Thursday, 17 October 2013

First Car Rental's Top 10 South African National Parks

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South Africa’s National Parks give you up close and personal encounters with the country’s amazing wildlife and also offers stunning views of awe-inspiringly diverse landscape. First Car Rental has put together a list of the top 10 South African National Parks across the country to help you plan your next African adventure with ease.

1.Golden Gate National Park, North-Eastern Free State

This South African National Park got its name from the brilliant shades of gold that are cast by the sun on the Park’s sandstone cliffs especially on the imposing Brandwag rock which overlooks the main rest camp. The Golden Gate National Park rests at the rolling foothills of the Maluti Mountains of the north eastern Free State. You can spot antelopes bound across the wide open spaces and enjoy the most spectacular African sunsets here.

2. Karoo National Park, Western Cape

The Karoo National Park is home to a fascinating diversity of life. The area is mostly semi-desert and is well known for its isolation. This national park is home to several desert mammals primarily the Verreaux’s Eagle and various species of tortoise. You can also spot endangered species such as the Black Rhino and Riverine Rabbit that have been successfully resettled here.

3. Kruger National Park, Limpopo – Mpumalanga

The Kruger National Park is one of the largest game reserves in South Africa where all of nature’s drama is played out. Covering an area of nearly 2 million hectares, the Kruger National Park stretches over the provinces of Limpopo and Mpumalanga in north-eastern South Africa. This South African national park boasts of being home the famous Big Five (lion, elephant, buffalo, leopard and rhino). The Kruger National Park also has the largest rhino population that can be spotted in the grasslands and riverine forests.

4. Marakele National Park, Limpopo

Part of the Waterburg Biosphere in the Limpopo province, Marakele is one of South Africa’s most stunning national parks. The park features majestic mountain landscapes, grass-clad hills and deep valleys. All the large game species from elephant and rhino to the big cats as well as an amazing variety of birds, including what’s probably the largest colony of endangered Cape vultures in the world, have settled here.

5. Garden Route National Park, Western Cape

The Garden Route National Park encompasses the world renowned Tsitsikamma and Wilderness sections; the Knysna Lake section; a variety of mountain catchment, Southern Cape indigenous forest and associated Fynbos areas; and is one of the most beautiful stretches of coastline in the world.

6. iSimangaliso Wetland Park, KwaZulu-Natal

iSimangaliso Wetland Park (previously known as the Greater St. Lucia Wetland Park) is situated on the east coast of KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa, about 275 kilometres north of Durban. From coral reefs and sandy beaches to subtropical dune forests, savannahs, and wetlands, this national park offers immense diversity. Animals occurring on the park include elephant, leopard, black and white rhino, buffalo; and in the ocean, whales, dolphins, and marine turtles including the leatherback and loggerhead turtle.

7.Namaqua National Park, Western Cape

Namaqua National Park is a South African national park situated approximately 495 km north of Cape Town and 22 km northwest of Kamieskroon. This picturesque South African national park is renowned for its floral displays and has valleys filled with Namaqualand daisies and other spring flowers. The park is part of the semi-desert Succulent Karoo biome, one of the most unusual biomes in the world. You can spot a myriad of wildlife that has adapted to the rigorous climate of this area.

8. Mapungubwe National Park, Limpopo

This South African National Park is located by the Kolope River, south of the confluence of the Limpopo and Shashe Rivers and about 15 km to the north east of the Venetia Diamond Mine. You can spot predators like lions, leopards and hyenas here. The National park is home to 400 species of birds including Kori Bustard, tropical Boubou and Pel’s Fishing Owl. Visitors can take in the awe-inspiring beauty of the sandstone formations here. Elephant, giraffe, white rhino, eland, gemsbok and numerous other antelope species can be spotted in the area.

9. Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park, Northern Cape

The Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park is an amalgamation of the Kalahari Gemsbok National Park in South Africa and the Gemsbok National Park in Botswana. The Park stretches across 3.6 million hectares of land and is home the striking desert antelope – the Gemsbok; the black-maned Kalahari Lions; weaver birds; the pygmy falcon; and the meerkat. Red sand dunes, sparse vegetation and the dry riverbeds of the Nossob and Auob make spotting wildlife easier and provide excellent photographic opportunities.

10. Addo Elephant National Park, Eastern Cape

Addo Elephant National Park is a diverse wildlife conservation park situated close to Port Elizabeth and ranks third in size after Kruger National Park and the Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park. The Park is home to elephants, Cape buffalo, endangered black rhino as well as a variety of antelope species. Lion and spotted hyena have also recently been re-introduced to the area.

With this comprehensive list travellers can plan their trip to South Africa's National Parks carefully. Rent a car from any of First Car Rental's 47 branches nationwide and getting from park to park becomes quick and easy.

I am a South African media scholar with a keen interest in the travel industry. Having completed my Masters degree in journlism, I work for a small media organisation and produce feature articles in my own capacity.