South Africa is a country blessed with a variety of national parks in all kinds of biomes with spectacular wildlife.
The big-hitters like Addo and Kruger attract most of the crowds, but these can become quite daunting when you want a quiet nature escape or struggling to find bookings during peak seasons.
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But there are many other national parks, and even sites within the busy parks, that don't get as much love and have low occupancy rates. So much so that SANParks has adjusted their commission rates for travel operators at these parks to 40%.
SANParks has also seen an overall drop in visitors in the 2018/2019 year compared to the previous year, with an average 4.9% drop in guests to parks. The biggest drop is attributed to Camdeboo National Park, followed by Tankwa Karoo National Park.
The park with the biggest boost in numbers is Namaqua National Park, with a staggering 22.3% increase in guests to the park.
So why not support these spots for your next local trip with the family?
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The |Ais-|Ais/Richtersveld Transfrontier Park is nestled on the edge of the country in the Northern Cape, it might appear to be a desolate place - but shaped by the Orange River it's filled with legends of Big Snakes, a nomadic culture and the world's richest desert flora.
Less than three hours from Cape Town, the Bontebok National Park is a quiet escape into the Langeberg Mountains and the Lang Elsie's Kraal rest camp is situated right on the Breede River. Animals that roam here include the park's namesake, the grey rhebok, red hartebeest and a paradise for birdwatchers.
This is the most southern point of Africa, where the Indian and Atlantic Oceans meet and many a ship has met its end. You can meander down the Agulhas National Park coastline, check out the lighthouse and take on one of its lovely walking trails.
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While the Namaqua National Park will most definitely be booked out during the popular wildflower season in August and September, it still has lots to offer the rest of the year. You can camp right on the beach, gaze at night skies filled to the brim with stars and test out your 4x4 prowess.
Situated in the Free State, the Golden Gate Highlands National Park's best feature is the majestic Maluti Mountains. Despite the natural scenery, you can also dive into Basotho culture at the traditional village that looks as it did in the 18th century.
The general accommodation in Addo Elephant National Park has high occupancy rates, but not so much for two accommodation options - Narina Bush Camp and the Alexandria Hiking Trail. Narina is a stay at the foot of the Zuurberg Mountains on the banks of Wit River inside a magical forest, while the Alexandria route is a two-day circular trail with the Woody Cape Guesthouse for the beginning and end of the route.
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Mokala National Parks is South Africa's newest addition and has low occupancy for Lilydale Rest Camp - overlooking the Riet River with a swimming pool - and their Mosu Lodge - a great conference venue with a combination of self-catering, family and luxury units.
The national park inside Cape Town has a high number of day visitors, but not so much when it comes to staying in the park's accommodation offerings. Accommodations options include the Hoerikwaggo Tented Camps, the Olifantsbos Guest House in Buffelsfontein, the Eland and Duiker Family Cottages in the Cape of Good Hope, the historic Platteklip Wash Houses in Oranjezicht and the Overseers Cottage on top of Table Mountain.
Hear the roar of the Orange River in the Augrabies Falls National Park situated close to Upington. You have the option of campsites, chalets and family cottages for your stay in this arid place, filled with stunning vistas, great hiking trails and you're also allowed mountain biking within its borders.
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A World Heritage Site where a kingdom once prospered, Mapungubwe National Park is also a big game reserve. The less popular places to check out for accommodation are the Limpopo Forest Tented Camp, the luxurious Tshugulu Lodge and the unfenced Vhembe Wilderness Camp for those who like to rough it.
The Marakele National Park surrounds the Waterberg Mountains known as a sanctuary, and the accommodation spot that needs some love is the Bontle Rest Camp. Close to the park's entrance, you can either set up your own campsite or opt for one of the 10 tented units ready to welcome guests.
The spots with low occupancy in the expansive Garden Route National Park are the Ebb-and-Flow Rest Camp in Wilderness, the accommodation options in the Knysna Lakes Section and the Nature's Valley Rest Camp.
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