September is around the corner and along with spring being on the way, so is the annual SANParks free week.

Each year, South Africans get a week-long free pass to enter any of the 21 participating parks and explore what is essentially their heritage. Since September is also heritage month in South Africa, choosing this month to host this event makes a lot of sense.

This year’s free week will run from the 16th of September to the 24th, which is Heritage Day. Throughout the free week event, guests will be able to enter the park at no additional charge although the stay won’t include things like accommodation and activities. But for local tourists, this is not a problem, as the park is close enough to enter and leave before the gates close.

2023’s free entry week marks the 18th year that this event is taking place. Each year the free week attracts more and more tourists looking to take advantage of not having to pay for park entry. Over the 18 years, some 691 418 day visitors have participated. 

According to SANParks’ CEO, Hapiloe Sello, “The week was established in a bid to cultivate a sense of pride in South Africa’s natural, cultural and historical heritage, protected by the national parks system. It is also in line with the SANParks’ vision statement of ‘A Sustainable National Park System Connecting Society.’” He further pointed out that the event is a part of a worldwide campaign to encourage people to explore the reserves and parks that form a part of their incredible heritage.

“This initiative aims to give the public an understanding of the role that SANParks plays as custodian of the country’s natural heritage. If we are to create a sense of ownership of the natural heritage of South Africa in all South Africans, then all South Africans must be able to have access to such. Visit a national park this year for free during SA National Parks Week, to see what it has to offer and to do your part by getting to know your national parks, celebrating your rich heritage offering and experiencing first-hand the iconic beauty and plethora of natural flora and fauna,” Sello concluded.

This year, some parks are planning to offer free entry beyond the initial week. Depending on where you plan to go, some parks will be open for the weekend before and the weekend after the official event, giving visitors more time to explore.

If you are going to the Kruger, note that Shingwedzi will be closed to day visitors as it is hosting the 26t Baroque in the Bush event.

The 2023 participating parks are listed here, and this is also where you can find more park specific information:

If this is the first time you are thinking about participating in the free week, here is some information to help you with your planning.

  1. Get there as early as possible. When it is free week, park entry is limited and offered on a first come first served principle. You will want to get to the park gate as soon as possible to beat the crowds.
  2. Bring water and snacks. To maximise your time in the park, bring your water, cool drinks and snacks. This way you will only need to stop for a bathroom break.
  3. Book your accommodation early. If you are planning on staying overnight, make your booking early. 

If you can’t participate in free week, but you want to have an authentic Kruger Park safari, you can always book your trip with Elephant Herd. Our safaris run all throughout the year and take guests into some of the best areas of the beautiful Kruger.