The national parks of the Eastern Cape

December 18, 2018

The Eastern Cape is one of South Africa’s most beautiful provinces. From semi-arid Karoo savannas, to temperate rainforests, snow-capped mountains and magnificent beaches and coastlines, the Eastern Cape has it all.

A great way to explore some of these incredible sights is at one of four national parks in the province. Not only will you be able to take in the beautiful surroundings, but you’ll be able experience a wide variety of wildlife in their natural habitat.

Mountain Zebra National Park

Mountain Zebra National Park was established in 1937 to protect the endangered Cape mountain zebra. Upon proclamation, the park was home to a herd of just six Cape mountain zebra, with the species grippingly close to extinction. Today there are numerous herds with the total number of mountain zebra exceeding 1 000.

The zebra share the park with buffalo and antelope species such as black wildebeest, red hartebeest, eland, blesbok, kudu and springbok. Large predators such as cheetah, hyena and lion were introduced to the park from 2007 to 2013.

The park sits in the heart of the Karoo, meaning the area is a semi-desert. Expect rugged vegetation, rocky mountains and dense thickets.

Explore the park on foot or by car – there are  game drives, 4x4 trails, an assortment of guided walks and even a cheetah-tracking experience.

Addo Elephant National Park

Addo Elephant National Park is the third-largest park in South Africa and also one of the most loved. Established in 1931 to provide a sanctuary for 11 remaining elephants in the area, today the park is home to more than 600 of these giants. The park is famous as one of the best elephant-viewing destinations in the world.

On the other end of the size-scale is the rare flightless dung beetle, which is regularly seen on the park’s roads. Visitors are requested to keep in mind that these creatures have right of the road as they play an important role in recycling and maintaining the park’s ecology – so watch out!

At Addo the vegetation is largely savanna and grassland, with sections of fynbos, forest and coastal dunes .

The park also borders a marine conservancy and is one of the few places where you can spot the Big Seven (lion, leopard, buffalo, elephant, rhino, the Southern right whale and the great white shark), Hop on a marine eco-tour to meet some of the great creatures of the deep as well as admire the pristine coastline.

Camdeboo National Park

The Camdeboo National Park features one of South Africa’s most famous natural attractions, the Valley of Desolation.

Attracting more than 100 000 visitors a year, the viewpoint showcases a panoramic view of the valley below, which is littered with piled dolerite columns believed to be the product of volcanic forces some 200-million years ago. The mesmerising rocky columns are also set against the plains of the Great Karoo, creating a truly striking sight, hence its name.

The park is also home to a number of antelope species and smaller predators, making it perfect to explore the area by foot on one of the multiple hiking and walking routes.

Sitting in the Great Karoo with a semi-arid climate, summers are extremely hot with winters exceedingly cold. If you are planning to set out on a hike, be sure to dress accordingly.

Garden Route National Park

The Garden Route National Park consists of three former standalone parks – the Tsitsikamma, Wilderness and Knysna parks. In 2009, these three were amalgamated to create one giant conservation area, stretching across both the Eastern Cape and Western Cape.

Home to lush forests, rivers, an estuary, sheer cliffs and a dramatic coastline, the Garden Route National Park can be considered one of the most beautiful parks in the world.

The park is predominantly a nature conservancy, and offers multiple activities for visitors to make the most of their experience. There are hiking and walking routes (including famous five-day Otter Trail), mountain-biking routes, guided forest excursions and water activities.

Escape to the Garden Route National Park to step back and stand in awe of nature’s beauty.

Getting around

Fly to Port Elizabeth as the starting point of your Eastern Cape adventure. Don’t forget that you can hire a vehicle through your Mango Airlines online booking from one of our partner companies at great rates.

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