South Africa – Protected Areas

The world’s first whale sanctuary was proclaimed in 2001 in Walker Bay at the tip of Africa.  (SA 2002-3 South Africa at a Glance, Editors, Inc.)

South Africa has some 403 protected areas, ranging from the massive and world-renowned Kruger National Park (established in 1898, it is the size of Wales and one of the oldest and best managed nature reserves in Africa), to the tiny and little-known Mkambati Nature Reserve in the Eastern Cape.

The Kruger National Park (the world’s 8th largest reserve) has the most innovative management of a national park anywhere in the world – and is the world’s most profitable game park.

Protected areas of South Africa include national parks and marine protected areas managed by the government, nature reserves managed by provincial or local government, and private nature reserves managed by private landowners.  Most protected areas are intended for the conservation of flora and fauna.

South African national parks are maintained by South African National Parks (SANParks) visit for a comprehensive list of national parks and booking details.

Several areas in South Africa have been protected for their value and importance as historical, cultural heritage or scientific sites.

In the next 20 years, South African National Parks will expand the country’s protected areas from its current 6% to 8% of our land surface. During the same period, protected marine and coastal environmental areas will be expanded from 5% to 20%. Already, Addo Elephant National Park in the Eastern Cape, which used to be one of the smallest of our national parks, has grown 10 fold to over 90 000 hectares. Now known as Greater Addo, it has become a ‘Big 7’ park, including leopard, lion, elephant, rhino and buffalo (the traditional ‘Big 5’) plus dolphins and whales.

There are approximately 12 000 elephants in South Africa. Since 1994 no elephants have been culled due to the new elephant management plan. KPMG is one of the long term sponsors of this highly successful initiative.

South Africa’s Coastal Management policy is one of the best in the world with the country being the first outside Europe to gain Blue Flag status for its coastal management.

One of the most visionary initiatives underway in South Africa is the creation of Transfrontier Conservation Areas, also known as Peace Parks because of their role in improving cross-border relations between neighbouring countries. Six such parks have been identified in Southern Africa, including the Great Limpopo Transfrontier Park, which was created in 2002. The latter joins together Mozambique’s Coutada 16 Park, Zimbabwe’s Gonarezhou Park and South Africa’s Kruger National Park.

The Great Limpopo Transfrontier Park that spans South Africa, Mozambique and Zimbabwe (incorporating the Kruger National Park) is the world’s first conservation initiative of its kind. The 38 600 km² park is bigger than the Yellowstone National Park in the US, and even bigger than Switzerland, Belgium or Taiwan.

South Africa is the first country to establish three trans-frontier national parks (with three different countries).(SA 2002-3 South Africa at a Glance, Editors, Inc.)

South Africa’s” Working for Water” project is the biggest conservation endeavor on the continent, and tackles alien vegetation head on, employing 18 000 people.

The Barberton mountain lands has been declared a national heritage site and christened Nkomazi (“place of water”) Wilderness. The rocks in this area contain evidence of the earliest life to appear on this planet some 3.5 billion years ago. (SA 2002-3 South Africa at a Glance, Editors, Inc.)

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