The Other South African National Parks: Not Your Traditional Safari

When I decided to go to South Africa, I said to myself, “Oh, I definitely have to visit Kruger National Park while I am there.” When I got to Cape Town in May, I said to myself, “Wow, Kruger is really far from here.” Due to scheduling restraints, I never made it over to Kruger for the quintessential African safari complete with panoramic shots of “the Big Five.”

Coincidentally, I managed to get my own African wildlife photograph, though there were neither lions nor leopards in sight. I was volunteering at an educational NGO, and I, along with several other staff members, took fifty-eight students on a one-week winter camp program at West Coast National Park, ninety minutes north of Cape Town in Langebaan. The park is situated near Saldanha Bay on the Atlantic Coast. One has the opportunity to go kayaking in the company of flamingoes in Langebaan Lagoon, go on a ranger-led hike along the sand dunes, or do a game drive. We saw wildebeest, springbok, caracal, zebras, and this adorable bontebok. The bontebok just might be my new favorite animal, not only for the pearly white blaze on the face, but also because bontebok is such a fun word to say. N.B. Now (August and September) would be the time to visit WCNP—it is not only whale watching, but also wildflower season.

I also had the chance to drive South Africa’s well-known Garden Route along the southern coast on the N2. Just east of Plettenberg Bay, you must stop off at Tsitsikamma National Park and hike to the waterfalls on the Otter Trail. After conquering the Supertubes in J-Bay, you can check out the elephants at Addo Elephant National Park, one hour north of Port Elizabeth. At Addo, make sure you consult the rangers’ board of the day’s animal sightings; this way you don’t waste any precious time driving in circles in areas where the animals aren’t even hanging out… once I got back on course, I saw about twelve elephants, a few buffaloes, zebra, kudus, elands, and more warthogs than I could ever care to catch sight of again. They give you a photographic chart of the park’s thirty-nine species, and I was satisfied after being able to check off a third of them in just a few hours’ time.

Sure I am disappointed I didn’t make it over to South Africa’s most famous park, but if it was capturing an African animal’s majesty on film that I was after, I’d say I got my shot.

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  1. Flamingo Tour in Chile’s Atacama Desert | SavvyCitiZen - August 21, 2013

    […] opportunity for redemption for me. The only other time I had ever seen flamingos take flight was at West Coast National Park in South Africa. Naturally I had not been ready with my camera. This time I was! Their wings are incredibly […]

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