parks (SANParks).

Visit the SANParks website for more information.