Celebrating National Parks Week With Free Entry To Parks

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SANParks is celebrating its 18th annual SA National Parks Week from 16 to 24 September 2023! Free entry is offered across most of the 18 national parks and we’re here to highlight some of the parks close to us at or worth the daytrip from De Bakke Santos.

Garden Route National Park

The Garden Route National Park is the closest park to Mossel Bay, with the Wilderness section being only an hour’s drive away. The park is split into three sections – Wilderness, Knysna, and Tsitsikamma – and came to fruition after combining the already-existing Tsitsikamma and Wilderness National Parks, the Knysna National Lake Area, and various other areas of state-owned land in 2009.

Wilderness Section

The Wilderness Section stretches from the Touw River mouth to the Swartvlei Estuary and beyond. This section of the park protects three major zones of indigenous forest, four types of fynbos, and various lakes and winding waterways. The Woodville Big Tree forest walk is an easy route to see the 810-year-old Outeniqua Yellowwood Tree. Canoeing can be done from the Touw River to Wilderness Beach or follow the Kingfisher trail to the waterfall. The park has a special offer where 6 canoes per day can be used for free for one hour. Wilderness is also an incredibly popular bird watching spot, with lush indigenous forest and beachy shores offering the best of both worlds. Gallinule Bird Hide and Malachite Bird Hide are popular spots to visit. Three different mountain bike trails start at the foot of the Outeniqua mountains from the parking area at the Farleigh Forestry Station.

Knysna Section

The Knysna Section of the Garden Route National Park has a variety of hikes, like the Harkerville Coastal Hiking Trail, and forest excursions, like the Garden of Eden, Circles in the Forest, and Jubilee Creek. The Forest Legends Museum can be found in the Diepwalle Section of the park, where one can learn about the forgotten stories of the hardworking Woodcutters, see the mighty Knysna Elephant skeleton, and other secrets the forest holds close to its chest. While in this section of the park, visit the King Edward VII tree, another 800+ year old Outeniqua Yellowwood, near Diepwalle Forest Station. Be sure to visit the Knysna Seahorse, which only occurs in Knysna, Keurbooms, and Swartvlei estuaries. You can see them up close at the SANParks Thesen Island Office.

Tsitsikamma Section
Tsitsikamma Section

Covering 80 kilometres of coastline, the Tsitsikamma section starts at Nature’s Valley. Perhaps its most famous activity, the Otter Trail, is a five-day-long, 42-kilometre hiking trail which starts at the Storms River Mouth rest camp and ends at the small resort village of Natures Valley in the de Vasselot section of the park. The area also offers many shorter and easier walks and hikes, for those of us who aren’t quite ready for the Otter Trail! Popular options are the Big Tree Walk (another one!), the Waterfall, and the Loerie. The Storms River Mouth Suspension Bridge is a popular attraction, which can be visited with a ranger.

Bontebok National Park

The Bontebok National Park is located 6 kilometres south of Swellendam and is a species-specific national park, established to ensure the preservation of the Bontebok. About a two-hour drive away from Mossel Bay, the park was established in 1931 and is the smallest of South Africa’s 18 national parks, covering an area of 27.86 km². Here, you can enjoy a picnic and braai alongside the Breede River and do a game drive (look out for the Bontebok, Grey Rhebuck, Red Hartebees and other smaller mammals). The park is home to over 200 species, with the Denham's (Stanley's) Bustard enticing enthusiastic birdwatchers to the area. There are three hiking trails within the park. Visitors can have a swim, kayak, and canoe in the Breede River, with access points located at the Rest Camp Area and at Die Stroom.

The following two parks are a bit further away, each being about a three hour drive out from Mossel Bay. These are perfect to visit on your way home, or if you feel like exploring the wonders that South Africa has to offer on a daytrip – the early sunrises will help with setting out early!

Karoo National Park

The Karoo National Park is in the Great Karoo area near Beaufort-West and covers an area of around 750 km². The park offers self-guided, both for normal cars and 4x4 trails, and guided game drives. The stunning Klipspringer Pass is a popular route, with a lookout point at Rooivalle. The Fossil Trail is a must-see, as this 400-metre-long trail depicts the geology and palaeontology of the Great Karoo. Genuine fossils and petrified wood are on display along the paved walkway, which is accessible to wheelchair users. The park has two picnic sites: the Bulkraal picnic site has a swimming pool, green lawns, ablution blocks, and braai facilities, while the Doornhoek site is situated within the game area, making it a perfect stop while on a self-drive. There is also a bird hide as one enters the rest camp.

Agulhas National Park

Agulhas’s claim to fame comes from two interesting factoids: the southernmost point of Africa is located at 34° 49’ 58" south and 20° 00’ 12’’ east in Agulhas (a cairn marks the spot), and the Atlantic ocean and the Indian ocean meet at this longitudinal point. The park stretches between Gansbaai and Struisbaai and has many other great activities to offer. Visit the Cape Agulhas Lighthouse, which was built to aid early seafaring explorers through the rough seas off Cape Agulhas. The second oldest working lighthouse in southern Africa was built from stone mined at the adjacent limestone quarry and seventy-one steps gets you to the top. While there, keep a lookout for the many shipwrecks along this coastline. The building also houses a museum, where remains of ancient stone fish traps used by the Khoisan people can be seen. The Agulhas National Park is an excellent location for horticulturists interested in fynbos and birders looking for a variety of bird species, including endangered ones like the African Black Oystercatcher. There are also two popular hiking trails, the Two Oceans Trail and the Rasperpunt Trail.

Celebrate South African biodiversity this September with National Parks Week and enjoy free entry to the above parks, as well as most of the other SANParks. Make De Bakke Santos your base and know that you’ll return from a lovely day in nature to a comfortable bed or a cosy tent. Be sure to reach out to our lovely team if you have any questions, need directions, or would like to make a booking.

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