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Happily, not all night-time events involve high drama and killing, because this is also the best time to see smaller creatures such as bush babies, genets, civets, owls and nightjars, plus many lesser known nocturnal critters. Bathed in the gleam of your vehicle's spotlights, expect to see all the action up close and personal.

5. Sharks at KwaZulu Natal
KwaZulu Natal is South Africa's most populous province, yet it is the kind of place where you can be surfing one day, and swimming with sharks the next.

Deeper into the Indian Ocean, advanced divers who do not mind a shark or 200 will want to check out Protea Banks. At least 12 shark species frequent the banks. Look for grey reef, thresher, copper, sand, mako, tiger and even the occasional great white shark. For a more sedate and colourful diving experience, try the warm waters of Sodwana Bay.

Greater St Lucia is one of Southern Africa's most important coastal wetlands, famed for its crocodiles and, in November, humpback whales, whale sharks and nesting turtles.

The highlight of this beach strip is the Aliwal Shoal, touted as one of the best dive sites in the world. The shoal was created from dune rock around 30,000 years ago. A mere 6,500 years ago, the sea level rose, thereby creating a reef. It was named after the wrecked ship, the Aliwal, which ran aground in 1849. Other ships have since met a similar fate here. Today, the shoal's ledges, caves and pinnacles are home to everything from wrecks, rays, turtles, "raggies" (ragged-mouth sharks), tropical fish and soft corals.

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© Lonely Planet. All rights reserved. The article ‘Lonely Planet's top five wildlife parks in South Africa’ was published in partnership with Lonely Planet.

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