Some of South Africa's most majestic wildlife is on display on Google Maps.
Google's "Mzansi experience" street view highlights the kind of sites usually seen only on safari. There are elephants by the roadside in Kruger National Park; a rare leopard running down the road in the same reserve; and herds of buffalo grazing in the grass.
The virtual tour also includes views of lesser-known spots, like Jonkershoek Nature Reserve near the town of Stellenbosch, and West Coast National Park, a seabird paradise north of Cape Town. [Photos: See the Elusive Wildlife of Kruger National Park]
South Africa is home to about 10,000 elephants at 40 locations, according to Kruger National Park officials, and Kruger alone is home to some of the largest herds. Google's Street View tour features photographs of these huge animals wallowing in water and crossing the dirt road, babies in tow.
Most of the other "big five" African animals are present, too. Buffalo stand in tall grass, watching the Google Street View vehicle pass; a leopard shoots down the road. Rhinoceroses stand on packed red dirt. The only charismatic megafauna missing are the lions — but the sight of giraffes and zebras loitering amidst scrubby trees makes up for the lack of big cats.
The tour then showcases gorgeous views from Jonkershoek Nature Reserve hiking trails and sandy beaches at the Cape of Good Hope and West Coast National Park. There are vistas from Lion's Head, a mountain in Cape Town, and the Kirstenbosch National Botanical Garden at the foot of famous flat-topped Table Mountain itself. The view from the top of Table Mountain is available without the huffing and puffing of a hike up. Users can also tour some of Johannesburg's sites, like the Apartheid Museum and Ellis Park Stadium.
Since introducing Street View in 2007, Google has taken its cameras to tourist sites and remote corners all over the world. Google Maps has views of the base camp on Mt. Everest, polar bears in the Arctic and the deck of the USS Constitution, the historical ship usually docked at Charlestown Navy Yard in Massachusetts. Streets aren't necessary for Street View: Even coral reefs and wild rivers have caught Google's eye.