Best parks for day drives

2013-08-06 09:43

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Video

Hissing lion stops game drive in its tracks

2013-07-01 14:05

In the latest video posted by Kruger Sightings shows a lioness hissing at her reflection on the car, with the owner too afraid to move in case the feisty feline decided to scratch the vehicle. This was seen at Renosterkoppies dam on the S114 near Skukuza in the Kruger National Park. Take a look. WATCH

While most people love the idea of going on safari, doing it properly, stretching it into a good week(s)-long affair is not always an option. However, this doesn't mean that you can't experience the bushveld vibe for a shorter period of time and enjoy it as much.

In fact, going on a quick in and out day game drive, is sometimes the most tantalizing way to soak up the safari vibe - and there's no way you'll end up being bored. 

Check out these eight parks that are perfect for day outings around the country. 

Kruger National Park, Mpumalanga

Probably South Africa's most famous game park, Kruger offers visitors a huge array of wildlife, habitats, restaurants and picnic sites to explore. It's definitely not possible to explore the entire 19,485 km² park in one day, however, so be sure to pick a route before entering the park. The southern and middle regions are best for game viewing, while the north has some spectacular bird life and scenery. 

What to see: The big 5, of which spotting an elusive leopard is probably first prize. If you go north, look out for Pel's Fishing Owl - it's endemic to the area - and also keep your eyes peeled for beautiful baobabs. 

Picnic spots: Delightfully wild picnic spots abound in Kruger - and no day drive is complete without a full fry up for brunch! Some of our favourite picnic spots include Afsaal and Nkuhlu in the south, Tshokwane and Timbavati in the middle region and Mooiplaas and Babalala in the north. All picnic spots have ablutions and gas skottels can be hired at most for a nominal fee. Many of the picnic spots also have shops and restaurants.

Costs: R50 per person per day, R25 per child. Wild Card holders do not pay conservation fees when entering the park. 

Pilanesberg, North West

(Shutterstock)

Pilanesberg is located in the Bonjala region of North West and exists within the transition zone between the dry Kalahari and wetter Lowveld vegetation. Unlike any other large park, unique overlaps of mammals, birds and vegetation occur because of this transition zone. The park is located about 200km from Johannesburg. 

What to see: Pilanesberg is also home to the big five, and since it's much smaller than Kruger, they're easier to spot. Apart from this, also keep your eyes peeled for the extremely rare and majestic sable antelope, and be sure to make a running list of bird sightings - over 300 species reside in the park!

Picnic spots: There are five picnic spots dotted around the park, of which three are located on hilltops, allowing for breathtaking views. Our top pick would be Fish Eagle overlooking Mankwe dam. All the picnic spots have braai (barbeque) facilities, water, shade, toilets and are fenced.

Costs: R65 per adult per day, R20 for children and pensioners

Shamwari Private Game Reserve, Eastern Cape

A popular spot amongst international stars who jet into South Africa, Shamwari is exclusive, luxurious and extremely sexy. While the emphasis of the park's appeal certainly leans toward the superb accommodation, they've decided to open up the equally magnificent natural splendour to day visitors. Between now and the end of August, the park will be offering 3-hour day drives for a minimum of four people. The park is located about 75km from port Elizabeth. 

What to see: The Big 5 - especially getting up close to herds of elephant is a special experience. Since no self drive vehicles are allowed in the park, there is very little traffic, which makes for extremely peaceful and cutely curious pachyderms. Be on the lookout for cheetah and brown hyena - both difficult to spot and also quite rare. Apart from this, the lush Eastern Cape vegetation provides a magical backdrop for the myriad of antelope species. 

Picnic spots: Well, the great thing about doing a day drive at Shamwari, is that any wild place can be your personal picnic spot. Since you'll be accompanied by a guide, they are allowed to pull over anywhere they deem safe and non-intrusive to provide their guests with delicious snacks and drinks. 

Costs: R850 per person (steep, but definitely worth it if you like luxury)

Kgalagadi, Northern Cape

(Shutterstock)

While a desert retreat might not fall into everyone's taste, Kgalagadi's red dunes, wide open spaces and endless skies have a way of wooing even the most jaded soul. An amalgamation of the Kalahari Gemsbok National Park in South Africa (proclaimed in 1931)and the Gemsbok National Park in Botswana, the Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park comprises an area of over 3,6 million hectares - one of very few conservation areas of this magnitude left in the world. It's located about 260km from Upington and 904km from Johannesburg. 

What to see: The famous black-maned lions of the Kalahari, meerkats, Gemsbok and massive sociable weaver nests attached to every upright structure. 

Picnic spots: There are six picnic spots in the park, all located along the main roads which run along the Nosob and Auob riverbeds. They are all unfenced and have communal ablution facilities. 

Costs: R50 per adult per day, R25 per child per day

Mapungubwe, Limpopo

Located right on the border of Zimbabwe, where the Shashe and Limpopo rivers converge, Mapungubwe is drenched in that mystical magic so central to the Limpopo province's charm. While you're there be sure to visit the Interpretation Centre, which is home to the famous golden rhino discovered on Mapungubwe Hill in 1932. The park's closest city is Polokwane, located about 200km away. 

What to see: Lion, elephant, leopard, rhino and over 400 bird species including the Kori Bustard and Pel's fishing owl. 

Picnic spots: There is a picnic site with ablution facilities at the Confluence with shaded picnic spots with tables and taps. You can also hire a skottel braai and stock up on cooldrinks at the tuck shop.

Costs: R30 per adult, R15 per child 

Addo Elephant National Park, Eastern Cape

Now the third largest national park in South Africa, Addo has expanded to conserve a wide biodiversity, landscapes, fauna and flora. Stretching from the semi-arid karoo area in the north, over the rugged Zuurberg Mountains, through the Sundays River valley and south to the coast between Sundays River mouth and Bushman's river mouth, Addo covers about 180 000 hectares and includes the Bird and St Croix Island groups. Its located about 75km from the park. 

What to see: Addo is the only park in the world that can boast about the fact that it is home to the big 7! Yes, along with the usual big 5, the ocean section of the park also has Southern Right Whales and Great White Sharks. However, chances that you'd spot the latter two are quite slim, so just enjoy spending time among the peaceful ellies instead. 

Picnic spots: There is only one picnic site outside of a rest camp, located at the Nyati waterhole. There are also a number of lookout points where alighting from your vehicle is allowed. 

Costs: R40 per adult and R20 per child 

Hluhluwe-iMfolozi, KZN

(Shutterstock)

This KZN park played a central role in preserving wildlife on the brink of extinction in South Africa, as it was set aside as protected area for game in 1895. KZN Wildlife boasts one of the best conservation teams in the world, and enjoys international acclaim for its conservation efforts, not least in the Hluhluwe Imfolozi Park. Durban is the closest city at 267km away from the park. 

What to see: The wide range of plant life in the park gives rise to a diversity of mammals, birdlife, reptiles and amphibians. Cheetah, wild dog and nyala are some of the rarer species you may be lucky to spot on a game drive. 

Picnic spots: There are various attractive picnic sites with benches, tables, braai grids and ablution facilities. Hilltop in the Hluhluwe section of the park offers great views, while Sontuli Loop in the iMfolozi section is a perfect vantage point to watch animal life next to the Black Umfolozi River. 

Costs: R60 per adult per day and R30 for children

Bontebok National Park, Western Cape 

Bontebok National Park is a place of simplistic beauty and peaceful charm where relaxation happens as soon as you enter the gate. Located just outside the town of Swellendam, you can reach the park within a two hour drive from Cape Town. 

What to see: There are no large predators in the park, however, its namesake, the plucky Bontebok and Cape Mountain Zebra make for entertaining viewing as they frolic about. 

Picnic spots: The highlight of a day outing to Bontebok is getting to enjoy a picnic or a braai at Die Stroom. Located right on the banks of the Breede River, guests are allowed to swim, fish and while the day away on the well taken care of lawns. 

Costs: R24 per adult, R12 per child

Read more on:    travel south africa
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