South Africa Safaris
This guide will give you options to plan your ideal safari.
What is it that makes the idea of a Wildlife Safari so attractive? Is it the idea of seeing such an abundance of wildlife up close and personal?
Or is it the feeling of peace and wonder at the beauty of nature untouched by man?
Whatever your vision, South Africa is recognised as one of the continent’s top safari destinations which will deliver on the promise of a fantastic wildlife experience
Plenty for the bird watcher too!
In South Africa, we have over 850 species of bird which are just as interesting to watch whilst you are waiting for one of the Big 5 or even Big 6, if you include whales.
Some tips for your successful wildlife safari trip
- For wildlife watching, winter (June to September) is ideal as many trees and shrubs are leafless, which aids spotting. Limited food and water also means that animals are out in the open more often taking a drink at a waterhole.
- The best time of day to see game is between dawn and 10H00 and from 16H00 to dusk. Night drives can also be really interesting, but most parks will not allow you to do this on your own – you will have to join an official excursion.
- Dawn safaris during the winter in and around Kruger can be surprisingly cold; layers (even gloves and a warm hat) can be shed as the sun and temp goes up.
- Binoculars are important to see the game and birds. They are not supplied in most instances so remember to bring your own. Don’t count on wi-fi in the bush so bird and mammal guides make identification a fun part of the day and children love to participate.
- The country’s sophisticated infrastructure network makes it easy to combine a South Africa safari with a relaxing beach break in cosmopolitan Cape Town or a scenic self-drive journey along the world renowned Garden Route.
What are the choices for a safari that will suit you?
There are options to suit everyone’s pocket. The less expensive National Parks provide a top wildlife experience, with the accommodation choices of rustic self-catering chalets or camping. Game drives with knowledgeable guides are available in most National Parks as well as restaurants and shops.
Private game reserves are often close to, and even join up with the National Parks so that the animals can roam freely between them. Private game reserves usually cater to those who want to combine a safari with excellent cuisine and 5 star accommodation. Here you can expect the extra frills and service to be more costly.
No matter your budget, there will be a wonderful safari experience awaiting you!
Looking to pamper yourself with 5 star luxury?
If it is a luxury safari in South Africa that tickles your fancy, then the private reserves around the Kruger National Park, such as Sabi Sands including Singita, Londolozi or Mala Mala are all first class and will satisfy you on every level from game viewing to the luxury services.
The Madikwe Game Reserve, about two hours drive from Johannesburg, close to the Botswana Border is also a Big 5 luxury safari option.
At private reserves there will be fewer crowds. Safari jeeps may hold only six people compared to a dozen or more in big parks; you will get more individual attention from the guides and when, say, a pride with lion cubs is spotted there won’t be a frenzy of jeeps called in to the sighting.
One way to save on the costs of a private reserve is to spend just a few nights at one at the start of your trip. Take advantage of the talented guides and abundance of wildlife to see a lot of animals quickly and learn a lot about South Africa’s wildlife. Then, with your wildlife urges somewhat sated, try a completely different experience in a national park, where you can concentrate more on appreciating the rhythms of life and natural beauty.
If you are driving the Garden Route from Cape Town, and wish to experience a luxury South African safari, then there are many options in this malaria free area north of Port Elizabeth. Shamwari, Lalibela, Kwandwe and Kariega private game reserves are some of the reserves you can look at.
The Nambiti Game Reserve is situated in a malaria free region in KwaZulu-Natal. This reserve is quickly establishing itself as one of the best big five viewing reserves in this region. The Nambiti Reserve is located a mere 3 hours from Durban and 4 hours from Johannesburg making it one of the most easily accessible reserves in the country.
Are you looking for a great wildlife experience that is more affordable?
All the public National Parks offer great options for affordable accommodation and the wildlife viewing is still top notch. Most National Parks have restaurants or you can choose to self-cater. The camping facilities are excellent, whether you are in a campervan or tent. Many do offer game drives but it is best that one does self-drive. Night drives are always guided. All the roads are in reasonable condition and passable by sedan.
Kruger National Park can get crowded in parts, but given that it’s the size of Wales, you can easily escape to a remote corner. You can stay in the park in everything from isolated camp sites to bungalows and cottages in the main camps. Surrounding the park are towns like Nelspruit which have hotels, hostels and resorts for every budget. The downside of staying outside the park is that it can take an hour or more to drive to the park.
The Pilansberg National Park is an easy 2 hour drive and close to Sun City, with all its attractions including golf, shows, casino, water-world and wave pool and the world’s longest and fastest zipline.
KwaZulu Natal has a number of National Parks, all within a reasonable distance from each other. The Hluhluwe-Imfolozi is one of South Africa’s most celebrated game parks, and the oldest game park in Africa. Covering 96 000 ha it is world renowned for its rhino conservation. This park has a full house of wildlife and is situated in a lush tropical environment. There is an excellent restaurant, and park is especially noted for its network of hiking trails that include multi-day itineraries and camping deep in the bush. Located on the north coast of KwaZulu-Natal, the park is close to the culture of Zululand and the beaches of the Elephant Coast.
Close by is the iSimangaliso Wetland Park, South Africa’s first World Heritage Site with its awe-inspiring natural beauty and unique value in global conservation. Although this is not a park for game, with 332 000ha of indescribable beauty, containing three major lake systems, eight different ecosystems, South Africa’s largest estuarine ecosystem, some of the last remaining swamp forests in South Africa, 526 bird species and some of the oldest and largest coastal dunes in the world it is surely worth a visit after your big 5 experience.
The uMkhuze (Mkuze) Game Reserve is also a top birding destination which, besides game, is also home to over 420 different species of birds. The reserve forms the north western spur of the iSimangaliso Wetland Park which is a World Heritage Site. The reserve is very birder friendly and there are three hides which are ideal for bird watching.
Ndumo, in KwaZulu-Natal’s Mapualand, on the Mozambican border, is the best park in South Africa for bird watching. Fever trees, crocodiles and hippos just add to the birding experience.
If you are taking a safari in South Africa for the first time, see our article on wildlife for the first time visitor.
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