South Africa’s cities and beaches are a major draw for travelers, but for those seeking nature, the country has many spectacular national parks. While these are dotted all over the country, some of the most beautiful can be found in the city of Cape Town and its surrounds. Here we look at some of the best national parks in Cape Town and the Western Cape of South Africa.
1. Table Mountain National Park, Cape Town
Cape Town is famous for its iconic Table Mountain, which hugs the city and makes a perfect picture-postcard view from many angles. Meanwhile, the Table Mountain National Park spreads out from the mountain all the way to the Cape of Good Hope and Cape Point.
Previously known as the Cape Peninsula National Park, its reason for being is to protect the natural environment of the Table Mountain Chain. In particular, the national park’s aim is to protect the unique and rare fynbos vegetation. Meanwhile, the park is included in the UNESCO Cape Floral Region World Heritage Site.
– Table Mountain Cable Car
Taking a cable bar to the top of Table Mountain offers a spectacular view of the city, across Table Bay to Robben Island. The island was famously President Nelson Mandela’s prison and is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The park also spreads out over the plateau of Table Mountain, where fynbos and wildlife can be seen, including the cute Dassies or rock hyrax.
Meanwhile, the national park also covers Signal Hill, Lion’s Head and Devil’s Peak. Meanwhile, the mountainscape continues to the Twelve Apostles mountains in Camps Bay and the continuing Atlantic Seaboard.
– Cape Point
The spectacular Cape Point towers more than 200 meters (656 feet) above the ocean, with sheer and rugged cliffs. This provides a stunning background for the rich bio-diversity and fynbos here. Meanwhile, Cape Point falls within the southern section of the Table Mountain National Park. Moreover, Cape Point features breathtaking bays and golden beaches, as well as rolling green hills and valleys.
Meanwhile, the promontory nestles at the southeast corner of the Cape Peninsula. The scenic landform runs north to south for around 30 km (19 mi) at the extreme tip of the continent of Africa. The scenic area at the Cape of Good Hope offers spectacular ocean views and the chance to visit a lighthouse from the 1800s.
2. West Coast National Park
Located around a 1.5-hour drive from Cape Town, and a little inland from Saldanha Bay lies the azure waters of the Langebaan Lagoon. This beautiful stretch of water is the focal point of the West Coast National Park. Meanwhile, as a beautiful backdrop to the lagoon, rare fynbos, white sand dunes and green wetlands overlook the waves.
The West Coast National Park is a paradise for mountain bikers, hikers, nature- and bird-lovers alike. The park is the ideal location for travelers wishing for a peaceful and beautiful experience in nature.
3. Agulhas National Park
This iconic location on the Western Cape Coast is where the cold Atlantic Sea dramatically meets the warmer Indian Ocean. The Agulhas National Park is around 200 km (124 mi) from Cape Town and stretches as far as the towns of Gansbaai and Struisbaai.
Visiting here between November and January is the ideal time for whale watching, where it is possible to see the Southern Right Whale in all its splendor.
4. Bontebok National Park
This beautiful national park was first opened in 1931 to preserve the Bontebok, an antelope species found in South Africa, Namibia and Lesotho. The Bontebok National Park is located in the Western Cape and borders the Breede River, a short distance from the town of Swellendam. Meanwhile, the park is set in the foothills of the Langeberg Mountains and is also part of the UNESCO Cape Floral Region World Heritage Site.
Besides the Bontebok, other species spotted here include the African clawless otter, duiker, red hartebeest, grey rhebok and the Cape Mountain zebra. Bird lovers will have the opportunity to spot the secretary bird, Stanley’s bustard, the blue crane, and other iconic species.
Make sure you explore at least one of the spectacular national parks in Cape Town and the city’s surroundings on your next visit to South Africa. While the city itself is truly exciting to explore, it is always worthwhile to take a day trip to experience the nature and beauty of the Western Cape. Along the way, visit the quaint villages, dine on South African specialties and get to know the country’s people.