South African savanna is a world of grass and trees. This was the first ecosystem to be conserved – the Kruger National Park remains an excellent example of savanna – and it’s easy to see why. The variety of vegetation supports a vast array of wildlife.

Did you know?

South African savannas are home to around 5 700 species of plants.

Blonde waving grass, with a herd of elephants sashaying through it. Umbrella-shaped thorn trees dotted here and there, with giraffe or kudu nibbling at their leaves. A few bushy shrubs with impala grazing close by. A lion lurking somewhere in the long grass.

Picture this, and you'll have a fair idea what South African savannas look like. Nature always likes variation though. In some places, the trees are smaller, bushier and less elegant. Then savannas are referred to as shrubland. In places where trees seem to dominate, it's called woodland. Many people simply call it the bushveld.

The savannas of South Africa cover more than a third of the country, curling up around from the arid Kalahari, fattening through Limpopo and extending down through KwaZulu-Natal to the Eastern Cape.

When conservation started in South Africa, it was this ecosystem that was first protected in what became the Kruger National Park over 100 years ago. This is where you'll typically see the Big Five plus scores of other species of game, birds, reptiles and insects, as well as 100s of species of plants and trees.

South Africa's savanna conservation is not only limited to national and provincial parks. Its ability to effortlessly support large numbers of wild animals has attracted individuals into converting farmland into private game reserves or ranches too.

Apart from the Kruger National Park, you'll also see South African savanna (this time with those gorgeous camelthorn trees) in the Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park, up at Mapungubwe National Park, and inland of St Lucia's lakelands.

You'll stand a better than good chance of seeing the Big Five, but the plants are just as spectacular. In regions like the Soutpansberg, you can find up to 400 tree species in a relatively small space. And don't forget – savanna is home to the giant baobab.

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