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23 August 2023

Captivating Winter Landscapes – Journey into South Africa’s backyard

Captivating winter landscape and activities to make this winter your best one yet

Mother nature comes alive in the lush South African outdoors at the first crack of dawn. Having decided to take some time off, you’re grounding yourself in the heart of the wild. The air is brisk, carrying the fresh scent of the South African wilderness. The aroma of fynbos blends beautifully with the smell of your morning coffee, brewing over the coals of a smoldering hardwood fire.

With the first taste of your coffee, you truly absorb the reality of your surroundings. You are at peace, you are one with nature , you are free. You are exactly where you need to be.

This winter, turn your thoughts into journeys by exploring your South African National Parks. Your bucket list just got a lot simpler.

South Africa, with its breathtaking landscapes, unique wildlife, and rich cultural heritage, is a treasure trove of experiences waiting to be discovered. This is the land where you spent your childhood years, perhaps even exploring some of your national parks as a youngster.

Why jet off to distant lands when you have some of the world’s most stunning destinations right here on your doorstep? The mountains, the bushveld, the coast – it’s all here, waiting for you to experience extraordinary adventures.

South African National Parks (SANParks) will take you from the renowned Kruger National Park to the scenic hiking trails of Cape Town’s Table Mountain National Park, uncovering a world of adventure during this winter season.

You don’t need to book our Kruger Park accommodation or South African safari packages to experience the best of winter, though. The winter months in South Africa offer some of the best experiences and provide unique wildlife encounters across the board.

Let’s explore the first installment of our winter park feature, Addo Elephant National Park, where you can experience a South African Winter getaway like no other.

Addo Elephant National Park – Winter wildlife encounters await

Experiencing winter wildlife encounters in South Africa’s National Parks is an experience like no other, especially given the extraordinarily unique diverse ecosystem of Addo Elephant National Park.

Situated in the Eastern Cape, about an hour’s drive from Gqeberha (previously Port Elizabeth), the Addo Elephant National Park is one of the most diverse offerings on the South African National Parks’ roster. The park stretches from the Nama-Karoo biome of the Darlington Dam area in the north through to the coastal region of Algoa Bay.

Addo Elephant National Park is the third-largest national park in South Africa, renowned for its thriving elephant population. However, this national park offers so much more than these majestic giants; it is also the only National Park in the world where you can see the Big 7 within their natural habitats.

These seven wildlife wonders comprise the elephant, rhino, lion, buffalo, leopard, southern right whale, and the great white shark. Further adding to the park’s distinctiveness is its conservation of five out of the seven South African biomes, or vegetation zones. These include Subtropical Thicket, Fynbos, Grassland, Nama-Karoo, and Forest.

This makes this park an absolute must on the bucket lists of adventurers and wildlife enthusiasts alike. Allow us to take you through some of the most popular camps in the Addo Elephant National Park.

Addo Rest Camp

The Addo Rest Camp is your central connection to the Addo Elephant National Park, equipped with a variety of amenities and comforts to guarantee a comfortable and pleasant experience.

This camp features a lookout platform and an underground hide that offer fascinating views of a waterhole, which is beautifully lit at night to provide nocturnal wildlife viewing opportunities.

A picnic area is  available for day visitors, allowing you to enjoy a meal with a view overlooking the waterhole. There’s also ‘Jack’s picnic site’ within the botanical reserve in the main game area, complete with picnic, braai, and ablution facilities.

For bird enthusiasts, the SASOL Red Bishop Bird Hide overlooks a small wetland area, offering you the chance to observe a variety of bird species in their natural habitat. Peacefully observing nature as it should be.

The Addo Rest Camp also boasts a shop, restaurant, spa, interpretive centre, a walking trail and fuel station, as well as a swimming pool for overnight visitors.

Matyholweni Rest Camp

Matyholweni Rest Camp welcomes visitors with its warm Xhosa name, which translates to “in the bush”. Matyholweni serves as a secondary entrance to the park and is situated near the coastal town of Colchester at the Sundays River Mouth.

A distinct advantage of staying at Matyholweni Camp is the direct access it provides to the park’s primary wildlife viewing area. A scenic drive along the southern access road, spanning 39km, connects the camp to the Addo Main Camp.

There are five creatures that you should especially keep an eye out for at this camp: the elusive bushpig, the graceful bushbuck, the majestic Stanley’s bustard, the vibrant malachite sunbird, and the powerful buffalo. Make sure to have your binoculars and camera ready for these unexpected encounters.

Spekboom Camp

Immerse yourself in nature at the Spekboom Tented Camp, nestled within the heart of Addo Elephant National Park. Here, you can fall asleep to the sounds of the African wilderness and wake up to the sight of animals drinking at the waterhole.

The Spekboom tents are uniquely situated within the enclosed area of the Spekboom Hide, in the park’s main game area. At night, the clear skies become a sparkling canvas, offering a stunning celestial show. Don’t forget to keep an eye out for the spotted hyena, lion, black-backed jackal, fiery-necked nightjar, and spotted thick-knee, some of the nocturnal creatures that call this park home.

Nyathi Rest Camp

Situated at the foot of the Zuurberg Mountain range, Nyathi Rest Camp offers an exclusive self-catering experience within the Addo Elephant National Park.

This secluded camp, situated just 12km from the main camp, boasts stilted units that offer spectacular views of the surrounding floodplain and its visitors – elephants, lions, Cape buffaloes, and flightless dung beetles. The camp, named after the buffalo, reflects traditional African culture in its dome-styled, thatched homes.

Now that you are familiar with a few of the park’s points of interest, let’s explore some of the experiences you can have at the Addo Elephant National Park.

Activities to Experience

Addo Elephant National Park offers a wide range of activities for visitors, allowing them to immerse themselves in the park’s diverse environments and wildlife.

4×4 Adventures

For the adventurous, the Bedrogfontein 4×4 trail is a must-try. This trail, situated between the Kabouga and Darlington areas of the park, offers breathtaking views and is steeped in history. It was the site of intense battles between British and Afrikaner troops during the Anglo-Boer War. Additionally, rock art paintings can be found throughout the area. This 45km route promises a culturally-diverse and historically-thrilling journey.

Beach Retreats

Beach activities are also popular within the Addo Elephant National Park, with the park’s borders stretching down to the coast between Sundays River Mouth and Bushman’s River Mouth. The sandy shores provide the perfect setting for relaxing, picnicking, or even spotting marine wildlife like southern right whales. The marine section of the park also includes the Bird and St. Croix Islands in Algoa Bay, important breeding places for marine bird species. Bird Island supports the world’s largest breeding colony of Cape gannets, along with African penguins and rare roseate terns, while St. Croix Island houses a large breeding colony of African penguins.

Birdwatchers Haven

Addo Elephant National Park is truly a paradise for birdwatchers, boasting as many as 450 bird species. Located opposite the waterhole in the main rest camp, the SASOL Red Bishop Bird Hide provides birdwatchers with the opportunity to observe a variety of species including red bishops, weavers, herons and coots. View a checklist of bird species here.

Serene Nature Walks & Hiking

Nature walks and hikes are another great way to experience the park. These activities offer visitors the opportunity to discover some of the different biomes present in the park, each with its unique vegetation and wildlife. The Alexandria Hiking Trail offers a two-day circular hike stretching over 32km, with 18.5km covered on the first day and the remaining 13.5km on the second day. The Tree Dassie and Cannon Trails in the Woody Cape section of the Park provides shorter options for the not-so-adventurous. The Zuurberg section of the Park is where visitors can take on a variety of shorter hikes of about one and three hours respectively in this picturesque mountainous area.

Addo Indlovu Spa

Choose to unwind in the comfort of your own accommodation, or with a unique  massage experience at Addo Indlovu Spa. Treatments are available for both day and overnight visitors, ensuring no one is excluded from sheer pampering and relaxation. Treatments range from full body massages, pedicures, facials and even spoils for the smallest members of the families with kiddies spa treatments.

What are you waiting for? Are you going to keep adding another travel goal to your to-do list or tick one off your bucket list?

Our country’s National Parks and the freedom to be outdoors belong to you. Whatever your wild is, SANParks has it. It is within your very own backyard. Come and play in it, find adventure in it, dirty your 4×4 tyres in it, nurture your soul in it, reconnect with your loved ones in it, and discover yourself in it.

As we journey through these wild and breathtaking landscapes, we are reminded of an important truth: ‘Fill your life with experiences, not things. Have stories to tell, not stuff to show.’ In the end, it is not about the possessions we accumulate, but the memories we make, the moments we share, and the stories we can tell.

So, this winter, why not embrace this ethos? Explore South Africa’s national parks, fill your life with unforgettable experiences, and start creating your own South African stories today. Tranquility in nature awaits.

Recuperate, rest, rejuvenate. WILD is our backyard, come unwind in it!