How to get into South African National Parks for (almost) free
Any visit to South Africa absolutely has to include a visit to one of our incredible national parks. My favourites are the Cape Point National park because of the wide open spaces, endless beaches and dramatic beauty of the cliffs against the shore line. If you are a nature lover too then this is really worth a visit. There are so many hikes you can do around the Cape Point National park (including a shipwreck hike) that one visit just isn’t enough.
What are the South African National Parks?
The Cape Point is run by the SAN Parks (South African National Parks) and some of the best protected areas in South Africa (about 67%) are run by SAN Parks, and not the state. San Parks is heavily involved in conservation and protected area management which means that they keep the parks running smoothly and safely for the animals.
Their main role is to create “nature based tourism in a manner that is not harmful for the environment”, and I have to say that they do a really great job in this regard. The animals seem happy and calm and the reserves are amazingly well kept.
The only drawback when it comes to visiting national parks like the Cape Point National park is the entrance fee which can be a bit steep, especially if you want to visit often. The entrance fee for the SAN Parks can be anything from R45 to more than R160, and if you are going as a couple or family this can add up very quickly.
Thankfully the SAN Parks have thought this through. Since most of their revenue to take care of the parks comes from tourism, including the entrance fee, they don’t want to discourage people from visiting again and again, especially locals.
Their solution, which I think is absolutely genius, is the “wild card”.
What is the Wild Card?
The wild card is a personalised card that allows you to enter over 80 SAN parks for ‘free’, all you need to do is pay the annual fee once a year and for the next 365 days you pay nothing to get into most SAN parks.
This works out amazingly well if you are an outdoors type of person that will be going on hikes every weekend or even once a month. Just a few visits to Cape Point will pay off the ‘wild card’s’ annual fee.
Jake and I each have a wild card and they have paid themselves off at least 10x over. The great part is having the wild card means you also get a discount when you get the ‘cable card’ (another annual card, but for the cable car up to the top of Table Mountain).
What will the Wild Card cost?
The fee for an individual card (2018 prices) is R570, for a couples card you can pay R940 and for a family card allowing up to 7 people on one card you can pay R1150.
There are, however, different options depending on whether you plan on traveling around the country or just stay in one province and visit a few specific Parks. You can take a look at their website to pick the best option for you. [https://www.sanparks.org/wild_new/tourism/pricing.php]
The wild card we have gives us access to over 80 National Parks around South Africa and we even use them in the Garden Route where we go canoeing every year (and where Jake proposed).
The wild card isn’t just for South African residents either. If you have a work permit for South Africa you can apply for one too. International visitors pay R2450 for individual cards, R 3830 for a couple’s card and R4585 for a family card allowing 7 people on the card. This will definitely come in very handy if you are going to be visiting every SAN Park you come across, which will be well worth your trip.
How do I get the Wild Card?
You can order your wild card online from the SAN Park’s website , the process is pretty easy and you will get your Wild Card in about 2 weeks via registered mail.
Can I stay over at a Park?
The SAN Parks also have lodges, camping sites and chalets inside the actual SAN Parks. You can make bookings to stay at these amazing sites online too.
What do the animals look like?
The SAN Park website even has live feed from webcams set up in some of the parks so you can see the animals doing their thing.