When you talk about classic African experiences most people immediately think about the incredible wildlife. There’s no better place to spot them than in their world-class National Parks. We look at the top three - Chobe, Addo and Kruger - and chat to local guides Jeremy and Darryl to find out what makes them a must for any visitor to the region.
Chobe National Park
Size: 1.17 million hectares
Located 100km west of Victoria Falls with quick and easy access, this truly authentic African National Park showcases a plethora of free-ranging ‘unfenced’ wildlife. The well-planned one-way road leads in to the national park allowing for easy game viewing and minimising crowding around big cat sightings.
Apart from an incredible array of wildlife, the entire park is simply inspirational with panoramic, well-watered savannah grasslands covered with thorn bushes that can be viewed from lofty plateau look-out points.
The original inhabitants of this area were the San Bushmen (AKA the Basarwa people in Botswana) who have a pale complexion and are small in stature. They call themselves ‘The First People’ with an ancient ‘click’ language and many traditional customs that have since been inherited by the marauding northern Bantu Tribes. These nomadic hunter-gatherers are constantly moving to source food, namely fruits, wild animals and water. You can even find San paintings inside the rocky hills of the park.
Chobe is one of the great wildlife destinations, famed for having some of the world's largest herds of elephants and one of the largest continuous surviving elephant population. Elephant herds migrate to this area at certain times of the year consuming huge amounts of green fodder grass made available when the Zambezi and Chobe Rivers drop in flow volume. In addition to elephants, an abundance of animals and more than 440 recorded bird species call Chobe home. Watch out for Roan antelope and the rare Oribi antelope, Cape buffalo, hippopotamus, Plains zebra, waterbuck, impala, warthog, bushbuck and giraffe, just to name a few of the species found in the park. Lion and leopard sightings are also frequent.
With Evergreen you'll stay at Elephant Valley Lodge, an authentic tented camp located in a forestry reserve adjacent to the park. With a waterhole and borehole overflow, it attracts many species of game and birdlife day and night, just beyond the camp fence. Chobe offers spectacular 4WD game drive and river cruise safari opportunities with sensational vistas filled with prolific non-stop wildlife and birdlife viewing.
Kruger National Park
Size: 2 million hectares
Located in the Lowveld region of South Africa’s Limpopo and Mpumalanga Provinces, Kruger covers two million hectares. Two ironies surrounded the establishment of the park. Firstly, if any animal survived the onslaught of the white hunters it was due to the fact that the region was home to two nasty insects, the tsetse fly and the anopholes mosquito, which kept the hunters at bay. Secondly, when President Paul Kruger of the then Transvaal Republic was approached to establish a game reserve in 1898, it was by a group of hunters who wanted to ensure that the Lowveld game was protected for hunting in the future.
Vegetation in the park ranges from savannah to dense brush, with naturally great botanic diversity. The park consists of three major habitat zones. In the north, vast plains of mopane trees, red bush-willows and baobabs dominate; in the south and east, you'll find knob-thorn and marula savannah; and throughout the park in and around the water courses, densely vegetated riverine systems occur.
Before 1926, the Makuleke people of the Tsonga Tribe inhabited the region that was annexed to make Kruger National Park. They used to earn their livelihood in agriculture and fishery but after restitution post-1994, many entered the hospitality industry in collaboration with private companies.
All of the “Big Five” – lion, leopard, rhino, Cape buffalo and elephant – can be seen in Kruger, as well as more species of large mammals than any other African game reserve. Keep your eyes peeled for a potential sighting of packs of the highly endangered African wild dog. The biggest crisis affecting Kruger at present is the massive poaching of rhinoceros. Between 2001 and 2012, 949 rhinos were killed in Kruger. Since then, over 1,000 rhinos a year have been poached for their horns with highly sophisticated poaching units sneaking their wares out of the country to the two main markets, China and Vietnam. The poachers operate with night-vision instruments and large calibre rifles fitted with sound suppressors and sophisticated telescopes. Unfortunately these poachers make no distinction between white and black rhinos which has dramatically affected the rare black rhino population.
With Evergreen, you'll stay close to Kruger Gate with easy access into the park. A three night stay means ample opportunity to catch all the Kruger wildlife action, plus you'll enjoy a special “You’re Invited” to the Elephant Whispers interaction where you’ll get up close to these majestic creatures.
Addo Elephant National Park
Size: 180,000 hectares
The third largest national park in South Africa, Addo Elephant National Park includes the Bird and St Croix Island groups. The name “Addo” comes from the language of the Khoi, the first people of South Africa. The original Khoi word “Kradouw”, meaning “the way across
the river”, referred to an ancient fording place across the Sundays River, and evolved over time to “Addo”.
It stretches from the semi-arid Karoo area in the north around Darlington Dam, over the rugged Zuurberg Mountains, through the Sundays River Valley and south to the coast between Sundays River and Bushman’s River mouths. The park's vegetation is unique, comprising of dense evergreen Addo bushveld/forest with spekboom, sneezewood, guarri, milky rope and tree fuchsia, as well as succulents, vines and creepers being the dominant plant types. The nutritional-rich vegetation means Addo can sustain a carrying capacity higher than any other park, in fact five times higher than Kruger!
The inhabitants of the area are largely farmers. The park was actually established to save the Eastern Cape/Addo elephant from extinction as many were being killed by local farmers due to the damage the elephants were causing to the region's newly established citrus farms. To keep the elephants in the park, a special fence had to be designed by the warden at the time. Called an “Armstrong” fence, it was made from railway sleepers and steel lift cables!
As the name suggests, the native Addo Elephant calls Addo home. They are smaller in size and have less ivory than other African elephants, and only the bulls have tusks. Addo is also the only national park where you can see the “Big Seven” which are the "Big Five" plus dolphins and whales! In recent years, the park has expanded to include the Woody Cape Nature Reserve on the Eastern Cape coast, making it the first, largest and most biologically diverse park in South Africa. One of the most curious sightings in Addo is the flightless dung beetle. This is one of the few places in the country that this busy little insect lives!
With Evergreen, you can also have a two night stay at the five-star Kuzuko Lodge just to the north of the park where you’ll be treated to breathtaking views of the Karoo Plains and the Zuurberg Mountains.
Live the beauty of Africa’s national parks with Evergreen, enjoying in-depth visits with local expert guides, fantastic stays and unforgettable experiences. Find out more about our tours and cruises in our latest brochure here.