Wildlife Refuge – South Africa

Southern Africa is without doubt last refuge and home to one of the world’s richest and most diverse concentrations of our planets plants and animals. They are all here – from the largest creature on land, the African Elephant to one of the largest in the seas the great Southern Right Whale. Wildebeest lock horns on the scrubby plains of the Kruger National Park, as they did before mankind, and weaver birds build nests using genetic blueprints hard wired in their brains.

Their world is shrinking – the systems that had remained stable for hundreds of thousands of years were disrupted in a short evolutionary period of time, when hunters from the 1800’s unleashed a slaughter matched only by Bison hunts on another continent across the Atlantic. The Quagga and Bluebuck were last seen over a hundred years ago and species are being decimated on a daily basis. Were it not for South Africa’s wealth of national parks, nature and game reserves, many animals and plants would no longer exist.

South Africa offers some of the finest safari experiences on the continent such the Addo Elephant Park in the Eastern Cape. What started out as a conservation effort to rehabilitate the last remaining eleven elephants of the Eastern Cape has now flourished to be a National Park of repute, home to over 450 pachyderms, black rhino, buffalo and antelope.

However it’s South Africa’s Premier National Park, the Kruger, which not only is one of the most famous wildlife parks in the world, it is amongst the largest and oldest which draw nature enthusiasts to its ancient bushveld. The park spans through six different ecosystems which supports 517 bird species, 147 mammals and 114 reptilian species. Amongst these are Africa’s Big Five: Lion, Leopard, Buffalo, Elephants and Rhino, as well as cheetah, hippos, crocodiles, hyenas, giraffes, a large variety of antelope, bird life and smaller yet just as fascinating creatures.

The Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park straddles the border between South Africa and Botswana, comprising the two large national parks of the Kalahari Gemsbok National Park and the Gemsbok National Park. A vast 38,000 square kilometers, this destination is situated largely within the sand dunes and dry riverbeds of the Kalahari Desert, vast, arid, stark and beautiful. The park is home to an abundance of wildlife. Vultures and raptors such as eagles, buzzards, and secretary birds are some of the 200 species of bird for whom the park is a habitat. Blue wildebeest, eland, red hartebeest and springbok also live in and migrate through the park, and are preyed on by Kalahari lions, cheetahs, leopards, and hyenas.

A world Heritage site, the iSimangaliso Wetland Park in Kwazulu Natal is known for its superlative natural beauty and unique global values. The 332 000 hectare Park contains three major lake systems, eight interlinking ecosystems, 700 year old fishing traditions, most of South Africa’s remaining swamp forests, Africa’s largest estuarine system, 526 bird species and 25 000 year-old coastal dunes – among the highest in the world. The name iSimangaliso means miracle and wonder, which aptly describes this unique place.

The arid Namaqualand region explodes with color between mid-August and mid-September, when wild flowers blanket the landscape. The West Coast National Park is one of the best places to see the phenomenon

South Africa’s coastal playground, the Garden Route has legendary status as a natural paradise due to its rich tapestry of towering trees, vast freshwater lakes, deep gorges, surging waterfalls, raging rivers and idyllic sandy white beaches. Defined by Mother Nature’s scenic paint brush the Garden Route is also known for its multitude of outdoor adventure activities, superb local cuisine and distinguished wine estates. From the city of Port Elizabeth to the underground caverns along the Storms River and the lush Tsitsikamma forest canopies. Eat handfuls of oysters, spot dolphins and whales in the bohemian style town of Knysna or Plettenberg Bay. Crawl through twisted caverns and in between calcite columns in the underground labyrinth of the famous Cango Caves.

All along the South Coast from West to East during the months of June until September, large pods of Southern Right Whales can be seen from land as they migrate every winter. The best place to watch them is from land in the De Hoop nature reserve or the coastal town of Hermanus and Walker Bay, which hosts an annual Whale Festival. They come so close to shore you can view from your hotel window which provides unsurpassed whale watching opportunities.

Follow the Panorama Route in the Mpumalanga Province and experience one of South Africa’s scenic highlights which feature the spectacular Blyde River Canyon Nature Reserve in the northern Drakensberg. It is the third largest gorge in the world, after the Grand Canyon (USA) and Fish River Canyon (Namibia). The 29,000-hectare (71,662-acre) reserve is home to a rich variety of wildlife including rare birds and lichens; you will also find waterfalls, dramatic mountains and plunging cliffs. In addition to the Canyon there are magnificent view point’s overlooking the lower plains and fort canopies such as God’s Window, Wonder view and the Three Rondavels.

Known locally as the “Dragon Mountains or the Barrier of Spears”, the Drakensberg Mountain range is a 200 km long mountainous wonderland and world heritage site, situated deep in the South African wilderness and is excellent for short and long duration hiking. Trails pass through ancient yellow wood trees, plummeting waterfalls, basalt cliffs, and ancient rock art.

The Wild Coast which lies on the South East coast of South Africa, stretching from the Eastern Cape to Kwazulu Natal’s boast an incredible array of scenic splendor, natural wonders, warm water of the Indian Ocean, seaside coastal towns surrounded by lush tropical forest, open grasslands, deep ravine gorges, tidal estuaries and combination of exotic land and marine life.

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