From headline-grabbing Big Five icons to thousands-strong roaming herds of game, South Africa’s endless swathes of protected wilderness promise exceptional wildlife viewing.
The private reserves surrounding Kruger National Park – Sabi Sands, Ngala, Thornybush and Timbavati – are the setting for some of South Africa’s most luxurious safari lodges. They also provide some of the country’s best safari experiences, with classic game drives, walking safaris and even overnight sleep-outs providing opportunities for up-close encounters with lions, leopards, elephants and more.
Close to the Garden Route, good for families, malaria free and catering to a wide range of budgets, the Eastern Cape’s reserves are another major draw. The big hitters here are Amakhala, Shamwari, Kwandwe and Kariega, all of which offer Big Five game viewing, a good choice of accommodation and easy access from nearby Port Elizabeth.
To the east, in KwaZulu-Natal, the andBeyond Phinda Private Game Reserve is a birder’s paradise, home to an incredible 415 species, while the neighbouring iSimangaliso Wetland Park has fewer crowds and a diversity of habitats that are home to everything from hippo and white rhino to turtles, crocodiles, whales and dolphins.
Further off the beaten track still, the semi-arid and bushveld habitats of the Northwest Province and Northern Cape include the Tswalu Kalahari, famed for its sweeping desert landscapes and large population of inquisitive meerkats.
Kruger National Park
This magnificent 20,000 square-kilometre national park and its surrounding private reserves provide some of the continents very best game viewing. Home to 147 species of mammal and more than 500 species of birds, it’s a region that offers unrivalled opportunities to see the Big Five and stays in some of the country’s most luxurious safari lodges.
Madikwe Game Reserve
Located in South Africa’s Northwest Province, which shares a border with neighbouring Botswana, Madikwe Game Reserve offers malaria-free game viewing and the chance to see rare African wild dog along with elephant, giraffe, impala, wildebeest, springbok, white rhino and more than 300 bird species.
Sanbona Wildlife Reserve
Also malaria-free, the stark landscapes of the Sanbona Wildlife Reserve, just north of Swellendam in the Western Cape, have been home to the San tribespeople for centuries. Wildlife here is plentiful and includes the Big Five, but the star attraction has to be its resident pride of white lions.
Eastern Cape Game Reserves
Counting Amakhala, Shamwari, Kwandwe and Kariega in their number, the reserves of the Eastern Cape are among South Africa’s most popular, and with good reason. Here, you can combine malaria-free, Big Five game viewing with luxurious lodge accommodtion, all conveniently located at the far eastern end of the Garden Route.
andBeyond Phinda Private Game Reserve
In the eastern province of KwaZulu- Natal, and within easy reach of its iSimangaliso Wetland Park neighbour, this spectacular private reserve counts cheetah and black rhino among its numbers. The idyllic beaches of the Indian Ocean coast are also close by.
Tswalu Kalahari is South Africa’s largest private game reserve, and, with just 30 guests allowed in at any one time, it’s the place to go to escape the crowds.The dramatic desert landscapes provide a genuine wilderness experience. While it’s no Kruger, visitors can still expect to see black-maned Kalahari lions, cheetahs, meerkats, rare pangolins, raptors and desert black rhinos.