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South Africa safari: when to go, what you'll see, where to stay

By Jane Broughton

Great Fish River Lodge

South Africa has a well-deserved reputation for its many design-forward, eco-conscious safari lodges offering every conceivable luxury and almost guaranteed game viewing throughout the year. As a safari destination, South Africa is easy to get to and navigate once on the ground, making it an ideal last-minute romantic getaway for couples or a sunny winter safari for families. And while it remains an excellent choice for first-timers wanting to experience a classic, big five safari, this destination is just as popular with seasoned philanthropists taking annual impact trips supporting innovative, privately funded conservation initiatives to regenerate animal habitat, protect biodiversity and save critically endangered species .

couple in 4x4 on safari woman holding camera

The most sought-after lodges and safari camps are in private conservation areas, within private game reserves scattered across the country, or in the Greater Kruger area, which includes the Kruger National Park. Small and often owner-run, these luxury, light-footprint properties are in hand-picked, scenic locations and offer deeply layered, immersive safari experiences on and off the vehicle led by experienced guides and trackers with an intimate knowledge of the ecosystem in which they’re working. Many privately protected areas share unfenced boundaries with neighbouring tracts of protected land so that animals can roam and establish their territory over a larger space in tune with seasonal changes. Along with exclusive, up-close sightings and a limit on the number of vehicles permitted, other private concession perks include the freedom to drive off-road where permitted, take guided walks and night drives , enjoy remote bush dinners and star bed sleep-outs, and get involved with hands-on conservation. Sustainably managed properties that are fully invested in protecting the environment while maximising the positive economic spinoffs of nature-based tourism to local communities should always be a consideration before booking anything.

Drinking Elephants in the Kruger National Park South Africa.

When to go to South Africa for safari

Most of the go-to game reserves are in the northeast of South Africa and experience summer rain in thunderstorms followed by a dry winter with cool to chilly nights and warm, clear-skied sunny days ( May to October ). Winter is, therefore, the most popular time to go on safari, when the dry conditions lead to concentrations of animals around reliable water sources. This makes game viewing more predictable and animals easier to track and locate due to sparse vegetation and minimal ground cover. The mild, clear days are great for getting off the vehicle to track and explore the bush on foot. Summer rain radically transforms the bush, and everything explodes with life as the days heat up. Dense thickets and trees in leaf reduce visibility and make game viewing more challenging, but the lush, green vegetation attracts summer migrants and becomes a birder’s paradise. Predator activity increases, too, due to the abundance of baby animals at a time when food is plentiful for all. After the rain, the dust settles and light conditions are excellent for photography. Autumn and spring are good for witnessing the antelope rutting season. An early or late summer safari could be South Africa’s best-kept secret, especially with the add-on of a beach holiday outside of Cape Town ’s busiest time (from mid- December to end- January ). Elsewhere, the semi-arid Karoo and Kalahari are dry and clear-skied in winter and have low rainfall averages in summer but get very hot. In general, off-peak travel is underrated, with benefits including better availability, potential stay-longer, pay-less deals, and the possibility of securing a private vehicle.

Open dusty roads sat in a 4x4 jeep South Africa Kruger National Park

Where to go in South Africa for safari

The private conservation areas in and around the Greater Kruger area are synonymous with South Africa’s reputation for delivering epic, up-close predator action interpreted by knowledgeable guides. Kruger shares unfenced boundaries with several private reserves, including the Sabi Sand, where iconic, family-owned properties like Mala Mala , Londolozi , and Singita first put the region on the map thanks to reliable big cat sightings, especially leopards. Further private properties within the Timbavati, Thornybush and Klaserie reserves add thousands of hectares to the Greater Kruger, encouraging natural species migration and collectively securing habitat for many rare and endangered animals. In the northern reaches of the Kruger National Park, Pafuri’s immense flood plains and dense forests are renowned for walking safaris. At the same time, Singita’s privately leased Lebombo concession on the park’s Mozambican border provides strategic protection for rhinos. Further afield, large, private malaria-free reserves like Madikwe, close to the Botswana border, Marataba in the Waterberg, Samara in the Great Karoo, Tswalu in the southern Kalahari, and Kwandwe in the Eastern Cape, provide shelter for an astounding diversity of big game and rare and elusive species, boast breathtaking scenery and offer a choice of intimately scaled lodges for immersive, romantic getaways, secluded, off-grid trails camps for adventurers, and fully staffed, exclusive-use bush villas for multigenerational families .

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Beyond Tengile River Lodge

The best lodges to book

Tengile river lodge, sabi sand.

This beautifully modern AndBeyond-run lodge in the Sabi Sand has nine energy-efficient, villa-sized suites – 200 square metres in extent – cleverly concealed in a riverine forest on a bend of the Sand River where elephants often come to feed. Hand-painted botanical print fabrics, recycled stone terrazzo floors, and bespoke throws and rugs add character to the smart, modern interiors, everything angled for soaking in the tranquil views. A glass-walled forest-green marble bathroom leads to an outdoor shower on a private, shaded deck and a big  pool . The lodge’s spa and gym also have a lap pool for training swims - necessary, as the food is delicious.

Best for: Nature-loving aesthetes will appreciate the sleek, glamorous style of this lodge, which champions local, eco-friendly design, and having exclusive access to over 10,000 hectares in the quieter south-east of the Sabi Sand reserve.

Cheetah Plains, Sabi Sand

Electric, solar-powered game-drive vehicles offer a zero-emissions ride and properly quiet encounters with wildlife at this 100 per cent off-grid luxury property in the Sabi Sand. In synch with its sustainable approach to game-viewing, Cheetah Plains uses the latest in grey-water recycling. It powers everything from the air-cons to the temperature-controlled wine cellars in its three exclusive-use lodges on renewable solar energy. Named after legendary big cats in the area, the three exclusive-use lodges have four private guest suites - think glass walls gliding away into raw concrete to bring nature closer, even from the bath. Burnished metal, unpolished stone and solid timber interiors are the counterpart to colourful contemporary South African artworks.

Best for: Silent game drives in fast and efficient electric vehicles, charged off renewable energy, designed by Cheetah Plains’ owner, a former rally driver, to be extra-comfortable with luxury SUV suspension, ergonomically shaped padded bucket seats with built-in seat warmers for chilly winter mornings.

Great Fish River Lodge, Kwandwe Private Game Reserve

Nine gloriously remote, romantic suites with viewing decks and private pools sit above the Great Fish River, which meanders for 30 kilometres through this rugged, 22,000-hectare, privately owned reserve in the malaria-free Eastern Cape province, within driving distance of the Garden Route’s long, sandy beaches and indigenous forests. The breeding ground of the blue crane, Kwandwe has just 30 rooms split across two intimate lodges (Great Fish River being one of them), three exclusive-use villas (ideal for family safaris), and an off-grid tented camp. Exclusivity at up-close sightings of the big five, black rhino, cheetah and smaller, but no less significant, vulnerable and endangered species is amplified by the rugged wilderness setting: extensive open plains interrupted by carbon-storing subtropical thicket-clad hills, securing vital habitat for wildlife that last roamed freely here over 120 years ago.

Best for: A big five safari with a luxury of space and privacy for a romantic getaway, after exploring the Garden Route or Cape Town. Malaria free makes it ideal for families and the elderly, too - multiple generations sharing a fully staffed villa with a private vehicle and guide.

Royal Malewane Farmhouse

The Farmstead, at Royal Malewane, Thornybush Private Game Reserve

On expertly guided drives from this sister property to Royal Malewane’s original lodge, sightings include leopard, cheetah, wild dog, and sizeable elephant and buffalo herds. A Master Tracker leads walks. Increased movement of animals has resulted in a richer game-viewing experience in this increasingly popular privately owned reserve - all because fences were dropped on the eastern boundary with the Timbavati in 2017, opening it up to the Greater Kruger area. Liz Biden’s inimitable riotous style doesn’t hold back in this celebratory lodge with three luxury suites plus a separate villa with space for six additional adults. Like Liz’s newest addition to Royal Malewane, Waterside Lodge, this one features fun Ardmore fabrics, animal print and plush velvets in jewel colours and lots of South African art. In summer, deep verandas encourage lazing outdoors on swinging daybeds or one of the loungers submerged in the pool’s shallow end. The local Moletele community own the land here and benefits financially from the lodge’s success.

Best for: House parties, especially if the Biden family’s original bush villa, Africa House, is too big – newly renovated, its six suites share two pools, a spa treatment suite and gym.

South Africa Adventures

Best overnight safaris from Johannesburg

2 day Pilanesberg safari

How to find the best overnight safaris from Johannesburg to suite your needs and budget.

We offer some of the best overnight safaris from Johannesburg ! For safari, wildlife and nature lovers, the Pilanesberg National Park situated about 2 hours’ drive from Johannesburg has plenty of options for you to choose from. From luxury safaris to tented camping tours, South Africa Adventures can organise the ultimate overnight safari for you.

About the Pilanesberg

The Pilanesberg is the most popular overnight safari destination from Johannesburg. This is partly due to the proximity to the city as well as its abundance of wildlife. You can forget about the Lion King. This is the real thing!! The Pilanesberg is home to an incredible amount of animal, bird and plant species. And of course, the park includes the Big 5 (Lion, African Buffalo, Leopard, Rhino and the mighty Elephant).

But that’s not all. On the safari you will get up close and personal with some of the iconic animals of the African bush from zebra, wildebeest, giraffe, antelope like impala, kudu and springbok, warthog, hippo and the occasional Trump Supporter.

Flagship animals of the Pilanesberg

One of the main wildlife species that never fails to impress on a Pilanesberg safari is our favourite, the African elephant.  There are over 300 in the park!!! So, the chances of bumping into one of these suckers is good. Some of the best experiences are watching them swimming and cooling off in one of the dams. And of course, being surrounded by a family of 30 from the breeding herd on the safari.

And then of course there is everyone’s favourite- the African Lion. There is over 250 lions in the Pilanesberg split into various prides. Spending time observing these magnificent creatures is definitely a highlight of any safari.

Drop it like it’s hot

That is exactly what you are going to do. Drop spending time in Johannesburg for a full blown and memorable safari experience. A way better option if you ask us. After all we do offer some of the best overnight safaris from Johannesburg!

Don’t pet the kitty

Just because the wildlife here is not afraid of you doesn’t mean you can do whatever you want. There are strict rules and following the rules will ensure you make it out alive. Don’t get out of the truck unless the guide says it’s ok. Don’t stand up in the truck near animals. Keep quiet around them.

And whatever you do — don’t reach out and pet the big kitty. A hungry lion has no interest in a large vehicle, but once he notices that it’s full of individual snacks, that can quickly change. Doing something stupid will bring you plenty of unwanted attention!

You are on vacation!!!

You are in Africa. Time to chill out and take in the beauty of the African bush-Stress free!! South Africa Adventures handles all aspects of your tour. We handle the return transfers from Johannesburg, the accommodation, meals, safaris logistics and guides. You just need to be waiting for us at your hotel with your safari hat, sunscreen, clothing and a sense of humour.

An overnight safari-How we roll

Our guide will meet you at your hotel in the early morning. We will take the 2-hour drive through to the Pilanesberg. Be sure to bring a hut, sunscreen and camera. We are going to include a lot of safari game drives with our rangers. On all the tour options whether it is the luxury option or the basic tented camping option, we like to include early morning and late afternoon game drives.

These are the best times to see the animals. Midday can get very hot which brings about a ‘wildlife siesta’. The animals are not very active in the heat. A great time for us to chill around the pool with an ice-cold beer we say.

I say old chap, any idea which way north is?

Not only do we know where north is, but we also happen to know where to find the animals. Our safaris are led by one of our experienced rangers that specialises in the Pilanesberg. This means he will have a good understanding of animal behavior and the best areas to find your favourite wild animal.

He will also be able to impart of lot of knowledge and facts about the various animals you come across. So, no need to worry about north. There are bigger elephants to fry on this safari. We would love to say bigger fish but they are pretty scarce in the African bush. Book now for the best overnight safaris from Johannesburg!

What is the most important thing you need to know on an overnight safari to the Pilanesberg?

You would need to be able to solve Einstein’s Theory of Relativity in Greek before we allow you onto the game vehicle. Failing that, we may let you get away with knowing the following:

  • An early start is going to be the order of the day. This is the best time to view the animals especially the nocturnal species like lion, hyena, owls and jackals. Most of the game drives leave at 5:30am returning at 8:30am for breakfast.
  • Every game drive is different- Are you thinking of having a lay and skip the early morning safari? Well don’t!!! No two safaris are alike. There are way too many variables and scenarios in an uncontrollable environment. There is no way of determining what will be seen. Maybe you see that lion kill you missed the day before?
  • There is no guarantee you will see everything- this statement should go without saying. But we need to reiterate it. The Pilanesberg is massive. (over 55,000 hectares). And of course, wild animals don’t stick to our set of rules. They do and go as they please. It’s a matter of being at the right place at the right time. So, cry us a river, build a bridge and get over it.
  • Where you stay matters – make sure you decide on the right type of accommodation that suites your needs. If slogging in el naturale in a camping tent is not your thing, then maybe consider a more luxury type of safari. No matter what option you choose, the actual safari experience in the game vehicle with the ranger is pretty much the same.
  • Weather conditions -This is something we have zero control over. Sometimes it purs with rain. Sometimes it is a hot as hell. We just have to roll with the punches and make the best of the situation.

Are the rangers armed?

Yes, they are. It’s hard to drive a game vehicle without them. They have a left arm and and a right arm. Okay, please excuse our terrible attempt at dry humour. The only things our safari rangers are armed with is bad breath, colourful language and a feather duster.

Game drives in the Pilanesberg are very safe even when we encounter some of the Big 5 up close. The time we would take rifles is when we embark on a walking safari. That is a different kettle of elephants (we mean fish) altogether.

Tour options available

We have various tour options available for our overnight Pilanesberg safaris. They are based on what suites your needs.

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Best safaris in South Africa

south africa overnight safari

Heather Richardson

Wednesday January 25 2023, 15:47pm

South Africa has a large, long-established safari industry and, as a result, the choice of where to stay can feel overwhelming. The good news is that there are a lot of great options. From some of the finest luxury lodges on the continent to simple bush camps and walking trips with more of a connection to the environment, these are some of the best safaris in South Africa .

Main photo: a Cape mountain zebra in Mountain Zebra National Park (Getty Images)

This article contains affiliate links.

Our travel journalism is written and edited by independent experts to inform, inspire and advise our readers about the best choices for your holidays. We also feature properties and itineraries from a specially selected list of trusted operators. These buttons and adverts are clearly signposted, and provide direct links through to external sites. If you click and buy a product, we may earn revenue.

Pafuri Walking Safaris provide some of the best safaris in South Africa

1. Pafuri Walking Safaris, Kruger National Park

Getting back to basics, Pafuri Walking Safaris are based in the northern Kruger, which has a different environment to the southern park, what with its huge baobab trees and large fever tree forest. The big game isn’t as dense up here, but there’s a fraction of the tourists you’ll encounter further south. The walking safaris are at least two nights in length and involve camping in the bush (you’ll still have proper beds, so this is far from roughing it). This is a truly thrilling safari experience led by expert guides, operating in the dry months of April to October.

Price ££ Family-friendly N Big five  lion, leopard, buffalo, rhino, elephant

Samara Karoo Private Reserve is one of the best places for a safari in South Africa

2. Samara Karoo, Samara Karoo Private Reserve

In the Great Karoo semi-desert, Samara offers a different kind of safari from the Kruger bush. The striking semi-arid landscape is rippled with flat-topped mountains on which the team sometimes set up alfresco lunches. Previously used as farmland, the reserve has recently been rewilded with the big five and is a conservation area for cheetahs, who are so relaxed you can approach them on foot. During winter (June to September), this is one of the few places where it’s relatively easy to see aardvark (“earth pig” in Afrikaans), because it’s cool enough for them to be out during the day.

Price ££ Family-friendly Y Big five  lion, leopard, buffalo, rhino, elephant

Singita Lebombo is one of the best places for a safari in South Africa

3. Singita Lebombo, Kruger National Park

Singita is arguably the best luxury safari company on the continent, so it would be remiss not to mention at least one of its South African lodges. Lebombo is in Kruger National Park and has a contemporary style that doesn’t detract from its spectacular setting, overlooking the N’wanetsi River. You’re pretty much guaranteed to see the big five — and much more — as well as enjoying excellent food (think fine-dining dinners) and top South African wine. Lebombo is also home to a cooking school for people who live around Kruger; guests can book a cooking class to support the project.

Price £££ Family-friendly Y Big five  lion, leopard, buffalo, rhino, elephant

Addo Elephant National Park is one of the best places for a safari in South Africa

4. Camp Figtree, Addo Elephant National Park

Camp Figtree is an affordable lodge just outside Addo Elephant National Park — a safari that fits snugly onto the end of a Garden Route road trip from Cape Town to Gqeberha (formerly Port Elizabeth). As the name suggests, Addo is famous for its elephants, but a recent reintroduction of lions gave it the full big five certification. Game drives are an extra charge (as reflected in the cheaper room rate; most high-end safaris are all-inclusive) and other activities include bush walks with giraffes and horse riding. Addo is also malaria-free.

Price £ Family-friendly Y Big five  lion, leopard, buffalo, rhino, elephant

Thornybush Private Game Reserve  is one of the best places for a safari in South Africa

5. Royal Malewane, Thornybush Private Game Reserve, Greater Kruger

Another one of South Africa’s best and most elegantly designed luxury lodges, Royal Malewane is in the private Thornybush reserve on the edge of Kruger National Park, with two lodges — the main lodge with eight suites and the Africa House villa; the other, the Farmstead, with three suites and the Farmhouse villa. The two villas are ideal for those, such as larger families or groups, who want a bit more privacy. And being in this area of the Kruger means exceptional wildlife viewing — not just the big five, but hundreds of species of bird. Photography enthusiasts (no need for a fancy lens, you can hire gear from the lodge) can book a specialist photographic safari to get the best shots of your trip.

Price £££ Family-friendly Y Big five lion, leopard, buffalo, rhino, elephant

Motswiri Private Safari Lodge is one of the best places for a safari in South Africa

6. Motswiri Private Safari Lodge, Madikwe Game Reserve

Madikwe is an excellent option for families. It’s malaria-free, has great game (big five, cheetah and more than 350 bird species) and the drive from Johannesburg airport in Gauteng is about four hours, so it’s not necessary to fork out on expensive light-aircraft flights. There are a bunch of options for different budgets, but Motswiri is a good mid-range lodge with five thatched-roof suites and a family villa all tucked among leadwood trees. Drinks aren’t included, but everything else is.

Price ££ Family-friendly Y Big five lion, leopard, buffalo, rhino, elephant

Lion Sands Game Reserve is one of the best safaris in South Africa

7. Lion Sands, Greater Kruger

There are four lodges and two villas in the Lion Sands reverse next to the Kruger — it’s the only private reserve with access to the perennial Sabie River, which attracts game all year round. The luxurious Ivory Lodge has private plunge pools in each of its eight suites, while the two villas are ideal for families. But the aces up Lion Sands’ sleeve are its three beautiful treehouses — after a picnic dinner and sundowners, retire to your four-poster bed on a lantern-lit platform for a night under the stars.

Lion Sands Game Reserve is one of the best places for a safari in South Africa

8. Muluwa Lodge, White River

A cheaper option for those on a budget, Muluwa Lodge is about 30 miles outside Kruger National Park and a four-hour drive from Johannesburg via the scenic Panorama Route, which includes Blyde River Canyon. Muluwa is based in the Likweti Estate, which is home to animals such as impalas, kudus, giraffes and zebras. As there are no predators, you can cycle, walk or run the trails around the lodge. To spot the famous big five, it’s easy to do Kruger day trips, leaving early in a 4×4 open-sided safari vehicle with a guide (self-driving is also possible) and returning in time for dinner.

Price £ Family-friendly Y Big five (in nearby Kruger) lion, leopard, buffalo, rhino, elephant

9. Bonamanzi Game Park Camp, Hluhluwe

A 30-minute drive from Hluhluwe-iMfolozi Game Reserve, in the eastern province of KwaZulu-Natal, Bonamanzi has an array of accommodation from chalets to tents — the campsite also has access to the lodge’s pool, bar, restaurant and kitchen facilities. Although many people stay here to access Hluhluwe-iMfolozi, which has the big five, the Bonamanzi Game Park itself is home to leopards, buffalos, rhinos and elephants, plus a rich array of birdlife. Guests can also take part in conservation activities, such as a rhino dehorning (to deter poachers), setting up camera traps, or fitting tracking collars to leopards.

Price £ Family-friendly Y Big five (in nearby Hluhluwe-iMfolozi Game Reserve) lion, leopard, buffalo, rhino, elephant

Lion Sands Game Reserve is one of the best places for a safari in South Africa

10. Becks Safari Lodge, Karongwe Game Reserve

Five-star Becks Safari Lodge is in the private Karongwe Game Reserve. It’s less than an hour’s drive from the Kruger National Park, but there’s no need to visit if spotting big game is the aim — Karongwe is home to the big five and other wildlife including hyenas and giraffes. And, being a private reserve, it doesn’t suffer from the Kruger’s high-season crowds. Birders can spot some of the 365 bird species and there’s also a chance to see cheetahs on foot. The ten tented suites are set around the banks of the Makhutswi River, all with private decks, and there’s a communal 20m pool and a spa. Although it’s family-friendly, the lodge does have a 12-plus age limit.

Price ££ Family-friendly N Big five lion, leopard, buffalo, rhino, elephant

Guernsey Private Game Reserve, Greater Kruger, is one of the best places for a safari in South Africa

11. Guernsey Private Game Reserve, Greater Kruger

With several lodges and camping facilities, Guernsey Private Game Reserve is just outside Hoedspruit — one of Kruger National Park’s hub towns — and close to Kruger’s Orpen gate. An early start avoids the morning traffic heading into the Kruger and allows you to spend a full day in the park, either guided in an open-sided 4×4 or self-driving, spotting lions and elephants, before returning for the evening. Within Guernsey, you can take sunrise bush walks to learn about the ecosystem on a more intimate level — a relaxing activity to slot in before checkout.

Tswalu Kalahari Reserve is one of the best places for a safari in South Africa

12. Tswalu Kalahari, Tswalu Kalahari Private Reserve

South Africa’s largest private reserve is in the arid far north. The resort has just a nine-suite lodge and a private house in a reserve of more than 100,000 hectares, so guests virtually have the rolling rust-coloured dunes and plains of the Kalahari semi-desert to themselves. Owing to the reserve’s size, you may have to work a bit for the sightings — but a morning spent tracking black-maned Kalahari lions is all part of the fun. Hang with habituated meerkats, horse ride across the plains, spot black rhino, follow wild dogs on a hunt and top it off with a tasting menu at Klein Jan, a collaboration with the chef Jan Hendrik van der Westhuizen, who has Michelin-starred restaurant experience.

Price £££ Family-friendly Y  Big five lion, leopard, buffalo, rhino

andBeyond Phinda Forest Lodge is one of the best places for a safari in South Africa

13. andBeyond Phinda, Phinda Private Game Reserve

In northern KwaZulu-Natal, andBeyond Phinda has six lodges, including the exclusive Phinda Homestead and Phinda Mountain Lodge, with its views of the reserve’s rolling green hills. Phinda is known for its conservation activities, some of which guests can be involved in — such as joining the team on their regular health checks of the pangolins that have been reintroduced in the reserve, many rescued from the illegal wildlife trade. As well as twice-daily game drives, you can take a diving or snorkelling day trip — Phinda is next to Sodwana Bay, one of the best diving spots in the country.


Sabi Sabi Private Game Reserve is one of the best places for a safari in South Africa

14. Sabi Sabi Private Game Reserve, Greater Kruger

Sabi Sabi has four lodges, from the contemporary Earth Lodge to the classic, family-friendly Bush Lodge with its EleFun Centre, where children are entertained with environment-themed activities while parents take a break at the spa or around the swimming pool. This part of the Kruger is known as one of the best places in the world to see leopards — they’re so habituated they’ll often walk right up to your vehicle. It’s common to see the full big five in 24 hours, which makes the Sabi Sabi Private Game Reserve a great place for a first safari.


A female black rhinoceros and calf on Madikwe Game Reserve, one of the best places for a safari in South Africa

15. Morukuru Family Lodges, Madikwe Game Reserve

Another top Madikwe property, Morukuru has three stylish private houses in the malaria-free reserve, each with its own team of staff — these are perfect choices for families, groups or couples who just want a bit of extra space and privacy. River House and the Owner’s House can be combined for a bigger group. As a family-focused brand, there are plenty of activities for children, such as guided walks and spoor tracking — “spoor” is any evidence that an animal has passed through, from tracks to scat, scents to feathers. Plus there’s pizza-making, board games and plenty of game drives to explore the big five reserve.


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Table Mountain in South Africa

The best safaris in South Africa

An expert guide to the best south africa safaris.

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I fell in love with South Africa the very first time I laid eyes on it. Like so many safari-goers before me, the love affair began in Kruger: big cats, rhinos, elephants and just about every species of charismatic mega-fauna weren’t just present. They were everywhere.

In the years since, as my knowledge of South Africa's safari parks deepened, each visit has only confirmed that my first impressions were, if anything, an understatement. I've been travelling to Africa for two decades and some of my happiest safari experiences have been in South Africa.

For me, it's the sheer breadth and depth of safari opportunities that defines South Africa. It ticks every significant safari box: abundant wildlife, varied habitats and landscapes, a well developed safari industry, and a wonderful mix of the accessible and the remote. And every time I come back, I’m surprised by how much there still is to discover and how much there still is to see.

It’s why I keep returning, and I'm sure you will too.

My best South Africa safari tip? There's a whole world beyond Kruger and the other blockbuster parks. Those in the know seek out Timbavati, Madikwe, Kgalagadi and all the other places that the mainstream South African safari industry doesn't want to tell you about. But that's what this guide is for: we'll explore my top recommended South Africa safari parks and reserves in the following pages.

The best safaris in South Africa: Where to go

South africa's best, and some lesser-known, safari highlights.

Every South Africa safari region has its own charms: I find it reassuring that there are still places like Kruger or Sabi Sands, where wild Africa still reigns supreme, or that there’s still so much wildlife to be seen in big, boisterous and human-dominated Kwazulu-Natal. Safaris in the Eastern Cape and Western Cape come with so many possible add-ons for experiencing the best in modern South Africa. But above all, I love the remote, anything-can-happen experience of the Kalahari & Karoo or North West Province.

Best for: iconic safaris & exclusive reserves

Kruger is South Africa’s most celebrated safari park, and deservedly so. Kruger and the surrounding private reserves are home to all of southern Africa’s iconic mammal species, including the endangered African wild dog, its varied habitats support more than 500 bird species and many of the private reserves offer top quality specialised photo safaris.

A park as good and easy to visit as Kruger attracts a lot of visitors and in high season main routes can be busy. The park’s highly-developed infrastructure also means that it doesn’t always feel all that wild. If this sounds off-putting, fear not: head to northern Kruger for wild beauty, smaller crowds and a palpable sense of adventure. You may have to work a little harder for your sightings up here, but that’s because the animals are a little more wary of vehicles than they are elsewhere. In other words, it feels like a safari of yesteryear. Oh, and the birdlife is exceptional in the north, with species you just don’t find elsewhere in the park.

The park is surrounded by a number of superb private reserves with limited numbers and no self-drives allowed, which means that wild Africa comes growling right up to you. Taking all this into account, whatever sort of safari you’re looking for, Kruger usually comes out on top.

Best for: absolute luxury safaris

If I had to make a choice, for me it’s all about the big cats. And there’s nowhere better than Sabi Sands. The leopard sightings in particular here are almost always something special, thanks to the unrivalled quality of the guiding and the intimacy of the whole low-density-tourism experience.

This 65,000 hectare reserve is, in many respects, the finest chunk of wildlife-filled wilderness in southern Africa. The choice safari destination in South Africa for the wealthy, Sabi Sands is actually a grouping of smaller private reserves rather than one single entity. With unfenced reserves adjacent to Kruger, the wildlife slips effortlessly around the ecosystem while world-class wildlife guides ensure that you’re always in the right place at the right time.

The only real downside is the hefty price tag! But if you can afford it, there’s no question that Sabi Sands offers the best safari experience in South Africa. Also, if birdwatching is your thing, as with Kruger, Sabi Sands has great birdlife, although with less habitat diversity the species count is lower.

Best for: less crowded safaris

Welcome to South Africa’s cultural heartland, an essential immersion for those seeking to understand this glorious country in all its complexity. Networks of private reserves, plus big-ticket Hluhluwe-iMfolozi range across habitats and landscapes that are quintessentially South African. That these parks even exists gives great hope for the future.

Although there is great wildlife watching in many parts of the region, the largest concentration of protected areas is in the northeastern coastal areas a few hours’ drive north of Durban. Spinning away from the massive Lake St Lucia is a number of interconnecting public and private game reserves which together encompass everything from windblown beaches to Big Five-filled grasslands.

The density of big ticket wildlife is a little lower than in the Kruger area, but thanks to the diversity of habitats the range of animal species is exceptional. All the normal big hitters are here including elephant, lion, buffalo, rhino (both black and white), leopard and wild dogs. Hluhluwe-iMfolozi Park and surrounding conservation areas are the best bet for a classic Big Five safari and many an experienced safari goer actually rates Hluhluwe-iMfolozi over the more famous Kruger.

North West Province

Best for: quick & accessible safaris.

If I can’t visit Kruger, I head for the North West and into Limpopo. Some of my happiest safari days have been in Marakele, Mapungubwe and Madikwe; the latter is brilliant for everything. Up here, it’s possible to still feel a sense of adventure, as if the animals outnumber people.

In this often dry and sunburnt region, life can be tough and this is reflected in the fact that compared to greener and better-watered areas such as Kruger National Park, the density of animals can be lower. However, here it’s all about quality and not quantity. Most of the star players are resident on these open savannahs and bushveld, including all the Big Five. This is a prime region for Africa’s most lethal but persecuted predator, the wild dog. Elephants and rhino are also big fans of this part of the country but the cats, though present, tend to be a bit harder to find compared to other South African safari zones. Birdlife is impressive throughout the region.

In short, this part of the country suits two types of safari-goer: those short on time who merely need a quick safari hit with near guaranteed sightings of most big mammals and, by contrast, those with plenty of time and a willingness to forgo large numbers of animals in exchange for the adventure of never knowing quite what might be around the next corner.

The Eastern Cape

Best for: easy access from cape town.

Going on safari in the Eastern Cape always feels a little like cheating. But why shouldn’t we see elephants and big cats and other safari specials not far from world-class beaches and the peerless city of Cape Town? Smaller reserves add to the sense of safaris that are custom-made for slotting into an all-round South African holiday.

The reserves here are more compact than elsewhere, but what they lack in scale they make up for in an abundance of wildlife — including all the Big Five.

With easy access from major travel hubs, excellent tourist infrastructure and the possibility of slotting beaches, Cape Town and other attractions into the mix, the Eastern Cape is one of the most rewarding and deservedly popular wildlife destinations in South Africa, with a range of parks to explore.

The Western Cape

Best for: family-friendly & short safaris.

Other areas of the country have vast wilderness. Western Cape is instead all about making it easy to see amazing safari animals. Like Eastern Cape, it’s all about smaller reserves chockfull of wildlife, and that’s nothing to complain about. Add in the marine mammals, especially the great white sharks, and it’s a magnificent place to go on safari.

All the famed Big Five are present in this region although in most cases they’ve been re-introduced into fairly small, fenced private game reserves. These are not zoos, but they’re also not vast wilderness zones like the ones you might find elsewhere in southern Africa.

Like the Eastern Cape, Western Cape contains many different habitats, and it supports a wide range of wildlife. This includes some massive marine life including some of the world’s biggest (and hungriest!) sharks. On dry land many of the larger native mammals were wiped out over the last couple of hundred years. However, today, thanks to reintroduction programmes in the region’s private game reserves, many of these animals are returning. It’s now possible to see most of the key big mammal species of South Africa here.

The Kalahari

Big horizons and the feeling of nature in the ascendant is what draws me to the Kalahari in South Africa’s north.

One of my favourite parks in all of Africa, the Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park (which South Africa shares with Botswana) is like a gateway into the rich desert biodiversity of one of the world’s largest sand deserts.

Kruger National Park

Featured South Africa Safaris

south africa overnight safari

Affordable Greater Kruger Safari Combo

south africa overnight safari

Get the digested read

Where to begin? When to go? How to plan? So many questions, so little time. That's why we've asked leading South Africa safari expert Stuart Butler to answer your most frequently asked questions in this handy four-part email series.

The best South Africa safari parks

The south africa safari experts' top picks.

Trying to pick the "best" safari parks in South Africa is a fool's errand, but if pushed I'd say it's a toss-up between either Phinda Game Reserve or Tswalu Kalahari Reserve. But all the following would be well worth your time and money.

Northern Kruger

Northern Kruger

Phinda Game Reserve

Phinda Game Reserve

Madikwe Game Reserve

Madikwe Game Reserve

Timbavati Private Game Reserve

Timbavati Private Game Reserve

Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park

Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park

Karoo National Park

Karoo National Park

Amakhala Game Reserve

Amakhala Game Reserve

|Ai-|Ais/Richtersveld Transfrontier Park

|Ai-|Ais/Richtersveld Transfrontier Park

Tswalu Kalahari Private Reserve

Tswalu Kalahari Private Reserve

Kwandwe Game Reserve

Kwandwe Game Reserve

Northern Kruger

Kruger is widely considered South Africa’s best safari park, and deservedly so. But there's no denying that it gets busy in places. Northern Kruger however still has that wild beauty, few crowds and a palpable sense of adventure. You may have to work a little harder for your sightings up here, but that’s because the animals are a little more wary of vehicles than they are elsewhere. In other words, it feels like a safari of yesteryear. Oh, and the birdlife is exceptional in the north, with species you just don’t find elsewhere in the park.

Phinda Game Reserve

Of all the private reserves of KwaZulu-Natal, it’s Phinda that most rivals Sabi Sands and the other world-famous reserves that fringe Kruger. Compact and yet with a strong sense of wilderness, Phinda has all of the big cats, and sightings of elephants and rhinos are outstanding. But Phinda is perhaps the best place in South Africa to see the cheetah, and sightings here are consistently excellent. Fabulous accommodation adds to the appeal, visitor numbers are far fewer than in the Kruger reserves.

Madikwe Game Reserve

I’ve never quite understood why Madikwe isn’t mentioned in the same breath as Kruger and South Africa’s other elite parks. Then again, I like it that way: whenever I visit, it’s never crowded. All of the big cats are here, as are elephants, rhinos, buffalo – I once saw rhino, elephant and buffalo all sharing the same waterhole. I’ve also seen African wild dog, two bull giraffes fighting, and lions on the hunt, all on the same afternoon game drive. The mix of accommodation is just about right, too, with an affordable choice and a handful of perfectly placed luxury options.

Timbavati Private Game Reserve

Sabi Sands and Mala Mala may get all the attention among the private reserves west of Kruger. And make no mistake: both offer world-class wildlife experiences. But for something a little more low-key, I always choose Timbavati, where my wildlife sightings have always been exceptional and intense. There’s no fence between Timbavati and the national park, visiting here is like a concentrated version of the best of Kruger without the hype. A good mix of accommodation also makes it a touch more affordable than the others.

Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park

I love deserts, and have spent a lifetime roaming across Africa in search of the perfect desert safari experience. One that combines South African accessibility (paved roads run right to the park gate) with the best in desert scenery is Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park, which South Africa shares with Botswana. Having written a book about lions, I’ve always valued as special Kgalagadi’s lion possibilities that never disappoint: watching a pride of lions roaring atop a sand dune at sunset is my definition of safari perfection.

Karoo National Park

Western Cape

Every time I visit Karoo National Park, I’m struck with amazement that this arid wilderness survives in the heart of the country. The rugged terrain, coupled with astonishing birdlife, the lurking presence of lion and black rhino, and the sheer silence at night all combine to lure me back. It’s having a desert transplanted alongside the Johannesburg-Cape Town road. Most visitors drive right on by, but there’s a whole world of wonder to experience if decide to stop.

Amakhala Game Reserve

Eastern Cape

Of all the private reserves in South Africa’s Eastern Cape, Amakhala is my pick. Relatively unheralded and yet filled with animals, it offers the kind of safari experience that will appeal to families as well as to veteran safari visitors. Big cat, elephant and rhino sightings are consistently excellent, and the habitat here enables an unusual range of activities, from standard game drives in an open-sided 4WD to walking safaris and boat trips.

|Ai-|Ais/Richtersveld Transfrontier Park

I can never resist a desert experience, one of the least-known is this fine park along the Namibian border. It’s a chance to concentrate less on the animals - though there are some rarities here, such as the caracal, klipspringer, honey badger and the Hautmann’s mountain zebra – and more on the landscape as a whole. Vivid wildflower displays in spring and the extraordinary fissures and landforms of Fish River Canyon (the world’s second-largest), make this one of Africa’s most underrated natural wonders.

Tswalu Kalahari Private Reserve

Claiming to be South Africa’s largest private reserve, Tswalu, in Northern Cape, is a shining example of what can be done when conservation and tourism combines. Built around a model of sustainability, the reserve takes a holistic approach to conservation with deep ties to the local community. And with, at last count, 85 mammal and 264 bird species, the Kalahari wildlife is magnificent, with everything from black-maned Kalahari lions, oryx and meerkats to brown hyenas, African wild dogs and pangolins.

Kwandwe Game Reserve

This 220-sq-km reserve is larger than most in the eastern Cape, and yet has just two small lodges in which to stay: overcrowding at wildlife sightings just doesn’t happen here. I’ve often had big cat and rhino sightings to myself here; the rhinos in particular seem oblivious to vehicles and I’ve been so close, I could have leaned out to touch them. And I just love the night drives: there’s nothing quite like seeing a porcupine waddling along a night road, confusing the hell out of lions.

South Africa

On safari in South Africa

South Africa safari: Need to know

Everything you wish you'd known before you booked.

South Africa is safari heaven. From the world-famous Kruger National Park and Sabi Sands to the lesser-known Karoo and family-friendly experiences in the Western Cape, there’s a wildlife experience to match all needs. First-time visitors will probably want to hit the Big Five highlights of the major parks, but don’t dismiss the more accessible lodges in the North West Province and around Cape Town.

For those looking for a cheaper option, consider self-drive safari routes. A quintessential South African family experience is a self-drive route through Kruger National Park, staying at self-catering campsites, where accommodation can be anything from small huts to guesthouses.

When planning where to go on safari in South Africa, consider what you want to get out of the experience. For luxurious lodges, head to up-market parks like Sabi Sands. If you want to get out into the bush, consider lodges that offer walking safaris. For those less bothered by the big five, consider the birdlife of KwaZulu-Natal or the cheetahs of Karoo.

Safari on your own terms

This may be controversial, but in my opinion you should forget about the "Big Five".

The Big Five (lion, leopard, elephant, rhino and buffalo) are the five African safari animals deemed the most dangerous to hunt by colonial-era hunters in the late 19th- and early 20th-century. Yes, it’s a useful marketing tool. And yes, many South Africa safari-goers (and companies) are still in their thrall. But in my opinion the obsession over the Big Five has more to do with nostalgia than the excitement and experience of a safari today.

I’ve nothing against seeing the Big Five animals themselves: each one is a thrill, every time. But I think the emphasis on "bagging" all the Big Five like a colonial big game hunter can detract from fully appreciating the true experience. I’ve encountered travellers who rush away from a lion kill because they’re yet to see a buffalo and their time on safari is running out. Safari, and travel more generally, should be about much more than rushed bucket lists and tick boxes.

Personally, I’m just as thrilled to encounter a cheetah – I’d rather see a cheetah on the hunt than a lion sleeping under a tree – or an African wild dog pack streaming across the landscape and on the hunt. Or a serval, or a meerkat, or a brown hyena. Sometimes, I’ll choose to sit beneath a leopard resting in a tree for a whole afternoon, just on the chance that it will soon stretch, climb down the tree, and head off on some exciting leopard mission.

And it just seems so arbitrary. Why not the "Big Six" (I always add the cheetah to the traditional list); adding African wild dogs and fighting giraffes to become a "Big Eight". This is the problem with the Big Five: it puts someone else’s list above your own sense of wonder.

South Africa safari logistics

There are two main classes of safari in South Africa: self-drive and organised safari tours. And within the latter, there’s a whole world of choice: between a group and a private safari; between a fly-in and a 4WD safari; between a walking safari and one where you remain in your vehicle; between a camping safari and one spent sleeping in lodges.

Self-drive means using your own vehicle (typically a rental car) to travel between the game reserves and, where self-drive safaris are permitted, making your own way through the reserves and parks. You’ll need to book ahead at your chosen accommodation in each reserve, and be sure to check that self-drive safaris are permitted. Although you certainly could rent a 4WD, most South African parks and reserves have excellent road networks and a 2WD is, in most cases, sufficient.

Organised safaris are similar to typical packaged multi-stop tours, usually with a number of different reserves or parks in one trip. They include all accommodation, collection and ground transfers from the airports (or, in the case of some luxury lodges, fly-ins to their own private airstrips). You won’t need your own vehicle and all game drives will be with a guide, usually in a small group of guests.

The main pros to self-drive safaris are that they tend to be cheaper, allow you to visit places that aren’t included on mainstream safari packages, and they give you more freedom to change plans at the last moment. There’s nothing worse than being on safari with other travellers who convince the guide to move on, when all you’d like to do is stick around and wait for those lion cubs to wake up: a self-drive safari solves that problem.

There are a number of drawbacks. Firstly, you most likely won’t be in a specialised safari vehicle, typically a large, open-sided 4WD that is purpose made for good visibility. This is usually a deal-breaker for keen wildlife spotters and photographers, as being in a rental saloon car severely limits where you can go and how much you can see. You could, of course, rent a 4WD vehicle, but this increases the cost significantly. Self-drive safari also means that you are your own guide and wildlife spotter. Fun perhaps, but you’ll miss lots of sightings without a proper guide.

But not all organised South African safaris are created equal. In addition to choosing which accommodation you’ll sleep in, whether you fly or drive in, and how much time you spend in your vehicle, you’ll need to choose between your own private a safari and one you share with others. Private safaris mean having the guide and vehicle all to yourself and/or your travelling party; such safaris are easier to customise, but also more expensive. A group safari means sharing both costs and experiences: you’ll pay less and have a cast of safari companions with which to share it all, but you’ll also have less control over everything from your dates of travel to the itinerary.

Such considerations aside, the best South Africa safari tours use customised jeeps and highly-trained guides who will enliven your experience with their vast knowledge and tracking skills. Poor quality safaris can mean an overcrowded minibus hurtling from one sighting to the next with a guide who barely knows his giraffe from his flamingo. As with most things in life, you get what you pay for — aim as high as you can afford, even if that means taking a shorter trip.

Blessed with incredible geographical diversity, South Africa is truly a year-round destination. Each region offers something unique and it is always a good season somewhere in this diverse country.

The overall best time to go on safari in South Africa is between May to September. This is South Africa’s dry season, but also low season as temperatures drop for winter; don’t underestimate how long temperatures can fall overnight, particularly away from the coast. Wildlife is easier to spot in these months, as vegetation is lower and animals gather around waterholes.

When to go on safari in South Africa

When to go on safari in South Africa


Sunset over the Savannah

Safety on safari

Part of the thrill of going on safari in South Africa is the chance to get up close and personal with some of the world’s most awesome — and dangerous — animals. It’s important to follow safety guidelines and some basic health procedures to ensure your trip is as memorable as possible.

First-time safari-goers are often worried about encounters with dangerous wildlife. The simple truth is that you won’t get eaten by a lion. Safari guides are trained to keep their guests safe and will tell you how to act in any given encounter with wildlife.

If you’re on a self-drive trip: never get out of your car unless specifically told that it’s safe to do so; never attempt to feed or pet the animals; and never walk around in the bush alone at night — if you need to leave your tent at night, call security.

Note that elephants, buffalo and hippo are all far more dangerous than lions. Give elephants a very wide berth especially if you happen to be on foot. Never get between a hippo and water and avoid walking in dense bush where you could meet buffalo.

If you’re on a walking trip, try to stay downwind of the animals. If an animal begins behaving in a hostile manner, back away slowly and quietly. In all scenarios, follow the advice of your guides and rangers.

Staying healthy

The more real health risk comes from drinking tap water or eating something which doesn’t agree with you, both of which can lead to an upset stomach for a day or so. Only drink treated water and be careful with what you eat - although the food prepared at most safari camps is invariably safe - and often world-class.

The heat and strong African sun can easily leave you burnt, dehydrated or, worse, give you heat or sunstroke. Wear a wide-brimmed hat, bring lots of water and slap on plenty of factor 50 sunscreen.

Malaria can be a problem in parts of the northeast (which is where the best-known parks and reserves are) so always wear insect repellent at night, sleep under a net and follow your doctor’s advice on anti-malarials.

Health-wise, South Africa is generally a trouble-free destination, but make sure all of your standard vaccinations are up to date before travelling.

South Africa has an unenviable reputation for violence and robbery and it would be remiss to say that there isn’t a danger from this. However, the threat to most tourists is very low. Most violence occurs in poorer city neighbourhoods and not in tourist areas. More to the point, robberies and violence on a safari is only likely to be an issue if a troop of baboons manages to get into your room.

Responsible safaris

A safari is a wonderful opportunity to experience nature on a grand scale. But although it’s easy to get swept up with the romance of it all, you shouldn’t forget that your presence has a direct impact on the ecosystem, for good and bad.

The upside of your safari is that the money you put into the system pays for conservation and helps keep the land protected and wild. Without wildlife tourism, there’s a very real chance that many of South Africa’s conservation zones would become, or remain, farmland with all the implications that has for a fragile ecosystem.

In addition, there are things you can do to make your impact is as positive as possible. Before booking with any safari company, camp or lodge, or even choosing the parks and reserves you wish to visit, take a look at the conservation and community projects they are involved with. Companies investing back into local communities and conservation projects often like to shout about it on their websites. And when you do book, remember to mention that their community projects were a factor in your decision. This will encourage further investment in such programmes.

Respect the wildlife

On safari, treat the wildlife with the respect it deserves. Getting too close to wildlife, approaching animals head-on or pursuing and encircling them is likely to disturb them and cause distress. Approach wildlife at an angle, which is less threatening than coming at animals head-on. Movements must be steady and predictable.

How close you can get depends on the species but in general, your presence shouldn’t alarm the animals, cause them to flee, or change their normal behaviour. If the animals appear disturbed, you should move away immediately.

Noise, such as the sound of engines, laughter and shouting, should be kept to a minimum. Engines should be switched off when stationary and vehicle horns or fog horns on boats should never be used.

Bright lights and flash photography will startle an animal, possibly costing it a meal or even its life. On night drives, the use of naked searchlights should be replaced with red filtered lamps that do not disturb wild animals.

Avoid causing unnecessary damage to the environment. Litter, including plastic bags, batteries and cigarette butts, can be ingested by wildlife, causing injury or even death. Make sure you don’t drop anything and dispose of your rubbish properly.

Follow your guide

Absolutely no direct contact should be made between wild animals and people, including the guides. This can be highly stressful for the animals concerned, run the risk of transmitting disease, and can potentially, cause injury or even death. If you are observing wildlife from a vehicle, never get out of the car unless instructed to do so by your guide.

All animals have very specific diets and feeding them different foods could make them ill. Feeding wildlife can also change their social and feeding behaviour, encouraging begging, causing conflict between other animals, and increasing the likelihood of aggression towards humans.

If travelling in a group, don’t be shy. If you see or experience unacceptable human behaviour that has a negative impact on wild animals, be sure to speak out. If you cannot change the behaviour at the time by voicing your concerns, contact your tour operator afterwards and register your disapproval.

Conversely, if you have a great experience, thank and reward your guide appropriately and let your tour company or agent know that you appreciate their conscientious approach to what should be a magical experience.

Part of the joy of seeing animals in the wild is that you’re visiting them in their own environments and witnessing their natural behaviour. Inevitably there will be times when the animals are less active or visible, depending on the location, the season, or even just the time of day.

Do your research before you travel and find out the best time of year to view the wildlife you most wish to see. If the animals aren’t active when you visit, don’t be disappointed: this is not a zoo. It’s all part of a respectful approach to the natural world that you’re visiting. It’s important that tourists don’t pressure their guides into manipulating the situation to make viewing the animals easier, or to set up that perfect photo opportunity.

Finally, when you get back home talk to your friends about the environmental issues the parks and reserves of South Africa face, and help spread the important message of conservation to your friends and family.

For more information on ethical wildlife holidays and how to interact with wildlife in a responsible and sustainable way, see our companion guide Compassionate Travel: A guide to animal-friendly holidays .

South Africa safari FAQs

Your questions, our expert answers, how much does a safari in south africa cost.

This is a virtually impossible question to answer as there’s such a huge range! But broadly speaking at the low-cost/budget end it ranges from USD $100 to $300 per person per night. This typically includes basic accommodations, such as tented camps or rest camp lodges.

At the mid-range prices might be USD $300 - $600 per person per night with a corresponding bump in accommodation quality.

At the high end there seems to be no ceiling. In private game reserves visitors can spend from $600 to $2,000 or more per person per night. You’ll be grateful that the sundowner is included in the price and additional activities like bush walks, night drives, or even hot air balloon rides may be included.

What should I expect on a safari in South Africa?

Most safaris start around dawn with a quick breakfast before heading out in the vehicles to begin animal spotting. Most animals choose to hunt in the early morning or dusk when temperatures are cooler. It’s also a good time to spot nocturnal animals returning from a night’s hunting, such as lions.

After a few hours in the field, you’ll break for lunch before heading out again until dusk. In general, expect to spend between 6-8 hours each day searching for animals. Remember that temperatures will regularly reach 30C and the tracks the vehicles drive on can be bumpy and dusty. Dress appropriately, wear lots of suncream and drink plenty of water. Evenings are spent swapping stories — and drinks — around the campfire.

It’s also worth remembering that you’re visiting national parks, not zoos. There is no guarantee that you’ll see any of the Big Five — or any animal at all. Conversely, be aware that you’ll spend eight hours a day searching for wildlife. It is possible for animal ‘fatigue’ to set in if you spend too long in one park or lodge. To counter this, visit different lodges or parks, and mix up your experience by including walking safaris, overnight camping or evening safaris.

Is safari dangerous?

In a word, no. The chances of being attacked by an animal are so minimal it hardly warrants considering. However, you must stick to the general rules imposed by the park and heed the instructions of your guides. If you break those and decide to go for a moonlight walk through the bush on your own, then yes, you might become a midnight snack.

Is safari family friendly?

Kids of all ages enjoy safaris as much as any adult. But a safari tends to mean a lot of time in a vehicle, often on bad roads and in hot weather. If there’s plenty of action taking place, younger children will be as hooked as you. But they can become bored the moment the pace slows down. If travelling with kids, ensure you choose camps or lodges that offer plenty of child-friendly activities. Some lodges and camps don’t accept children under a certain age. And don’t plan on heading out on early game drives every morning.

What is the food like in safari camps?

The standard of food is generally very high — even in the remotest lodges. Most lodges will have qualified chefs on hand and part of the entire safari experience is the cuisine and the emphasis placed on food.

Will I have to carry cash on safari in South Africa?

South Africa’s currency is the Rand, denoted by an R in shops and ZAR in currency trading. A favourable exchange rate with major currencies makes travelling in South Africa cheaper than visiting Europe or the United States. You can use credit cards in many shops, restaurants and lodges; there are many ATMs throughout the country and you can exchange traveller’s cheques at all banks. The best cash currencies to bring are US Dollars, Euros or British Pounds as these notes are accepted at the many Bureaux de Change in bigger cities.

You will be offered currency exchanges by people on the street throughout Africa. It may be tempting to avoid the conversion commissions; however, this is illegal and should be avoided at all costs.

On safari, almost all major expenses (all meals, activities, and, sometimes even, drinks) are covered in the costs of accommodation. Any extras tend to be very limited, and can generally be paid by card.

In urban centers, particularly in South Africa, ATMs are to be found in most shopping malls and banks, and will accept international cards using the Cirrus and Plus systems, as well as Visa, Mastercard, or American Express credit cards (provided your credit account has a cash withdrawal facility).

All airports in south Africa also have ATMs, and you can withdraw money as soon as you land (generally at a better exchange rate than if you were to exchange cash or travellers checks at a bank).

How much should we tip our safari guides?

In some environments such as at lodges, on safari and on treks, tipping is structured in ways that make it clear, fair and less easy to abuse. Tips can be given in local currencies or in USD, GBP or EUR, so be sure to carry small denominations with you. As a general guide:

Guide/tracker: Your guide and tracker are central to the success of your safari. You’ll have plenty of time to connect with them and, by the end of your trip, they might just be your new best friends. With guides, it’s customary to leave a tip on your departure. What you choose to leave is totally up to you, but a general rule of thumb on safari is to tip your guide US$10 and your tracker US$5 per person per day.

Guests that are returning to a lodge that they have visited before, sometimes even bring small, personalised gifts for their guides. Alternatively, the lodges will generally give you a guideline for tipping and gifting if you ask them.

Camp/lodge staff: There is a lot that happens behind the scenes on your safari and it’s important to consider and acknowledge all the wonderful people who look after the lodge. Most safari lodges and camps have a communal tip ‘jar’ and around US$10 to US$20 per day is considered a reasonable tip.

Outside of the lodges/camps, you might want to tip 10% to 15% for good service at restaurants and in bars. Most waiters earn an incredibly basic wage so tips are a much-needed supplement. If you're just buying a beer or a coke, it's fine to leave the change rather than a specific tip. If you're dining with a large group at a nice restaurant, a service charge will usually be automatically added to your bill.

At budget hotels, tips for housekeeping are not expected but are nevertheless always welcome. At luxury safari camps there will often be a general tipping box at the front desk or reception. Tips deposited here will usually be spread evenly between camp staff; so if you want to tip someone specifically, make sure to do so directly.

What should I pack for a South Africa safari?

You don’t need much specialist gear for a South African safari.

Most people will want a photographic record of their adventure and if wildlife images are important to you then you need a good DSLR camera with a long lens, at least 400mm. Anything less and the animals will appear as nothing but hazy dots in a sea of scrub. Bring spare camera batteries and memory cards.

Binoculars are another essential. Get the best pair you can afford and make sure that everyone in your group has a pair or there will be endless bickering over whose turn it is to get a closer look at that distant rhino.

A good field guide to the birds and animals is an excellent addition to your pack. Most guides will have one for guests to use, but it’s still nice to have your own.

Lightweight walking shoes are a good idea (and essential for anyone planning a walking safari). Hiking trousers and shorts are also worth having. They provide protection from the thorn bushes and sun and are comfortable to wear. Don’t forget to bring a fleece as it can be surprisingly cold during a sunrise safari. Sun hat, sunscreen and sunglasses are three other essentials.

If staying in up-market accommodation, it’s probably worth bringing a set of slightly smarter clothes for evening dinner.

With fluctuating temperatures — hot and sunny during the day, cold at night — layering is your best option. Some things to consider bringing include:

  • T-shirts or shirts — bring some longsleeve ones to combat mosquito and the sun
  • Lightweight fleece/jacket
  • Safari/combat trousers
  • Broken in walking/hiking shoes
  • Sandals/flipflops for use in lodges/camps

How long should I plan for a safari in South Africa?

If you’re just looking for your standard Big 5 safari, fewer nights in one or two really great private reserves trumps more nights in a crowded national park. My standard advice is to get more bang for your buck: aim for fewer nights, but spend more per night for the best reserve/lodge that your budget can stretch to.

What are the differences between private game reserves and national parks in South Africa?

National Parks are government-owned and managed and private reserves are, you guessed it, privately owned and operated.

National parks serve a broader range of budgets, including some fairly low cost safaris and basic accommodation. They’re busier, sometimes feeling crowded, and activities are limited to standard game drives.

Private reserves are a whole other affair, can be very exclusive and upscale and you’ll often have the wildlife all to yourself. Privately operated reserves are free to offer a wider range of activities such as night game drives and horseback rides.

What can we do before or after a safari in South Africa?

Probably my biggest piece of advice would be to make plenty of time to see the rest of the country either before or after your safari. Just a smattering of suggestions:

South Africa’s cities, history and urban culture : There’s Table Mountain, Robben Island, and the V&A Waterfront in Cape Town. The Apartheid Museum and Maboneng Precinct in Johannesburg. And of course a visit to Nelson Mandela House Museum in Soweto.

If nature and the outdoors are your bag look into Blyde River Canyon for breathtaking views and hiking trails, the fascinating hominid fossils at Cradle of Humankind just north of Johannesburg, the waterfalls at Augrabies Falls National Park and the scenic trails and views of Plettenberg Bay at Robberg Nature Reserve.

For some beach and coast time there’s Golden Mile and Umhlanga Rocks at Durban, whale watching in Hermanus (best between June and November), and the lagoons and beaches of West Coast National Park.

Finally for some road trips and scenic routes have a look at the Garden Route, famous for its charming towns and beautiful beaches; vineyard driving routes around Stellenbosch, Franschhoek, or Constantia, or, for something totally different, to the glorious tacky Sun City.

Are there any non-touristy tribal experiences in South Africa?

If you're expecting colourfully dressed, exotic-looking tribal peoples that you can visit and for it not to feel commercial, then no that's difficult to find. An experience like that that you’re paying for will, by definition, be somewhat inauthentic, if not exploitative.

However, if you want to meet people of different tribes but not necessarily dressed in an exotic manner and dancing around for you then that's possible everywhere in South Africa on almost every street.

For something more in-between, and I suspect, more what you're after then I'd try heading to the Kalahari regions in the north. It's a stunning semi-desert region (lots of interesting wildlife and a real wilderness feel) and is the home of South Africa's small San Bushmen community. These were some of the original inhabitants of southern Africa and some do live a very traditional lifestyle (but well away from tourists).

How do I find a responsible South Africa safari operator?

Although it’s easy to get swept up with the romance of it all, you shouldn’t forget that your presence has a direct impact on the ecosystem, for good and bad.

The upside of your visit is that the money you put into the system pays for conservation and helps keep the land protected and wild. Without wildlife tourism, there’s a very real chance that many of South Africa’s conservation zones would become farmland.

But there are things you can do to make your impact as positive as possible. Before booking with any safari company, camp or lodge, or even choosing the parks and reserves you wish to visit, take a look at the conservation and community projects they are involved with. And when you do book, remember to mention that their community projects were a factor in your decision. This will encourage further investment in such programmes.

Would you recommend a self-drive safari in South Africa? Is it easy?

Yes, it’s easy to self-drive in South Africa and, generally, fairly safe although car crime can be an issue (don't leave anything in your car in towns). If you're just hopping from national park to park and sticking mainly to rural regions then self-drive in South Africa is simple enough. Just remember that South Africa is a big place so don't try and cover it all in one trip!

In this guide:

An expert guide to safaris in kruger national park, an expert guide to the best safaris in sabi sands, an expert guide to the best safaris in kwazulu-natal, about the authors.

The best safaris in South Africa

Anthony is a renowned travel journalist and guidebook author and is one of the world's leading authorities on Africa safari, wildlife and conservation. He has been travelling to Africa for more than two decades to research Africa safari guidebooks for Lonely Planet. He is widely published in The Age, Sydney Morning Herald, The Monthly, Virginia Quarterly Review (VQR), National Geographic Traveler, BBC Wildlife, Lonely Planet Traveller, Africa Geographic, The Independent, Travel Africa, among many others.

The best safaris in South Africa

Stuart is an award-winning travel journalist covering safari, trekking and conservation in Africa for the Lonely Planet, Rough Guides, BBC, Bradt Travel Guides, amongst many others. He is the author of Walking With The Maasai , a journey through some of Kenya's lesser-visited Maasai lands.

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The ultimate guide to your next South Africa Safari

Get to know south africa.

Johannesburg and the Highveld are cool but sunny by day, very cold at night, and dry.

Cape Town and the Western Cape are warm by day, cool at night, and receive regular rainfall.

The Kruger Park and its surroundings are hot by day, cool at night, and dry.

June is an ideal time for beach holidays on the Indian Ocean coastline of the KwaZulu-Natal coast, which tends to be temperate to hot over the nominal winter months, and very dry. Conditions on the coast of the Eastern and Western Cape are less predictable and cooler.

  • Game viewing in the Kruger Park and other reserves tends to be good in the dry season, as animals congregate close to perennial water sources and the undergrowth clears to improve visibility making it a perfect time for a Kruger safari.

Hikers should be alert to the substantial risk of snow and treacherous weather on the mountain peaks in the Ukhahlamba-Drakensberg over June/July.

Accommodation in tourist areas is usually relatively quiet in June, but try to avoid the winter school holiday that usually falls over late June and early July.

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Why South Africa?

  • Endless choices of breathtaking scenic hiking trails
  • Spectacular birdwatching and a diverse flora kingdom
  • Delicious selections of cuisine and wine tastings
  • Some of the best white sandy beaches
  • An incredible abundance of wildlife, adventure, and history

Where to go in South Africa

  • Durban and the South Coast
  • Gauteng, Kruger and the North
  • iSimangaliso Wetland Park
  • Kruger National Park
  • KwaZulu-Natal
  • Madikwe and Pilanesberg
  • Stellenbosch and the Winelands
  • The Garden Route
  • The Panorama Route
  • The Western and Eastern Cape
  • uKhahlamba-Drakensberg Park

Routinely lauded as one of the world’s most beautiful cities, a Cape Town holiday offers visitors a breathtaking array of natural and cultural attractions.

The City Bowl is enclosed by the lofty heights of Table Mountain to the south, the dramatic outcrops known as Lion’s Head and Signal Hill to the west, and the choppy waters of the Atlantic to the north.

Cape Town is endowed with some fine colonial architecture, more than a dozen museums reflecting every facet of its complex multicultural history, and the culinary and retail delights of the Victoria & Alfred Waterfront.

Cape Town also provides an excellent base for day trips to sites as diverse as Table Mountain, the Alcatraz-like confines of Robben Island (where Nelson Mandela was incarcerated for 18 years), the peaceful Kirstenbosch Botanical Gardens, the historic wine estates of the Constantia Valley, and the wave-battered cliffs of Cape Point.

Highlights of Cape Town

Table Mountain

Rising to an altitude of 1,086m (3,563ft), iconic Table Mountain, sometimes basked in golden sunlight, other times enveloped in a misty shroud known as the tablecloth, dominates the city’s southern skyline.

clouds over table mountain cape town south africa safari

The ‘tabletop,’’ accessible through either the cable car or hiking up Table mountain , offers travelers stunning views and reveals the Cape Peninsula’s geological drama.

Cape of Good Hope

South Africa’s oldest working building, the pentagonal Castle of Good Hope, situated in Cape Town, was constructed over 1666-79 and served as the seat of the Dutch colonial government for more than a century.

Castle of Good Hope

The Cape of Good Hope now houses a military museum and art gallery and makes for a perfect cultural experience for people on holiday in Cape Town.

Of the countless beaches in and around Cape Town, the first choice among fashion-inspired travelers in Cape Town is a Camps Bay holiday, set below the spectacular Twelve Apostles formation.

Camps Bay Beach in Cape Town

At the same time, families tend to head to suburban Muizenberg for their family holiday.


You can’t do better for a scenic beach walk and spectacular views of Table Mountain than the aptly-named Bloubergstrand (Blue Mountain Beach) north of the city center.

Blouberg Beach

Bloubergstrand is a hotspot for a beach holiday in Cape Town because of the picture-perfect Table Mountain.

District Six

The award-winning District Six Museum is arguably the city’s most engaging and poignant installation. Taped recollections, possessions, and photographs donated by former residents evoke everyday life as it was in the cosmopolitan multiracial suburb of District Six prior to it being bulldozed by the apartheid government in 1966 and rezoned as a whites-only area.

District Six Museum in Cape Town

District Six is the perfect place to add to your Cape Town holiday itinerary if you’re looking to have a cultural experience in Cape Town and learn about the history of South Africa .

Kirstenbosch National Botanical Garden

Set on the eastern slopes of Table Mountain, the 528-hectare Kirstenbosch National Botanical Garden is serviced by a network of well-marked trails passing through thematic beds of indigenous flora – most notably a lush cycad garden.

Kirstenbosch Botanical Gardens

Other attractions include a fascinating collection of ‘useful plants’, and a conservatory containing succulent species typical of the arid Kalahari and Namaqualand.

Kirstenbosch is also famous for its Kirstenbosch summer concerts . Enjoy an electric atmosphere in the most relaxed setting you can imagine.

The Bo-Kaap (Upper Cape) is the spiritual home of the Cape Malay community, whose colorfully painted houses include the Bo-Kaap Museum. This beautifully restored 1760s homestead explores the history of this fascinating suburb.

Colourful houses in Bo kaap

The photogenic Bo-Kaap is popular among travelers for its iconic colorful houses and traditional Cape Malay meals.

V&A Waterfront

The most-visited tourist attraction on a South African holiday, Victoria & Alfred Waterfront , is a vast harbor-front development comprising 50-plus restaurants, hundreds of shops, and boats offering sunset cruises around Table Bay.

Robben Island

Now a UNESCO World Heritage Site, Robben Island gained infamy as the site of the maximum-security block where Nelson Mandela and other prominent anti-apartheid leaders were detained at the height of the struggle.

Robben island Cape Town

It can be visited on a South African holiday by a boat-and-bus excursion that leaves from Victoria & Alfred Waterfront several times daily and includes a visit to the tiny cell Mandela called home for 18 years.

Constantia Valley

The birthplace of Cape wine, the Constantia Valley houses some of the country’s most historic and beautiful estates, among them Groot Constantia, centered on an original 1680s homestead now preserved as a museum.

Now part of Table Mountain National Park , the 77km2 (30 square mile) Cape of Good Hope protects the most southerly section of the Cape Peninsula. The main focus is Cape Point Lighthouse, which stands atop a steep windswept cliff that rises 250m (820ft) from the rocky beach below.

Beautiful Cape Point

Cape Point is also good for fynbos endemics such as the Cape sugarbird and Orange-bellied sunbird, while mammals in the area include Cape fur seals and half-a-dozen antelope species, notably eland and bontebok.

Boulders Beach

Just five minutes drive south of Simon’s Town, Boulders Beach supports a permanent breeding colony of several thousand penguins, which you can watch strutting, surfing, squabbling, and sunbathing from a network of boardwalks and viewing platforms.

Travel Tips for Cape Town

  • A Cape Town holiday includes all the amenities you’d expect of the country’s leading urban tourist destination. A world-class dining scene and selection of cosmopolitan shops are complemented by an array of overnight Cape Town Accommodations , ranging from five-star city and boutique hotels to backpacker hostels and B&Bs.
  • Cape Town is served by an ever-increasing number of international flights and several dozen daily flights from Johannesburg and domestic flights to all other major centers in South Africa. All flights land at Cape Town International Airport, which lies 20km (12mi) east of the city center.
  • The city lends itself to casual exploration using public transport such as the MyCiti bus service. The popular Cape Town Explorer is also an option as a hop-on-hop-off bus service that connects the Victoria & Alfred Waterfront to all the major museums and the Table Mountain Cableway, Camps Bay, Sea Point, and Kirstenbosch Botanical Garden. Also worth considering is the Metrorail train service, which connects the central railway station on Adderley Street to Simon’s Town via the Southern Suburbs and Muizenberg. Picking up a rental car at the airport is also a viable option.

The most populous city and busiest port on the east coast of Africa, Durban is a vibrant and interesting city set in the municipality of eThekwini (a Zulu name meaning ‘Place of the Sea’).

A substantial Indian population and subtropical coastal climate combine to give Durban a slightly Asiatic feel, but Durban’s main attraction is its fine beaches and sunny coastlines.

Durban and the South Coast dolphins

The urban setting of Durban will appeal to travelers seeking a more down-to-earth, lived-in experience than you tend to associate with other beach resorts on holiday.

Durban lies midway along the KwaZulu-Natal South Coast, a 200km (124mi) stretch of subtropical Indian Ocean frontage stretching from the Tugela River mouth south to the border with the Eastern Cape.

This is South Africa’s most conventional beach holiday destination, a beach nirvana with palm-fringed expanses of broad white sand.

Unlike Cape Town, the beaches around Durban cater mainly to domestic holidaymakers from landlocked Gauteng and thus tend to get congested over school holidays and long weekends (especially around Christmas and Easter) but are quiet at other times.

Highlights of Durban And The South Coast

Durban’s Golden Mile

South Africa’s most resort-like urban beach, Durban’s Golden Mile, is divided from the CBD by the pedestrianized OR Tambo Parade. Protected by shark nets and patrolled by lifeguards, the beach is ideal for swimming, sunbathing, and surfing on a Durban holiday, though it can get very crowded during peak season.

uShaka Marine World

The uShaka Marine World houses the largest aquarium in the southern hemisphere and is one of the best family-friendly holiday destinations in South Africa . Marine life is on show, where dolphins, seals, sharks, rays, and penguins are the main attraction. Attached to this child-friendly holiday installation is the Shaka Wet ‘n Wild Waterworld, a family fun park that incorporates the country’s largest waterslide.

Juma Mosque

Landmarks associated with Durban’s Indian population include the golden-domed Juma Mosque, the most prominent building of its type in southern Africa, and the less central Alayam Hindu Temple.

The Central Durban Botanical Garden

The Central Durban Botanical Garden includes fabulous collections of prehistoric cycads and rare orchids.

Beachwood Mangroves Nature Reserve

Durban’s most ecologically important conservation area, Beachwood Mangroves Nature Reserve, offers a rare opportunity to see mangrove dwellers such as the brilliant mangrove kingfisher and quirky mudskipper fish from a wooden boardwalk. 

Cape Vulture spotted in Durban

It’s considered one of Durban’s best-kept secrets and a perfect holiday destination to add to your South African vacation itinerary if you want to see some protected fish and do some birdwatching.

Umhlanga Rocks

The popular South African holiday town of Umhlanga Rocks, 20 minutes’ drive north of Durban, is home to the KwaZulu-Natal Sharks Board.

Lifelike replicas of various sharks and rays can be viewed along with an audiovisual display emphasizing the importance of these oft-maligned creatures in marine ecology.

Ballito , 40km (25mi) north of Durban, is a thriving and well-equipped upmarket resort town with a 2.5km (1.6mi) long beachfront promenade and plenty of family-friendly holiday activities. Willard Beach in Ballito is ideal for swimming, while Boulder Beach is popular with surfers.

Oribi Gorge Nature Reserve

Carved by the Mzimkulwana River, the euphorbia-studded Oribi Gorge Nature Reserve is run through by several walking trails from which bushbuck, Blue monkeys, and a vast array of colorful forest birds can be seen.

Whitewater rafting and abseiling can be done outside the reserve on a Durban vacation.

A succession of excellent South African beach holiday destinations run along the 120km (75mi) stretch of coast south from Durban, among them Amanzimtoti, Umkomaas, Scottburgh, Port Shepstone, Margate, and Ramsgate.

Excellent snorkeling and diving opportunities are available at reefs and wrecks offshore of Amanzimtoti, Umkomaas, and Shelley Beach, making Durban a superb beach holiday destination .

Umtamvuna Nature Reserve

Protecting a forested river gorge on the Eastern Cape border, Umtamvuna Nature Reserve offers some lovely coastal and forest hiking. It harbors various small antelope and is a breeding colony of the endangered Cape vulture.

Practical Information for Durban And The South Coast

  • Durban is connected to Johannesburg, Cape Town, and many other large centers by several daily flights. All flights land at King Shaka International Airport, 35km (22mi) north of the city center. The usual car rental agencies are available here, and airport shuttles and taxis are available to get you to the city center or elsewhere on the coast.
  • There’s no shortage of hotels in Durban, and the city is also serviced by many B&Bs and backpacker hostels. You can also find hotels and resorts along the coast flanking Durban, with Ballito and Umhlanga Rocks particularly well-endowed when it comes to stylish upmarket lodges.
  • Indian cuisine is well represented in Durban, and good seafood can be had throughout the region.

South Africa’s major safari destinations are mostly clustered in the country’s northern interior. Foremost among these is the iconic Kruger National Park and bordering private reserves, which collectively protect a vast tract of low-lying bushveld that offers some of the finest Big Five viewing anywhere on the continent.

Also very popular, particularly for those who want to avoid the slim risk of malaria associated with the Kruger, are the more westerly Madikwe and Pilanesberg Game Reserves , both of which harbor all the Big Five along with other safari favorites such as giraffe and warthog in the malaria-free North-West Province .

(P.S. If you’re looking for Gauteng Accommodation Specials , we’ve got some great travel deals for you.)

Jacarandas in Pretoria

The main air gateway to these fine reserves is built-up Gauteng, a province that accounts for less than 1.5% of South Africa’s surface area but supports a full 20% of the national population and generates an astonishing 10% of the entire African GDP. Bustling, chaotic, and unapologetically commerce-driven, Gauteng – a Sesotho name meaning ‘Place of Gold’ – exists purely because of the immense mineral wealth beneath its soil.

It’s home to four of South Africa’s ten most populous cities, including the national capital, Pretoria, and the megapolis of Johannesburg.

Although its attractions may not be as immediate as those of Cape Town or Durban, the province does offer plenty of worthwhile sightseeing on your South African holiday, from the UNESCO World Heritage Site of the Cradle of Humankind (one of the world’s most significant paleoanthropological sites) to the first history-making former ‘township’ of Soweto.

Highlights of Gauteng, Kruger And The North

Quite simply one of the world’s largest and most rewarding safari destinations, the iconic Kruger National Park supports 147 mammal and 517 bird species, including substantial populations of all the Big Five.

Included on the most organized tours through South Africa , it is also an unusually straightforward goal for DIY safari enthusiasts.

Sabi Sands Game Reserve

The best known of the private reserves sharing an open border with Kruger, Sabi Sands Game Reserve is home to several bar-setting game lodges and camps offering all-inclusive Big Five safaris to an exclusive clientele.

Expertly guided game drives in open-top 4×4 vehicles provide some of the world’s most intimate leopard viewing .

Panorama Route

The sheer escarpment that divides the sweltering Lowveld of Kruger from the breezy highlands around Graskop can be explored on a Panorama Route holiday . This loosely-defined road circuit offers access to several beautiful waterfalls and viewpoints.

Highlights include the restored goldrush village of Pilgrim’s Rest and the spectacular 1.4km (4593ft) deep Blyde River Canyon.

Madikwe Game Reserve

South Africa’s premier malaria-free safari destination , Madikwe Game Reserve , offers excellent Big Five viewing , with lion, elephant, and rhino particularly conspicuous.

It functions much like the private reserves bordering Kruger, with an emphasis on guided game drives in open-top 4x4s, and is serviced by a couple of dozen small and exclusive all-inclusive bush lodges.

Pilanesberg Game Reserve and Sun City

Only two hours’ drive north of Gauteng, the Pilanesberg Game Reserve and adjacent Sun City pits another fine malaria-free safari venue against the altogether more hedonistic pleasures of a Sun City holiday , a massive casino complex that sports two superb golf courses and plenty of child-friendly activities .


Founded above the world’s richest gold deposits in 1886, Johannesburg is South Africa’s largest city and main economic hub. The dynamic social fulcrum of the country’s most culturally integrated and forward-looking province, it’s also renowned throughout Africa as a shoppers’ paradise.

City of Johannesburg Aerial View

Travelers from further afield won’t regret making an effort to explore the Apartheid Museum and the wide selection of photographs, old newsreels, and other imaginative displays documenting the rise and fall of the system of institutionalized racism for which it is named.

The ‘township’ of Soweto – rather prosaically, an acronym of South West Townships – was the setting of many pivotal events during the anti-apartheid struggle.

Guided tours lead past such landmarks as the poignant Hector Pieterson Memorial, whose 13-year-old namesake was felled by the wave of police fire that initiated the Soweto Rising on 16 July 1976, as well as the Calabash-shaped FNB Stadium, which hosted the 2010 FIFA World Cup final between Spain and the Netherlands.

Tours on your Soweto holiday usually include a lunch break at one of its so-called shebeens – now legitimized hole-in-the-wall bars that thrived illegally under apartheid.

Cradle of Humankind

Inscribed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1999, the paleontological treasure trove dubbed the Cradle of Humankind protects an ancient Karstic landscape whose wealth of fossils forms a unique record of the last 3-4 million years of human evolution.

Hot air balloon over the cradle of humankind

Its centerpiece is the Maropeng Visitors Center, an award-winning and unusually child-friendly holiday installation. Self-guided tours start with an exciting boat ride through a subterranean waterway that takes you backward in time, reproducing the volatile seismic conditions that shaped our planet’s geology.

The nearby Sterkfontein Caves are where, in 1936, Dr. Robert Broom discovered the first fossil confirming Darwin’s theory that humans evolved in Africa.

Established in 1855, Pretoria – now part of Tshwane Metropolitan Municipality – has long served as the administrative capital of South Africa. The avenues of the stately city center are lined by Jacaranda trees that bloom purple in October and century-old buildings.

Foremost among the latter, the sandstone Union Buildings, designed by Sir Herbert Baker in 1913, is where Nelson Mandela’s presidential inauguration was held in 1994.

Standing sentinel on the city’s southern outskirts, the hilltop Voortrekker Monument is an immense granite monolith built in the 1940s to commemorate the Afrikaner pioneers who trekked from the Cape to what is now Gauteng a century earlier.

Mapungubwe National Park

Set on stark baobab-studded granitic hills running down to the south bank of the Limpopo, Mapungubwe National Park is the site of a medieval trading city that supported some 5,000 people in its 13th-century peak as a supplier of gold, copper and ivory to the Swahili Coast of East Africa.

Mapungubwe National Park - South Africa

Guided safaris of the archaeological site, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, run every morning and an award-winning museum displays artifacts unearthed there. Elephants, kudu, and klipspringer are regularly seen, and lions and leopards are also present.

Practical Information for Gauteng, Kruger, And The North

  • The terminus of most international flights to South Africa, OR Tambo International Airport, lies on the eastern outskirts of Johannesburg, about one hour’s drive from Pretoria and two hours from Pilanesberg and Sun City. OR Tambo is also the most important hub for domestic flights, with several connections to Cape Town, George, Port Elizabeth, East London, Durban, and Kruger-Mpumalanga International Airport (for Kruger and the private reserves), as well as thrice-weekly flights to Pilanesberg.
  • Self-drive is straightforward throughout, and most major rental companies are represented at OR Tambo (and, for that matter, at Kruger-Mpumalanga International Airport), and there are also plenty of shuttles and taxis for those not being met by an operator or hotel shuttle.
  • Literally hundreds of city hotels serve Johannesburg and Pretoria. There are also rustic out-of-town lodges, B&Bs, and backpacker hostels. You can find a fair range of similar accommodations in most other towns in the region. In game reserves, the choice tends to split between all-inclusive upmarket lodges ( Madikwe and Sabi Sands ) and simple but well-priced rest camps ( Kruger , Mapungubwe , and Pilanesberg ).

South Africa’s third-largest protected area and oldest UNESCO World Heritage Site, the 3,320km2 (1,282 square miles) iSimangaliso follows the Indian Ocean coastline for a full 220km (137 miles) north of Lake St Lucia (Africa’s largest estuarine system) to Kosi Bay on the border with Mozambique.

It’s easily the country’s most biodiverse reserve, incorporating five separate Ramsar Wetlands, a lush tropical mosaic of mountains, bushveld, palm groves, wooded dunes, grassland, and coastal forests, as well as a 5km (3mi) wide marine section that harbors Africa’s most southerly coral reefs.

Isimangaliso from above

The faunal diversity of iSimangaliso (a Zulu word meaning ‘something wondrous’) was encapsulated by Nelson Mandela, who described it as “the only place on the globe where the oldest land mammal (rhinoceros) and the world’s biggest terrestrial mammal (elephant) share an ecosystem with the world’s oldest fish (coelacanth) and the world’s biggest marine mammal (whale)”.

Indeed, iSimangaliso can boast a higher count of vertebrate species than any other African conservation area, with 129 terrestrial and aquatic mammals, 525 birds, 128 reptiles, 50 amphibians, and 991 marine as well as 48 freshwater fish.

Despite this, while wildlife is abundant in parts, the stunning coastal scenery is at least as big an attraction as the game viewing.

Highlights of ISimangaliso Wetland Park

St Lucia Village

Jungle-swathed St Lucia Village, fringing the freshwater estuary for which it is named, stands at the far south of iSimangaliso and is the park’s main travel hub. A contender for South Africa’s most wildlife-friendly settlement, it’s home to plentiful hippos and crocs, porcupines, bushbuck, and warthogs.

Family Day at St Lucia

The tropical birding safari destination includes the African fish eagle, Trumpeter hornbill, Purple-crested turaco, and Mangrove kingfisher. Popular activities include visits to an out-of-town crocodile farm and launch trips on the St Lucia Estuary.

Set below forested dunes on a reef-shielded beach north of St Lucia, Cape Vidal is a superb beach that offers good low-tide snorkeling and seasonal land-based whale and dolphin viewing. It also forms a vital seasonal nesting site for loggerhead and leatherback turtles.

Mission Rocks

Halfway between St Lucia and Cape Vidal, the forested dunes around Mission Rocks are some of the world’s tallest and provide sanctuary to the secretive Red duiker and localized Blue monkey.

Buffalo, rhinos, elephants, and possibly cheetahs might be seen on the safari loop to Lake Bhangazi.

uMkhuze Game Reserve

The 400km2 (154 square mile) uMkhuze Game Reserve offers the finest game viewing within iSimangaliso. Home to elephants, buffalo, giraffes, and elusive populations of leopards and cheetahs, it’s ideal for a photographic safari thanks to some well-sited photographic hides that attract a steady stream of nyala, kudu, zebras, warthogs, White rhinos and Black rhinos.

iSimangaliso Wetland Park Nyala Antelope

More than 420 bird species, including the localized Yellow-spotted nicator, Livingstone’s turaco, Neergaard’s sunbird, and African broadbill, make it an excellent birding safari destination .

Sodwana Bay

Africa’s southernmost coral reefs stand offshore of Sodwana Bay, whose Seven Mile Reef is ranked among the world’s most beautiful dive sites , with overhangs, drop-offs and mushroom rocks reaching around 20m (65ft) below the surface. Expect a dazzling array of colorful reef fish.

Lake Sibaya

South Africa’s most significant natural freshwater body, Lake Sibaya, is backed by tall forested dunes and supports around 150 hippos along with a wide diversity of aquatic birds, making it an ideal destination for a birding safari .

Comprising eight lakes and a series of connecting channels that drain into the Indian Ocean through a sandy estuary, scenic Kosi Bay offers unusually calm snorkeling conditions and the opportunity to seek out 150 marine fish species on the rocky reef in the estuary mouth.

Turtles at ocean front

The complex fishing traps set in the estuary by the local Thonga people represent a highly sustainable form of traditional resource management since the estuarine fish are readily replenished from the open sea.

Hluhluwe-Imfolozi Game Reserve

St Lucia village is a convenient base for day safaris to the nearby Hluhluwe-Imfolozi Game Reserve, providing the perfect opportunity for a Big Five safari . The Hluhluwe-Imfolozi Game Reserve houses the world’s densest populations of both White and Black rhinos.

Other wildlife includes African wild dogs, giraffes, zebra, impala, nyala, greater kudu, warthogs, Vervet monkeys, and almost 400 bird species, making the Hluhluwe-Imfolozi Game Reserve perfect for a birding safari as well.

Phinda Resource Reserve

Sharing its eastern boundary with iSimangaliso, the private Phinda Resource Reserve is KwaZulu-Natal’s most prestigious safari destination.

Cheetah in Phinda

All-inclusive safari tours with guided game drives in an open-top 4×4 are also sure to yield all the Big Five throughout a two- to three-night holiday. A dense population of habituated cheetahs allows for excellent close-up behavioral viewing.

Tembe Elephant Park

Not strictly speaking a private reserve, but effectively functioning as one, the 300km2 (116 square mile) Tembe Elephant Park is best known for its giant tuskers.

At Tembe Elephant Park, you can do a Big Five safari as all of the Big Five are present. You can also do a birding safari because of the various bird species present.

Practical Advice for ISimangaliso Wetland Park

  • Several scheduled daily flights connect Johannesburg to Richards Bay, a large industrial port town about one hour’s drive southwest of St Lucia Village by road. There are also regular flights from most major South African cities to Durban, about three hour’s drive from St Lucia along the N2. Some visitors to Phinda and other private reserves use direct charter flights.
  • Most Durban-based tour operators offer overnight trips to southern iSimangaliso and/or Hluhluwe-Imfolozi. The region is also well suited to self-drive visits, though a 4×4 vehicle is required for most places north of Mkhuze Game Reserve and east of the N2.
  • You can find a varied selection of budget to mid-range accommodation in St Lucia Village. Most reserves within or associated with iSimangaliso have inexpensive but comfortable rest camps. Upmarket bush camps can be found in Phinda, on the outskirts of Hluhluwe-Imfolozi, and at certain sites along the iSimangaliso coastline north of Sodwana.

Extending over a mind-boggling 19,485 km2 (7,523 square miles), the Kruger National Park is one of Africa’s largest and most iconic safari destinations. It’s comparable in area to Wales or the state of New Jersey.

It shares open borders with several smaller private reserves as well as two transfrontier national parks in the form of Gonarezhou (Zimbabwe) and Limpopo (Mozambique).

Kruger National Park vies with Cape Town as South Africa’s top destination, attracting more than one million visitors annually. The park is better suited to affordable self-drive safaris than any other major African park.

By contrast, the exclusive private reserves that border Kruger and ‘concession lodges’ that occupy exclusive enclaves within it set the bar for all-inclusive luxury safaris in open-top 4×4 vehicles driven by expert guides.

Kruger National Park Rhino

Set in the hot eastern Lowveld, Kruger is traversed by several rivers and is punctuated by a few hilly areas. Still, it mostly comprises flat savannah dominated by acacia trees in the south and mopane woodland in the north.

Kruger National Park Parfuri Elephant

Kruger National Park Parfuri ElephantThe Nile crocodile is the most conspicuous of 114 reptile and 34 amphibian species, but the ethereal communal calls of the Bubbling kassina and other tree frogs often provide a haunting aural backdrop to dusk waterhole vigils.

Kruger is a magnet for birding safaris , with 517 bird species recorded. Expect everything ranging from the spectacularly colorful Lilac-breasted roller and White-fronted bee-eater to several heftier species now rare outside of protected areas, such as the eyelid-fluttering Southern ground hornbill, the bizarre Secretary-bird, the massive Kori bustard (the world’s heaviest flying bird), the macabre Marabou stork, and, of course, the ostrich.

Highlights of Kruger National Park

Southern Kruger

Thanks to its relative proximity to Gauteng, Southern Kruger carries the highest volume of safari-goers.

The far south offers the park’s most reliable game viewing: the surfaced H4-1 that follows the Sabie River from Skukuza to Lower Sabie, a great area to spot elephant, buffalo, lion, and even leopards.

It’s also a favorite for birding safaris , while the H4-2 and associated dirt roads running south to Crocodile Bridge explore the park’s best rhino country.

Central Kruger

The focal point of the lightly-wooded savannah of Central Kruger, Satara, stands at the crossroads of some superb safari roads.

Seasonal concentrations of wildebeest and zebra are reminiscent of the Serengeti, and it’s the best place to look for cheetahs and see lion kills – the latter also often attracting jackals and hyenas.

Kruger National Park Cheetah cubs

The aptly-named Olifants River is a favored haunt of elephants, and it also often attracts immense herds of thirsty buffalo.

Northern Kruger

Wildlife viewing in the remote Northern Kruger is challenging because while buffalo and elephants are conspicuous, lions, leopards, and rhino encounters are rare.

Balanced against that, the untrammeled north possesses a mesmerizing wilderness feel and hosts many localized bird species absent further south, making the Northern Kruger a perfect destination for a birding safari .

Lilac Breasted Roller in Kruger National Park

Thulamela Heritage Site, on the south bank of the Luvuvhu River, protects the substantial ruins of a 16th-century Zimbabwe-style stone-wall royal village.

Makuleke Contractual Park

The 240km2 (93 square mile) Makuleke Contractual Park, which runs south from the Limpopo River along the border with Zimbabwe, was annexed to Kruger following the forcible relocation of its inhabitants in 1969.

Restored to the Makuleke community in the 1990s, it’s still managed as part of Kruger and hosts two private lodges that offer much to keen birdwatchers or anybody seeking a genuine wilderness escape.

An excellent place to seek out the likes of Pel’s fishing owl, Racket-tailed roller, and Triple-banded courser, it also offers exclusive access to the spectacular Lanner Gorge and lush Fever tree forest at Crooks Corner.

Home to some of South Africa’s most lauded game lodges, the Sabi Sand Reserve was amalgamated from several now jointly-managed private properties in 1948.

Singita Lodge in Kruger National Park

It shares an open boundary with southern Kruger, and expertly guided game drives in open-top 4×4 vehicles often throw up all the Big Five on safari , as well as cheetah and African wild dogs. The reserve also arguably offers the world’s best and most intimate leopard viewing.

Manyeleti Game Reserve

Immediately north of Sabi Sand, Manyeleti Game Reserve , whose Shangaan name means ‘Place of Stars,’ was set aside in 1964 and now shares an unfenced 30km (19mi) eastern border with Kruger and supports a similar selection of wildlife.

However, poaching and low tourist volumes mean that game viewing on safari isn’t quite up there with several of its neighbors.

Timbavati Nature Reserve

Named after the seasonal river that flows close to its southern boundary before crossing into Kruger, the private Timbavati Nature Reserve , created in 1962, and now unfenced along its border with Kruger, operates similarly to Sabi Sand.

Game drives don’t quite match up when it comes to leopard and rhino safari sightings, but since camps are more spread out, they tend to operate at a more relaxed pace.

Private Concession Lodges

The Kruger’s dozen-or-so privately-run concession lodges stand on individual enclaves of national parkland where exclusive traversing rights have been awarded to the concessionaire.

Much like the private reserves bordering Kruger, each concession hosts between one and three exclusive small camps offering guests a deluxe package, including expertly guided safari game drives in open-top 4x4s.

Pels Fishing Owl in Kruger

However, the concessions are typically much larger than the private reserves, wildlife is less habituated to vehicles, and there is no cross-traversing with other lodges – the net result being that game viewing tends to be more erratic. Still, the overall experience is arguably more holistically satisfying.

Practical Information of Kruger National Park

  • Kruger is well-suited to affordable self-drive safaris. An ordinary saloon car can easily explore a good network of sealed roads. The 20-odd rest camps offer inexpensive but comfortable accommodation , and most have grocery shops, filling stations, and restaurants.
  • In addition, an excellent selection of maps, guidebooks, and other interpretive material is available on-site.
  • Kruger-Mpumalanga International Airport (KMIA) lies within an hour’s drive of Numbi and Phabeni Gates. It’s connected to Gauteng’s OR Tambo International Airport by several scheduled flights daily, and several car rental companies are represented there. For couples or families, it may be more affordable to rent a car out of Gauteng and drive, following the N4 east from Pretoria to Mbombela or the N12 from Johannesburg/OR Tambo to connect with the N4 at eMalahleni (formerly Witbank). Allow five hours for the drive.
  • The private and concession lodges associated with Kruger offer a very different and somewhat more costly experience. Most exude an aura of safari chic, pamper clients with gourmet meals and service levels in line with a luxury spa, and include a guided evening and morning game drive. These lodges are typically visited as a two- or three-night all-inclusive fly-in or drive-down package from Gauteng.
  • You could also tag one night at a private reserve to the end of a self-drive Kruger safari – though be sure to time things so that you arrive at camp in time and leave late enough to do all game drives.
  • Kruger is hot and seasonally humid, with summer daytime temperatures routinely topping the 30°C/86°F mark (frequently 40°C/104°F in the north). The air dries out in winter when nights can be freezing, and you’ll want plenty of warm clothing for evening and early morning game drives.

South Africa’s most ecologically diverse province, KwaZulu-Natal is flanked by two vast and very different but equally important and alluring UNESCO World Heritage Sites: the lush subtropical Indian Ocean coastline protected within iSimangaliso Wetland Park and the lofty 3,000m (9,843ft) peaks of the hiker-friendly uKhahlamba-Drakensberg.

(P.S. If you’re looking for affordable KwaZulu-Natal Accommodation Specials , we’ve got some great travel deals for you.)

Drakensberg Mountain Areas

Other attractions include the beach holiday city of Durban, the countless smaller beach resorts that flank it on either side, the top-notch Big Five game-viewing offered at the likes of Hluhluwe-Imfolozi and Phinda Game Reserves, and a wealth of historical and cultural sites associated with the Zulu nation for which the province is named.

Highlights of KwaZulu-Natal

South Africa’s third largest city, the vibrant port of Durban, stands at the hub of a 200km (124mi) stretch of Indian Ocean coastline endowed with an endless succession of perfect beaches for beach holidays .

A magnet for hikers and ramblers, the uKhahlamba-Drakensberg Park is a UNESCO World Heritage Site remarkable not only for its scenic beauty but also for its botanical diversity, wealth of endemic birds, birding safari opportunities , and prehistoric rock art dating back up to 3,000 years.

KwaZulu-Natal’s most important Big Five destination , the 960km2 (371 square mile) Hluhluwe-Imfolozi Game Reserve was first accorded official protection in 1895 and formerly served as the royal hunting ground of King Shaka Zulu.

The reserve has played a crucial role in the conservation of both African rhino species, and it now protects the world’s densest population of these endangered creatures.

Hluhluwe, KwaZulu-Natal

Other prominent residents include elephants, buffalo, giraffes, zebra, impala, nyala, greater kudu, warthogs, and to a lesser extent, lions and leopards. From mid-March to mid-December, four-night wilderness trails lead through a 300km2 (116 square mile) area closed to vehicular traffic.

Ramsar Wetlands

Another UNESCO World Heritage Site, the coastal iSimangaliso Wetland Park incorporates five separate Ramsar Wetlands and a checklist of more than 2,000 vertebrate species, more than any other African conservation area.

The Dhlinza Forest Reserve

The Dhlinza Forest Reserve, bordering the small town of Eshowe, protects the country’s most accessible patch of mist-belt forest. Home to the diminutive Blue duiker and an exciting selection of forest birds for birding safaris , it’s traversed by a 125m (410ft) aerial boardwalk that terminates at a tall tower offering grandstand views to the Indian Ocean.

Karkloof Nature Reserve

Sleepy Howick overlooks the spectacular 95m (312ft) high Howick Falls. It provides access to the Karkloof Nature Reserve, which protects the country’s largest remaining stand of mist-belt forest.

Dluzini Forest surroundings

It’s also the focal point of the Midlands Meander, which comprises a few dozen loosely-affiliated cottage industries ranging from art and pottery studios to craft workshops and cheese producers. An imaginative sculpture comprising 50 steel columns marks the out-of-town Nelson Mandela Capture Site, where its namesake was arrested for anti-apartheid activities in 1962.

The showy but exuberant cultural program at Shakaland provides an informative and enjoyable introduction to the culture of the province’s numerically dominant Zulu people. It’s an ideal add-on to your itinerary for your South African holiday if you’re looking for a cultural holiday experience.

eMakhosini Heritage Park

The 250km2 (97 square mile) eMakhosini Heritage Park protects the Zulu ‘Valley of Kings’ and includes such cultural landmarks as King Shaka’s Grave, the reconstructed residence of King Dingane, and the Hill of Execution where the Voortrekker party led by Piet Retief was slaughtered. It’s also home to rhinos and other typical Zululand wildlife.

Battlefields Route

The so-called Battlefields Route through the province’s northern interior comprises several important sites associated with the 19th-century Zulu-Boer and Anglo-Zulu Wars and the Anglo-Boer War of 1899-1902. These include Blood River, Isandlwana, Rorke’s Drift, and Spionkop Hill.


The inland city of Pietermaritzburg, founded in 1838 as part of a short-lived Boer Republic called Natalia, has been the provincial capital since 1843. Its pedestrian-friendly CBD contains several well-preserved Victorian buildings, including the redbrick City Hall, the Railway Station, the former Supreme Court (now the Tatham Art Gallery), and the Voortrekker Msunduzi Museum.

Practical Information of KwaZulu-Natal

  • The main air gateway to KwaZulu-Natal is King Shaka International Airport, which lies 35km (22mi) north of central Durban. It’s connected to Johannesburg, Cape Town, and many other large centers by several daily flights.
  • An alternative port of entry for the northern part of the province is Richards Bay, which is connected by daily scheduled flights to Johannesburg and lies about one hour’s drive southwest of iSimangaliso’s St Lucia Village or Hluhluwe-Imfolozi.
  • The usual car rental agencies are available at both airports, and airport shuttles and taxis are available to get you to Durban or elsewhere on the coast.
  • Traveling between Gauteng and Durban by road, the uKhahlamba-Drakensberg Park lies about halfway between the two and makes for an excellent place to break up the journey for a few nights. Hotels, B&Bs, and backpacker hostels are plentiful in most parts of the province. The provincial conservation authority also operates an extensive network of affordable and comfortable rest camps in its various reserves.

Situated in the blandly-named low-profile North West Province, these two relatively recently-created reserves have grown in popularity in recent years thanks to their family-friendly holiday location in a malaria free-zone and excellent Big Five viewing .

Pilanesberg and Madikwe are pretty similar in ecological terms, both being situated in the transitional zone to the moist eastern bushveld and the semi-arid Kalahari biome that extends into neighboring Botswana.

Lions in Madikwe Game Reserve

The usual safari favorites are supplemented by many dry-country species at the eastern limit of their range. However, the two reserves cater to very different clientele.

Pilanesberg, only two hours from Gauteng, stands adjacent to the glitzy Sun City casino and resort complex and is geared primarily towards self-drive day and overnight visitors.

By contrast, the more remote Madikwe is closed to day visitors and caters exclusively to the top end of the safari market, hosting a few dozen exclusive bush camps that offer plush accommodation and all-inclusive packages comparable to the private reserves bordering Kruger.

Now entrenched as South Africa’s premier malaria-free safari destination , the 750km2 (290 square mile) Madikwe Game Reserve abuts the Botswana border some four hours’ drive northwest of Gauteng.

Flanked by the perennial Great Marico River, the reserve was established in 1991 following a government study that concluded it could be utilized more profitably and offer greater benefits to local communities as a conservation area than as an unproductive farm.

Following an extensive reintroduction program, it now offers an excellent chance of sighting three of the Big Five – lion, elephant, and rhino on a Big Five safari – while buffalo and leopard are also present but more scarce. Common grazers include giraffe, zebra, greater kudu, springbok, Red hartebeest and tsessebe.

wildlife in madikwe on a south africa safari

It’s also possibly the most reliable reserve in South Africa for encounters with the endangered African wild dog. Night drive safaris frequently offer good sightings of the shy brown hyena and bizarre aardwolf.

A checklist of 350 bird species includes several northwestern specials, most conspicuously the Southern pied babbler (dubbed the ‘flying snowball’) and the exquisite Crimson-breasted shrike, Shaft-tailed whydah and Violet-eared waxbill, making Madikwe an ideal location for a birding safari .

Pilanesberg Game Reserve

Nestled scenically within a collapsed volcanic crater, the 550km2 (212 square mile) Pilanesberg Game Reserve supports game densities similar to the likes of Kruger and ranks as one of the best places anywhere in South Africa for close-up encounters with White rhinos and elephant on a safari.

Situated only two hours drive north of Gauteng, it forms a realistic goal for time-pressed travelers looking for a malaria-free overnight safari destination out of Johannesburg or Pretoria.

south africa overnight safari

Large predator sightings are comparatively hit-and-miss, but the odds of encountering a lion or leopard (along with the strictly nocturnal brown hyena and aardwolf) improve greatly if you join a guided night drive safari into the reserve.

As with Madikwe, a checklist of 350 bird species includes several species that reflect its transitional location, making it a perfect destination for a birding safari .

Sun City Resort

Established in 1976, Sun City is sometimes dubbed Las Vegas-in-the-bush. While the massive casino at the complex’s heart just about justifies this tag, it also doubles as a fun, family-friendly destination boasting an imitation inland beach called the Valley of Waves, two superb golf courses designed by Gary Player, and day safaris into the adjacent Pilanesberg.

Travel Tips to Madikwe And Pilanesberg

  • Three scheduled flights weekly connect Johannesburg to Pilanesberg Airport, which also serves Sun City. It is arguably easier (and quicker) to drive. This takes about two hours from O.R Tambo Airport, Johannesburg, or Sandton, or 90 minutes from Pretoria via the scenic Hartebeespoort Dam. It’s also easy to arrange a road transfer to Sun City or Pilanesberg.
  • It’s more like four hours’ drive from Johannesburg to Madikwe, and since all lodges here offer all-inclusive packages and self-drive exploration is forbidden, the best option is to fly.
  • Accommodation at Madikwe is limited to upmarket lodges. Pilanesberg and Sun City offer everything from five-star resort hotels and upmarket game lodges to budget-friendly rest camps within the reserve.

The scenic Boland (literally ‘Upland’) immediately inland of Cape Town enjoys twin claims to fame. Not only is it home to some of South Africa’s oldest and most vivid towns (most notably Stellenbosch and Franschhoek), but it also forms the hub of the Cape’s burgeoning wine industry.

Characterized by lush vine-planted valleys set below spectacular mountain ranges such as the Simonsberg, Groot Drakenstein and Helderberg, these beautiful areas are collectively referred to as the Cape Winelands, and few visitors pass up the opportunity to enjoy a ‘wine tour’ through some of its more famous estates, most of which offer free or inexpensive tasting facilities.

Stellenbosch and the Winelands_Stellenbosch

Stellenbosch and some of the older wine estates also house some handsome examples of Cape Dutch architecture, a uniquely South African style typified by whitewashed thatched buildings with a rounded and ornately bordered gable set above the main door, and two flanking perpendicular wings.

Established in 1679, South Africa’s second-oldest town, Stellenbosch, is named after its founder Simon van der Stel.

Nicknamed Eikestad (Town of Oaks), it retains a pleasingly time-warped Cape Dutch character whilst also hosting a lively selection of contemporary restaurants, cafés and shops.

The Stellenbosch Village Museum comprises four restored houses – the oldest being the Schreuderhuis, one of the few buildings to survive the great fire of 1710 – representing different phases in the town’s development.

Lanzerac Estate

Founded on the outskirts of Stellenbosch in 1692, the scenic Lanzerac Estate is known for its stately Cape Dutch architecture and for producing the world’s first commercial Pinotage (a red cultivar unique to South Africa) in 1959, and it includes a five-star restaurant and hotel.


Named for the many Huguenot refugees who settled there in the late 1680s, pretty little Franschhoek (‘French Corner’) hosts a few historic buildings, notably a pastoral Cape Dutch church built in in 1848.

Fairview Goat Tower

Its French roots are reflected in the handsome arched Huguenot Monument built on its outskirts in the 1840s, and the adjacent Huguenot Memorial Museum. The village is a culinary Mecca, hosting several of the country’s finest restaurants.

Boschendal Estate

Set in a verdant valley flanked by the Groot Drakenstein and Simonsberg Mountains, the perennially popular Boschendal Estate was first planted with vines in 1685 and is notable both for its superb Cape Dutch architecture and Mediterranean-style picnics served on the oak-shaded lawn.

Regularly known for its spring wildflowers and sleepy museum, the quaint town of Darling not only has its own wine route but is home to the cabaret venue and supper club Evita se Perron (named after Evita Bezuidenhout, a politicized South African equivalent to Dame Edna Everage created by the cross-dressing satirist Pieter-Dirk Uys).

Spier Estate

The family-friendly Spier Estate might lack the ambiance of its older counterparts, but its excellent range of activities and amenities includes a swimming pool, spa, playground, cheetah outreach program, raptor center, horseback excursions, and two onsite restaurants.

Vergelegen Estate

Founded in 1685 on the slopes of the Helderberg, Vergelegen (roughly translated as ‘far away’) is arguably the loveliest estate in the Winelands thanks to its gracious manor house, octagonal garden, and row of gnarled camphor trees planted circa 1700. The restaurant and award-winning wines are also exceptional.

The Winelands’ largest town, Paarl, is redeemed from mundanity by the pearl-smooth granite dome of the adjacent Paarl (‘Pearl’) Mountain, reached on a footpath through the protea-rich slopes of the nature reserve bordering the town center.

The Taal Monument, built in 1975 to commemorate the centenary of Afrikaans’ recognition as an official language, lies on its lower slopes.

A recommended diversion for devotees of Cape Dutch architecture is modest Tulbagh, whose Church Street has been restored in traditional style following a devastating earthquake in 1970.

Fairview Estate

Ideal for those traveling with children, the unpretentious Fairview Estate combines a laidback farmyard atmosphere with a superb deli serving a fabulous range of handcrafted cheeses and homegrown wines.

Travel Tips for Stellenbosch And The Winelands

  • Stellenbosch lies a mere 50km (31mi) inland of Cape Town and 35km (22mi) from Cape Town International Airport, which is served by several international flights and several dozen daily flights from Johannesburg, and domestic flights to all other major centers in South Africa.
  • The winelands can easily be visited as a day trip out of Cape Town. For those who prefer an overnight stay, the region is well-endowed with hotels, B&Bs, and backpacker hostels, most of which offer a more rustic feel than their coastal and city counterparts around Cape Town.
  • Although self-drive is a straightforward option, the best way to sample a few of the region’s wine estates is on an organized day excursion out of Cape Town, Stellenbosch, or Franschhoek. These usually take in around five different estates and are recommended because the self-drive wine-tasting option is in contravention of both commonsense and the law.
  • Opening hours vary, but you can safely assume that any name estate will be open for tasting over 09:00-16:00 Mon-Fri, and most are also open on Saturdays and Sundays.

The 200km (124mi) stretch of coast connecting Mossel Bay to the Storms River Mouth is commonly referred to as the Garden Route in reference to its beguiling diversity of wide sandy beaches, lovely lakes and lagoons, shady evergreen forests, and protea-studded slopes.

Lined with family-friendly beaches and ideally suited to hikers and other outdoor enthusiasts, the region is home to the patchwork Garden Route National Park and a host of protected indigenous forests.

The Garden Route Bloukrans Bridge

Large terrestrial wildlife is scarce, but the region offers fabulous aquatic and forest bird watching , including striking avian endemics such as Knysna turaco, Yellow-throated warbler, and Olive woodpecker. At the same time, seals, dolphins, and whales are commonly seen from seaside cliffs.


The Tsitsikamma sector of the Garden Route National Park protects a vast tract of indigenous forest along with a series of breathtaking cliffs that rise 180m (591ft) above the breakers below.

Highlights include the thrilling suspension bridge across the Storms River Mouth and the 6km (4mi) Waterfall Trail, which follows the same stretch of rocky wave-battered shore as the legendary five-day Otter Trail.

Bloukrans Bridge

A short distance inland of Tsitsikamma, the 215m (705ft) Bloukrans Bridge bungee jump is reputedly the world’s highest.

Family-friendly Monkeyland is a private sanctuary offering refuge to more than a dozen species of monkeys and lemurs, all rescued from domestic captivity.

The adjacent Birds of Eden is a massive free-flight aviary run through by a 1km (0.6mi) walkway and suspension bridge. A third associated sanctuary, Jukani, is home to rescued lions and various other big cats and smaller carnivores.

Plettenberg Bay

Set on the aptly named Baia Formosa (Beautiful Bay), the perennially popular resort town of Plettenberg Bay boasts one of South Africa’s loveliest and calmest urban beach holiday destinations , along with a great selection of seafood and other restaurants.

Robberg Nature Reserve

Adjacent to Plettenberg Bay, the towering cliffs of the Robberg Nature Reserve, home to large numbers of Cape fur seals, are circumnavigated by a stunning day trail from which dolphins, humpback whales, and the endemic African black oystercatcher are often observed.

The charming town of Knysna, whose Holy Trinity Church might have been transplanted from a sleepy English village, stands on a pretty lagoon hemmed in by a pair of sheer rock faces known as the Knysna Heads.

Knsyna, South Africa

Several quayside eateries specialize in fresh oysters cultivated in the lagoon and craft beers like those pioneered by the legendary Mitchell’s Brewery.

Despite its sophisticated veneer, Knysna supports a thriving alternative scene whose annual highlight is the Pink Loerie Mardi Gras and Arts Festival, a five-day gay pride event held every April or May.

Sandwiched between a beach and lagoon, the resort village of Wilderness flanks a sector of the Garden Route National Park, whose vast network of freshwater lakes and forested waterways form a true birdwatcher’s paradise .

It can be explored along a network of six easy walking trails, each named for one of the park’s half-dozen kingfisher species, or by canoeing through a stunning forested gorge formed by the Touws River.

Set in the arid Little Karoo, an hour’s drive inland, Oudtshoorn was the thriving center of a lucrative trade in ostrich feathers in the late 19th century.

The CP Nel Museum has good displays on the ostrich trade, while several out-of-town ostrich farms offer travelers the opportunity to learn about, pet, and even ride these bizarre outsized birds.

Cango Caves

In the scenic Swartberg (Black Mountains) north of Oudtshoorn, guided 60-minute trips lead deep underground through the sequence of well-lit labyrinths of the Cango Caves. All manner of unusual limestone formations decorates their chambers.

Cango Caves

An extended 90-minute ‘adventure’ tour into Cango Caves entails squeezing and clambering through crevices unsuited to the claustrophobic or seriously overweight.

Mossel Bay is where, on 3 February 1488, Bartolomeu Dias became the first European to set foot on South African soil.

Three years later, it is where a stranded Portuguese navigator left an account of his misfortunes in an old shoe suspended from a milkwood tree that went on to serve as South Africa’s first ‘post office’ for decades.

The post office tree still stands on the grounds of the Bartolomeu Dias Museum, but Mossel Bay is now better known as a base for caged shark dives and boat trips to the aptly named Seal Island.

Practical Advice of the Garden Route

  • The main gateway to the Garden Route is George, a well-equipped city whose out-of-town airport is connected to Cape Town and Johannesburg by regularly scheduled flights and has all the usual car rental agencies. It is also possible to drive along the well-maintained 430km (267mi) N2 between Cape Town and George in 4-5 hours.
  • The Garden Route is studded with literally hundreds of hotels, beach resorts, and B&Bs, so it’s usually easy to find competitively priced rooms. However, rates rocket sky-high, and booking is typically necessary over the South African Christmas and New Year holidays.

A popular add-on to Kruger safaris but also well worth exploring in its own right, the Panorama Route is a loose circuit of mostly natural attractions associated with the towering cliffs that divide the Highveld around Sabie and Graskop from the Lowveld of the Kruger Park and Mpumalanga’s provincial capital Mbombela (formerly Nelspruit).

The Panorama Route Gods Window

The Panorama Route Gods WindowAlthough much of the region is given over to exotic plantations, significant tracts of indigenous forest remain, especially on steep cliffs, as do several areas of grassland studded with proteas and red-hot pokers. The region is notable historically as the site of South Africa’s earliest gold rush, which proved to be short-lived, as far richer seams of gold were discovered soon after in Johannesburg.

Highlights of The Panorama Route

169-hectare Lowveld National Botanical Garden

Well worth a stop if you pass through Mbombela, the 169-hectare Lowveld National Botanical Garden, set on the confluence of the Nels and Crocodile Rivers, is of equal interest to botanists and ornithologists.

The rainforest section protects a vast collection of prehistoric cycads. At the same time, a bird checklist of 250 species includes Purple-crested turaco, Half-collared kingfisher, and African finfoot, making it a perfect destination for bird lovers .

Mac-Mac Falls

The 65m (213ft) Mac-Mac Falls is named after a pair of Scottish prospectors who camped above it in the gold rush era. You can swim in the pool at the base of the falls or continue by car for 2km (1,24mi) to the start of a 4km (2,5mi) day trail to the little-visited Forest Falls.

Bourke’s Luck

Situated at the confluence of the Blyde (Joy) and Treur (Sorrow) rivers, the bizarre riverine formation known as Bourke’s Luck comprises a series of deep cylindrical potholes created entirely by water erosion and can be explored along a short network of paths and footbridges.

Blyde River Canyon

The 25km (16mi) long and 1.4km (4,593ft) deep red sandstone Blyde River Canyon, protected within a 270km2 (104 square mile) nature reserve, is one of the largest and most spectacular features of its type on Earth.

It offers much to keen walkers and wildlife lovers. The most rewarding of several day hikes is the Kadishi Trail, which leads through a lush indigenous evergreen forest (inhabited by Vervet and Blue monkeys) to an impressive stalactite-like Tufa waterfall.

The Panorama Route_Blyde River Canyon

The Panorama Route_Blyde River CanyonOne of the most scenic spots in South Africa, the Three Rondavels viewpoint gazes across the vast Blyde River Canyon – the river itself a blue ribbon hundreds of meters below – to a striking trio of outcrops that recall traditional thatched rondavels (round houses).

Sudwala Caves

The dank, cool chambers of the Sudwala Caves support some incredible limestone drip formations. They can be explored on regular guided tours that lead about 500m (1,640ft) deep into the underground labyrinth.

Pilgrim’s Rest

Pilgrim’s Rest mushroomed into life in 1873 following the discovery of a large deposit of alluvial gold. The boomtown’s heyday was short-lived, but it was later restored as a living museum evoking the gold rush era.

Points of interest include the Anglican Church (built in 1884), the Methodist Church (1911), Catholic Church (1928), Old Police Station (1902), and the hilltop cemetery whose graves all point in the same direction, the one exception being an anonymous Robber’s Grave.

God’s Window

The finest of several viewpoints offering views along the R532, God’s Window provides a splendid view over the edge of the escarpment to the expansive Lowveld more than 1,000m (3,281ft) below. However, its impact depends on very clear weather.

Lisbon Falls

The tallest single-drop waterfall in the region, the twin-stream Lisbon Falls plunges over a 90m (295ft) stone amphitheater whose base is accessible via a steep footpath.

Travel Tips for The Panorama Route

  • The primary air gateway to Mpumalanga is Kruger-Mpumalanga International Airport (KMIA), which stands about 25km (16mi) northeast of Mbombela off the R40 to White River. It is connected to Gauteng’s OR Tambo International Airport by several scheduled flights daily. There are also direct flights from Durban and Cape Town, and several car rental companies are represented there.
  • It may be more affordable for couples or families to rent a car out of Gauteng and drive, following the N4 east from Pretoria to Mbombela or the N12 from Johannesburg/OR Tambo to connect with the N4 at eMalahleni (formerly Witbank). The drive takes 3-5 hours, depending on your ultimate destination.
  • Self-drivers could visit most sites along the Panorama Route in one day, but two would be better. A good variety of hotels and lodges are available in Mbombela and smaller towns such as Hazyview, Sabie, and Graskop.

Collectively protecting around two-thirds of South Africa’s phenomenal coastline, the country’s two most southerly provinces also incorporate several of its oldest and most characterful settlements.

The main regional travel hub (and administrative capital of the Western Cape) is the city of Cape Town , which boasts an incomparable setting on the Atlantic coastline below the slopes of majestic Table Mountain.

For nature lovers, the adjacent Cape Peninsula stands at the core of the world’s smallest and most botanically diverse floral kingdom.

The region supports a wealth of endemic plants and animals, ranging from the beautiful King Protea to the endangered Cape mountain zebra and striking Cape sugarbird.

Scenic Chapmans Peak in Cape Town

A Cape Town Holiday is an all-in-one experience if you like nature, culture, and history. In Cape Town and the Eastern Cape, you can enjoy a beach holiday and a foodie holiday. (P.S. If you’re looking for affordable Western Cape or Eastern Cape Accommodation Specials , we’ve got some great travel deals for you.)

Further afield, some of the world’s finest and most scenic wine estates are concentrated around the historic towns of Stellenbosch and Franschhoek.

The clifftop resort town of Hermanus offers the world’s best land-based whale-watching , while the Garden Route is named for its lush vistas of scenic lagoons and beaches framed by tall mountains and evergreen forests.

Storms River Mouth

Storms River MouthThe garden route runs into the Eastern Cape , a province less popular with international tourists than its western counterpart but almost as rich in attractions.

These range from the idyllic Wild Coast and surfing scene at Jeffrey’s Bay to the malaria-free Big Five game-viewing on offer in the Addo Elephant National Park and the National Arts Festival held in Grahamstown every July.

Highlights of the Western And Eastern Cape

One of the world’s most scenic and culturally rewarding cities, Cape Town is the gateway to any number of fine swimming beaches for a beach holiday , as well as a magnificent mountainous peninsula that terminates at the sheer wave-battered cliffs of Cape Point .

Cape Winelands

A perennially popular day or overnight excursion out of Cape Town runs inland to the Cape Winelands, where dozens of historic wine estates offer tasting sessions in characterful Cape Dutch buildings shadowed by spectacular mountain ranges such as the Simonsberg and Groot Drakenstein.

Visiting the Cape winelands can be included in your South African holiday itinerary if you love historic buildings and wine.

Garden Route

Stretching for 200km (124mi) between Mossel Bay and the dramatic Storms River mouth, the Garden Route is lined with family-friendly Indian Ocean beaches, making it the perfect destination for a beach holiday .

The Garden Route’s plethora of lakes, forests, and mountains – many protected in the patchwork Garden Route National Park – offer rich pickings to hikers, birdwatchers , and other outdoor enthusiasts.

Set on the cliffs above Walker Bay 120km (75mi) southeast of Cape Town, Hermanus is an attractive town of cobbled alleys and relaxed seafood restaurants best known for offering some of the world’s finest land-based whale-watching .

Whale Watching season in Hermanus along the garden route

The season runs from June to November and peaks over September-October, when around 100 Southern Right whales and a smaller number of Humpback whales converge to calve.

Hermanus makes for a perfect beach holiday as it has several small swimming beaches to pick from, and its cliff path is ideal for an afternoon walk.

Agulhas National Park

Protected within the recently created Agulhas National Park , the rocky headland known to the Portuguese as Cabo das Agulhas (Cape of Needles) is not only the southernmost tip of Africa but also forms the semi-official divide between the Atlantic and Indian Oceans.

More than 250 ships fell victim to the jagged offshore rocks for which Agulhas was named before the construction of what is now the country’s second-oldest lighthouse.

If you can endure the cold water, the beaches at Agulhas are also perfect for a beach vacation with your family .

West Coast National Park

The West Coast National Park north of Cape Town is centered on the vast Langebaan Lagoon, a globally significant site for marine birds, ten species of which breed there colonially.

It is also renowned for its multi-hued spring wildflower displays, which usually take place in August-September. It’s a perfect holiday destination if you love birdwatching and flowers.

Eastern Cape’s Wild Coast is studded with scenic gems, ranging from arty Port St Johns on the Mzimvubu River mouth to the sea-eroded rock formation known as Hole in the Wall or EsiKhaleni (isiXhosa for ‘Place of Noise’).

It is also the birthplace of Nelson Mandela, whose three-hut maternal home is preserved as a museum annex in the village of Qunu.


Founded by the British immigrants known as the 1820 settlers, the well-groomed university town of Grahamstown is studded with Georgian and Victorian buildings, including an astonishing 40 churches.

Grahamstown in the Eastern Cape of South Africa

The 11-day National Arts Festival held here in early July is the premier event of its type in South Africa, hosting everything from Shakespearean plays to live African music and a multitude of street artists. It’s the perfect vacation if you love the arts and history.

Addo Elephant National Park

Created in 1931 to protect the region’s last 11 surviving elephants, Addo Elephant National Park is now one of the country’s top malaria-free Big Five safari destinations .

Roughly 500 elephants roam the park alongside naturally occurring populations of leopards, buffalo, and greater kudu, and reintroduced Black rhinos, lions, and spotted hyenas.

While Addo is ideal for self-drivers, several neighboring private establishments offer guided luxury safaris in game lodges comparable to those in Sabi Sands .

Blue Flag Beach

The attractive Blue Flag beach at Jeffreys Bay is dominated by what many surfers regard to be the world’s longest and most perfect right-hand break: supertubes.

Scintillating surfing aside, dolphins are frequently observed from the unspoiled coastline protected within the nearby Cape St Francis Nature Reserve. Blue Flag Beach is the perfect beach holiday destination for an adventurous traveler.

Travel Tips for the Western And Eastern Cape

  • The main air gateway to the region is Cape Town International Airport (CTIA), which lies about 20km (12mi) east of the city center and 35km (22mi) from Stellenbosch in the Cape Winelands. An increasing number of international flights land at CTIA, and it’s also serviced by dozens of flights daily from Johannesburg and domestic flights to all other major centers in South Africa.
  • Other important airports can be found at George (the largest town on the Garden Route), Port Elizabeth (capital of the Eastern Cape), and East London (gateway to the Wild Coast). Depending on how long you have to spare and where you want to visit, an excellent way to explore the region independently would be to fly into Cape Town, self-drive east as far as George, Port Elizabeth, or East London, then fly back out.
  • It’s also possible to continue driving northeast of East London via the Wild Coast and southern KwaZulu-Natal to Durban.
  • As South Africa’s most traveled province, the Western Cape offers an immense selection of overnight options, ranging from five-star city and boutique hotels to backpacker hostels and B&Bs. Overnight options in the Eastern Cape are also profuse and varied. Although it’s usually straightforward enough to find a competitively priced room, rates boom, and booking is usually necessary over the South African Christmas and New Year school holidays.

Africa’s largest protected montane wilderness – the 2,500km2 (965 square mile) uKhahlamba-Drakensberg National Park extends for a full 200km (124mi) along the border of KwaZulu-Natal and Lesotho and incorporates several dozen peaks with the highest rising to 3,000m (9,843ft).

uKhahlamba-Drakensberg Park_Drakensberg

Its name combines the isiZulu uKhahlamba (“Barrier of Spears”) with the Afrikaans Drakensberg (“Dragon’s Mountain”). South Africa’s ultimate destination for high-altitude day walks and overnight hikes, the park is a hub of botanical diversity. Some 15% of its 2,500 identified plant species occur nowhere else globally.

Highlights of UKhahlamba-Drakensberg Park

Large wildlife includes baboon, eland, bushbuck, mountain reedbuck, Grey rhebok, and Grey duiker, as well as a 300-strong bird checklist that is strong on cliff-associated raptors such as Verreaux’s eagle, Jackal buzzard, Cape vulture and lammergeyer. It also includes 20 species whose range is restricted to South Africa, Lesotho and Swaziland, making for a perfect birding holiday.

An important repository of prehistoric rock art, uKhahlamba-Drakensberg contains at least 500 painted caves and shelters.

This is where monochrome human figures and finely shaded polychrome elands share wall space with bizarre half-human-half-animal creatures known as therianthropes.

Executed between 3,000 and 200 years ago, the art depicts the ritual trances experienced by shamans and their complex relationships with revered animals.

uKhahlamba-Drakensberg Park_Drakensberg

uKhahlamba-Drakensberg’s combination of rich biodiversity and prolific rock art has gained it recognition as one of only 35 ‘mixed’ natural and cultural sites on the UNESCO World Heritage list.

Royal Natal National Park

No single feature encapsulates the mountains’ majesty quite like the Amphitheatre, a 5km (3mi) long, kilometer-high wall of burnished sandstone that dominates the Royal Natal National Park skyline.

A must for keen walkers is the half-day Gorge Trail, which follows a pretty riverine gorge past natural swimming pools to the 949m (3,114ft) tall five-stage Tugela Falls.

A feasible day hike from Royal Natal is the Witsieshoek’s Chain Ladder Trail. It’s the easiest hike to the top of the escarpment and offers sensational views from the lip of the Tugela Falls as it crashes over the Amphitheatre.

uKhahlamba-Drakensberg Park_Hiking Drakensberg Amphitheatre

The ideal goal for those wanting to enjoy splendid submontane scenery without breaking a sweat, Champagne Valley is overlooked by a trio of distinctive high peaks – domed Champagne Castle, fang-like Monk’s Cowl, and freestanding Cathkin Peak. It also houses a great selection of golf courses, stables, shopping malls, craft factories, and the like.

Giant’s Castle Game Reserve

Named after a 3,314m (10,873ft) basaltic protrusion that stands at the convergence of the mountains’ northern and southern escarpments, Giant’s Castle Game Reserve is renowned for its rock art, in particular the hundreds of superb images that adorn Main Cave. It’s also an excellent place to see the stately eland antelope and other large mammals and raptors.

Didima Rock Art Center

Didima Rock Art Center contains life-size reproductions of several inaccessible rock art panels set higher in the mountains. Only 45 minutes’ walk away, the Lower Mushroom Cave is decorated with a wonderful scene of stick men evading a marauding leopard.

Cathedral Peak

The striking 3,005m (9,859ft) Cathedral Peak towers above the main escarpment like a squatted version of the cow horn alluded to in its traditional name Mponjwane. It’s an attainable goal for a tough full-day guided hike from Didima.

The undulating slopes of Kamberg support fair numbers of eland and mountain reedbuck.

A three-hour round hike leads to the Game Pass Shelter, a superbly preserved rock art panel dubbed the Rosetta Stone in double reference to its significance in helping scholars ‘crack the code’ of shamanistic symbolism that underlies the prehistoric paintings.

Barriers of Spears

The only motorable track to breach the Barriers of Spears, rocky 4×4-only Sani Pass follows a series of switchbacks uphill to a remote Lesotho border post (passport required) set at a windswept altitude of 2,865m (9,400ft).

Here, the tussocky grass, mossy boulders, and clumped heather of the Alpine zone acquire an ethereal beauty in the soft light of dusk or dawn. It’s also the most accessible place to see high-altitude endemic birds, such as the Drakensberg rockjumper and Mountain pipit.

Practical Advice for UKhahlamba-Drakensberg Park

  • The rugged topography of uKhahlamba-Drakensberg divides the park into a dozen-odd different sectors, each effectively a self-contained destination with its own attractions and access roads. Most visitors will only have time to explore one or two. As a guideline, Royal Natal ranks highest for scenic impact, Champagne Valley for upmarket tourist development, Giant’s Castle and Kamberg for accessible rock art, and Sani Pass for birdwatching and 4×4 enthusiasts.
  • uKhahlamba-Drakensberg is geared best toward active self-drive travelers willing to explore its slopes on foot. Bank on at least up to four hours to cover the 350km (217mi) from Gauteng to Royal Natal Park (in the north) or two hours from Durban to Himeville (near the base of Sani Pass).
  • For ecological reasons, no hotels exist within the park. Still, the park authorities operate rest camps at several entrance gates. There are private hotels in Champagne Valley and in the vicinity of Royal Natal, Cathedral Peak, and Sani Pass.
  • uKhahlamba-Drakensberg’s non-nannyish management policy stands in contrast to the strict regulations and hefty costs associated with other iconic African mountains. Simply pitch up at any entrance gate, hand over the nominal entrance fee, sign into the mountain register, and off you go.
  • Hikers on the upper slopes frequently get trapped in stormy or misty conditions, so dress suitably and be prepared to turn back or stay put as weather conditions dictate.

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When is the best month to travel to south africa.

  • South Africa in January

Johannesburg and the Highveld are hot by day, warm at night, and receive regular rainfall, often in the form of afternoon thunderstorms. Cape Town and the Western Cape are hot and dry, cooling down at night, making it perfect for a beach holiday . The Kruger Park and its surroundings are very hot by day, warm at night, and receive occasional rainfall.

south africa in january beach holiday

  • January is an ideal time for beach holidays anywhere along the South African coast, though Durban and the KwaZulu-Natal coast to its north can be swelteringly hot.
  • Game viewing in Kruger Park and other reserves can be relatively challenging as animals are dispersed away from water sources, and thick vegetation tends to reduce visibility. This is arguably compensated for by the lush green condition of the bush, clearer skies (better for a photographic safari ), and far greater variety and profusion of birds as resident species come into breeding plumage and are supplemented by a variety of intra-African and Palaearctic migrants, making it a good time for a birding safari .
  • January falls into the nesting season for loggerhead and leatherback turtles along the beaches of iSimangaliso, and turtle-tracking tours can be undertaken in the evening.
  • Accommodation tends to be full during the school holidays, which run to mid-January, but much quieter towards the end of the month.
  • South Africa in February

South Africa in February_Turtle Hatchling_Thonga Beach Lodge

Johannesburg and the highveld is hot by day, warm at night and receives regular rainfall often in the form of afternoon thunderstorms.

Cape Town and the Western Cape is hot and dry, cooling down at night.

The Kruger Park and surrounds is very hot by day, warm at night and receives occasional rainfall.

February is an ideal time for beach holidays anywhere along the South African coast if a quieter holiday is more enticing. Though Durban and the KwaZulu-Natal coast to its north can be uncomfortably hot.

Game viewing in the Kruger Park and other reserves can be relatively challenging as animals are dispersed away from water sources and thick vegetation tends to reduce visibility. This is arguably compensated by the lush green condition of the bush, clearer skies (better for photography) and far greater variety and profusion of birds as resident species come into breeding plumage and are supplement by a variety of intra-African and Palaearctic migrants.

February falls into the nesting season for loggerhead and leatherback turtles along the beaches of iSimangaliso, and turtle-tracking tours can be undertaken in the evening.

  • South Africa in March

golden oriole on a birding tour in south africa

Johannesburg and the highveld is warm and mild by day, cool at night and receives occasional rainfall often in the late afternoon.

Cape Town and the Western Cape starts cooling down with regular windy spells, cooler evenings and crisp early mornings.

The Kruger Park and surrounds is still hot during the day, cooling down at night and receives occasional rainfall.

March is a good time for beach holidays anywhere along the South African coast, with different regions offering varied climates to attract tourists looking for a variety of experiences. Durban and the east coast is still warm and humid, although the peak tourist season has quietened down and costs are relatively low, making it a good option.

Game viewing in the Kruger Park and other reserves starts picking up as the rainfall abates and the lush summer vegetation clears to make spotting wildlife easier. This is an excellent period for birdwatching as a profusion of birds come into breeding plumage and are supplement by a variety of intra-African and Palaearctic migrants.

March lies towards the end of the nesting season for loggerhead and leatherback turtles along the beaches of iSimangaliso, and turtle-tracking tours can be undertaken in the evening.

Accommodation in the main tourist areas is usually relatively quiet in March.

  • South Africa in April

South Africa in April_Elephants

Johannesburg and the Highveld are warm by day, cool at night, and might receive occasional rainfall.

Cape Town and the Western Cape are mild by day, cool at night, and might receive occasional rainfall to mark the start of the wet winter.

The Kruger Park and its surroundings see the seasonal shift towards autumn with noticeable drops in temperatures, occasional late summer rains, and cool evenings.

  • April is an ideal time for beach holidays along the east coast because of its warm and tropical climate throughout the year. However, it may not be suitable for a beach holiday in the Western or Eastern Cape because the weather is cooler, and rains start falling around this time.
  • Game viewing in the Kruger Park and other reserves can be relatively challenging as animals are dispersed away from water sources, and thick vegetation tends to reduce visibility. This is arguably compensated for by the lush green condition of the bush and clearer skies (better for a photographic safari ). Most intra-African and Palaearctic migrant birds will have flown north by April.
  • Accommodation tends to be full during the school holidays, focused on the Easter break.
  • The Easter weekend coincides with South Africa’s longest-running music festival, the four-day Splashy Fen, which has been held on a farm in the Ukhahlamba-Drakensberg foothills near the town of Underberg since 1990.
  • South Africa in May

game drive in the kruger national park

Johannesburg and the Highveld are warm by day, cold at night, and dry.

Cape Town and the Western Cape are warm by day, cool at night, and might be wet and windy with winter rainfall.

  • May is an ideal time for beach holidays on the Indian Ocean coastline of KwaZulu-Natal coast, which tends to be temperate to hot over the nominal winter months, and very dry. Conditions on the coast of the Eastern and Western Cape are less predictable.
  • Game viewing in the Kruger Park and other reserves tends to improve following the end of the rains, as animals congregate close to perennial water sources and the undergrowth clears to improve visibility.
  • Accommodation in tourist areas is usually quiet in May.
  • Taking everything into account, May is one of the best months to visit South Africa, particularly if your main interest is safaris rather than beaches.
  • South Africa in June

snow in the drakensberg on a hike

Johannesburg and the highveld is cool but sunny by day, very cold at night, and dry.

Cape Town and the Western Cape is warm by day, cool at night, and receives regular rainfall.

The Kruger Park and surrounds is hot by day, cool at night, and dry.

Game viewing in the Kruger Park and other reserves tends to be good in the dry season, as animals congregate close to perennial water sources and the undergrowth clears to improve visibility.

  • South Africa in July

South Africa in July_Whale Watching

Johannesburg and the Highveld are mild to cool by day, cold at night, and dry.

  • The Kruger Park and its surroundings are hot by day, cool at night, and dry. August is an ideal time for beach holidays on the Indian Ocean coastline of KwaZulu-Natal coast, which tends to be temperate to hot over the nominal winter months, and very dry. Conditions on the coast of the Eastern and Western Cape are less predictable.
  • Game viewing in the Kruger Park and other reserves tends to be exceptional towards the end of the dry season, as animals congregate close to perennial water sources and the undergrowth clears to improve visibility making it the perfect time for a Kruger safari.
  • August usually heralds the start of the whale-viewing season in Hermanus and the Western Cape. Accommodation in tourist areas is usually very quiet in August.
  • Taking everything into account, August is one of the best months to visit South Africa, particularly if your main interest is safaris rather than beaches.
  • South Africa in August

lions in the kruger national park wildlife safari

  • August is an ideal time for beach holidays on the Indian Ocean coastline of KwaZulu-Natal coast, which tends to be temperate to hot over the nominal winter months, and very dry. Conditions on the coast of the Eastern and Western Cape are less predictable.
  • August usually heralds the start of the whale-viewing season in Hermanus and the Western Cape.
  • Accommodation in tourist areas is usually very quiet in August.
  • South Africa in September

spring in langebaan on the west coast south africa holiday

Cape Town and the Western Cape are mild by day, cool at night, and receive regular rainfall.

The Kruger Park and its surroundings are hot by day, mild at night, and dry.

  • September is an ideal time for beach holidays on the Indian Ocean coastline of KwaZulu-Natal, which tends to be temperate to hot over the nominal winter months, and very dry. Conditions on the coast of the Eastern and Western Cape are less predictable.
  • September is widely regarded as offering the best game viewing safaris of any month in the Kruger National Park and other reserves, as animals congregate close to perennial water sources and the undergrowth clears to improve visibility.
  • September to November is peak whale-viewing season in Hermanus and the Western Cape. Accommodation in tourist areas is usually very quiet in September, though it may fill up over the short spring school holiday that usually takes place in late September/early October.
  • Taking everything into account, September is one of the best months to visit South Africa, assuming you are free to travel then.
  • South Africa in October

zebra at waterhole south africa in october

Johannesburg and the Highveld are warm by day, cooler at night, and will receive occasional rainfall.

Cape Town and the Western Cape are hot by day, cooler at night, and generally dry, while the Kruger Park and its surroundings are hot by day, warm at night, and dry.

  • October is an ideal time for beach holidays anywhere along the South African coast.
  • This month usually offers excellent game viewing safaris in the Kruger Park and other reserves, as animals congregate close to perennial water sources and the undergrowth clears to improve visibility. However, they will start to disperse in the wake of the first rains.
  • September-November is peak whale-viewing season in Hermanus and the Western Cape.
  • Accommodation in tourist areas is usually very quiet in October, though it may fill up over the short spring school holiday that usually takes place in late September/early October.
  • Taking everything into account, October is one of the best months to visit South Africa.
  • South Africa in November

Johannesburg and the Highveld are hot by day, cool at night, and receive regular rainfall, often in the form of afternoon thunderstorms.

Cape Town and the Western Cape are hot by day, cooler at night, and dry.

The Kruger Park and its surroundings are hot by day, warm at night, and dry.

  • November is an ideal time for beach holidays anywhere along the South African coast, though Durban and the KwaZulu-Natal coast to its north can be rather hot.
  • Game viewing in the Kruger Park and other reserves can be relatively challenging as animals are dispersed away from water sources, and thick vegetation tends to reduce visibility. This is arguably compensated for by the lush green condition of the bush and clearer skies ( better for photography ).
  • Many resident species come into breeding plumage during November, and this transitional month also usually heralds the arrival of large numbers of intra-African and Palaearctic migrants.
  • September-November is peak whale-viewing season in Hermanus and the Western Cape. November is the start of the nesting season for loggerhead and leatherback turtles along the beaches of iSimangaliso, and turtle-tracking tours can be undertaken in the evening.
  • Accommodation in tourist areas is usually quiet in November, though it starts to fill up towards the end of the month.
  • South Africa in December

South Africa in December_Sailing Cape Town

Johannesburg and the highveld is hot by day, cool at night and receives regular rainfall often in the form of afternoon thunderstorms.

  • December is an ideal time for beach holidays anywhere along the South African coast, though Durban and the KwaZulu-Natal coast to its north can be swelteringly hot.
  • Game viewing in the Kruger Park and other reserves can be relatively challenging as animals are dispersed away from water sources, and thick vegetation tends to reduce visibility. This is arguably compensated for by the lush green condition of the bush and clearer skies (better for photographic safaris ). Many resident species come into breeding plumage during December, and this transitional month also heralds the arrival of large numbers of intra-African and Palaearctic migrants.
  • December is the peak nesting season for loggerhead and leatherback turtles along the beaches of iSimangaliso, and turtle-tracking tours can be undertaken in the evening.
  • Accommodation along the coast and other popular tourist areas tends to be full during the school holidays starting in early December.

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south africa overnight safari

Diane Du Plessis, Safari Travel Planner

Free safari planning advice from destination experts

Faqs about south africa.

  • South Africa , Namibia, Mozambique, Botswana, Swaziland, Zambia, and Zimbabwe are among the countries that offer rail safaris.
  • Light, neutral-colored clothes are recommended
  • Bring layers and pack smartly
  • A rain jacket that is both light and waterproof
  • Sunscreen, sunglasses, a hat, and lip balm are all good options for UV protection
  • Walking shoes that are both comfortable and stylish
  • Binoculars, camera, lenses, extra batteries, and memory card
  • A medical kit for personal use

If you are planning on visiting South Africa , you may hear that South Africa is a beautiful country and that it is the most developed country in Africa. South Africa is big and if you stick to the main cities of South Africa it is safe to travel.

  • A Safari in South Africa is a popular choice for wildlife enthusiasts. All major safari animals can easily be seen at any of South Africa's National Parks.
  • The scenic KwaZulu-Natal parks are best for seeing rhino
  • Kruger National Park offers excellent general wildlife viewing
  • The main attraction in Sabi Sand is seeing the Big Five and it is well-known for its habituated leopards
  • A walking safari is an exciting activity in which participants go on slow-paced, guided treks through the bush with the goal of discovering different wildlife species.
  • Because of the slower tempo and lower angle of being on foot, minor elements that are neglected on game drives become more evident.
  • No, but you would need an experienced safari guide for your walk. It is not recommended to walk out on your own on a walking safari in Africa .
  • Yes, all guides have intensive wilderness and safety training, and they are equipped wherever a potential threat may exist. 
  • There are different rails and journeys and the wildlife can vary depending on which railway you choose to travel.
  • The length of a rail safari will depend on which rail you choose to travel. On average, rail safaris are usually around 10 days.
  • Botswana is a fantastic place to go on a houseboat safari if you want to explore the Chobe River. Expect to witness a high number of elephants on your houseboat safari, as the park is home to one of the world's greatest surviving elephant populations, estimated to number over 120,000.
  • You can also expect to see lots of antelope species, Hippos, Giraffes as well as a high concentration of predators.
  • It all depends on how long you would like to stay. If you are booking through Discover Africa you can pick different plans for a certain amount of days.
  • Yes, houseboat safaris are safe. 
  • Safari/bucket showers are common in mobile or tented camps where there is no permanent plumbing. They are an effective yet environmentally friendly way to shower where water is at a premium and provide plenty of hot water to wash comfortably.
  • Generally, there is an en-suite private shower stall within your tent with a “rainfall” style shower head at which you can control the water flow. Outside the tent, there is a large waterproof bag or bucket which is filled with about 10 to 15 litres (5 US gallons) of hot water before being raised with a pully/rope system to either connect to the shower pipe or fill a cistern.
  • The water is delivered at the ideal temperature so it is best to use it as soon as it arrives. Staff typically fill the showers at a pre-arranged time of day, or you simply need to give them a few minutes notice so they can get it ready.
  • All game reserves in Madikwe, the Pilanesberg and the Eastern Cape are malaria-free.
  • Most lodges and hotels will have safes for your valuables either in your room or at the reception.

Our Recommended Activities in South Africa

  • Horseback Riding
  • Hot Air Balloon Rides
  • Mountain Biking
  • Night Drives
  • Visiting Local Villages

Going for a bush walk on your South Africa safari is an amazing experience that allows you to get up close and personal with nature.

Some of the best destinations for a bush walk include Gondwana Game Reserve , Kambaku @ Sea on the Garden Route, Buffelsdrift Game Lodge at Oudtshoorn, and self-catering AfriCamps at Ingwe near Plettenberg Bay.


On a bush walk, you’ll see a variety of South African safari wildlife, such as elephants, giraffes, zebras, and more.

A bush walk is different from a game drive because it allows you to experience nature in a more intimate way. You’ll be able to see things that you wouldn’t be able to see from a vehicle.

Some of the highlights of going on a bush walk on your South Africa safari tour include examining the real details of the bush, from the Big Five safaris right down to the insects that form such an important part of the ecosystem.


South African safari grasslands have 30 species per square kilometre, greater than the biodiversity of rainforests.

It’s entirely safe to go on a bush walk on your South Africa safari as long as you follow the instructions of your guide and take the necessary precautions.

It’s important to remember that you are in the wild and there are risks involved, but with proper guidance and preparation, you can have a safe and enjoyable experience.

Horseback riding safaris are a thrilling way to experience the astounding beauty of South Africa safari wildlife and landscapes.

South African Safari tours range from short stints through the bush for inexperienced riders to multi-day excursions for the more experienced, where you’ll camp at fly tents overnight before continuing your adventure the next day.


The advantage of going horseback riding on African safari is that wildlife doesn’t see humans on horseback as a threat, so you can often get closer to the animals than you would on foot or in a safari vehicle.

Two of the best locations for horseback safaris on your South Africa safari include the Waterberg Biosphere Reserve in Limpopo Province, and the Kruger National Park .

Taking a hot air balloon flight on a South African Safari Tours is an unforgettable experience that offers breathtaking views of the country’s stunning landscapes and wildlife.

You can choose from a variety of hot air balloon rides that offer different experiences.

Colorful hot air balloons flying

For example, you can combine a hot air balloon ride with a Big Five Safari for an even more immersive experience on your South Africa safari.

This option allows you to see South Africa’s diverse wildlife from a unique perspective.

Hot air balloon safari - South Africa

If you’re looking for a more classic experience, you can try a sunrise hot air balloon flight over the Cradle of Humankind World Heritage Site or the Magaliesberg mountain range1.

This option offers stunning views of the surrounding landscape and is perfect for those who want to enjoy a peaceful and serene flight.

The cost of hot air balloon rides on a South Africa safari varies depending on the type of ride you choose and the location.

South Africa Safari Tours is a great place for mountain biking adventures.

Some of the most popular mountain bike holiday destinations in South Africa are Cape Town and Stellenbosch biking tour areas , Knysna and the Garden Route, Sabie in Mpumalanga and the Drakensberg in Kwa-Zulu Natal.

Many of these destinations have tour operators and offer guided and self-guided mountain bike tours.


Get in the saddle and explore some of the gorgeous landscapes that South Africa Safari Tours has to offer as you navigate spotless trails and winding jeep tracks.

There’s something for everyone, from challenging singletrack to more moderate dirt roads.

Remember to take enough water and snacks so that you can hydrate often and keep yourself fuelled on your mountain biking adventure.

This is your chance to see Africa’s wonderful nocturnal life. Unlike daytime activities, during night drive safaris, the chances of spotting nightjars, porcupines, scorpions, chameleons, and bush babies are high.

Of course, it’s also an excellent opportunity to see leopards, lions, civets, and genet or perhaps even a pangolin or aardvark. The trick is to search for their glinting eyes in the vehicle’s headlights or the spotlights shining across the bush.


For safety and practical reasons, many African parks and reserves still don’t allow visitors to drive around the park after the sun has set.

Most of the time, the main parks like the Kruger National Park , Serengeti and Masai Mara are reluctant to conduct night drives. But the private concessions and conservancies surrounding these famous reserves do allow and support game drives at night.


Night drives are incredibly rewarding, and although it’s a bit more tricky to take good pictures, it’s more about the unique animals you’ll get to see and the nighttime sounds you hear.


These aren’t things you’ll ever experience during a daytime game drive. It really completes an African safari.

What can be better than peering up on your South African Safari Tour at the Milky Way to marvel at the unbridled beauty of the cosmos?

Thanks to the low-to-no light pollution levels in South Africa’s Safari Tour lodges at game parks and national reserves, you can witness shooting stars and celestial bodies in all their glory.


Some of the top destinations for stargazing on your South African Safari Tour include Tankwa Karoo National Park , |Ai|Ais/Richtersveld Transfrontier Park, and Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park.

All offer stunning and uninterrupted views of the night sky.

South Africa has a lot of cultural heritage and visiting local villages can be an enriching experience on your South African Safari Tour .

These villages offer a unique opportunity to learn about South African tribal culture , history, and traditions while enjoying traditional food and entertainment.


There is no single tribal culture in South Africa. Even the Zulu people, the largest ethnic group in the country, are diverse in their beliefs and customs.

With such an abundance of cultures to explore, there’s no end of opportunities to immerse yourself in local culture and discover new ways of life.


In addition to organized tours, there are many villages throughout the South African Safri Tours that welcome visitors.

Some popular villages include Lesedi Cultural Village in Gauteng province, Shangana Cultural Village near Kruger National Park, Khaya La Bantu Cultural Village in Cape Town, Basotho Cultural Village in Free State province , and Botshabelo Mission Station in Mpumalanga province.

See South Africa in Your Comfort

  • Affordable Safari in South Africa
  • Budget Safari Holiday in South Africa
  • Luxury Safari Holiday in South Africa

Value-for-money holiday in South Africa

An excellent option for those who want to travel in reasonable comfort while keeping costs down is to self-drive some or all of the time.

Rental cars can be arranged in all major centers (as well as at all airports), and roads are generally up to international standards, though potholes are increasingly prevalent in smaller towns.

The Kruger National Park ranks as Africa’s ultimate DIY self-drive safari destination, thanks to its good network of (mostly surfaced) roads and well-equipped and affordable rest camps.

Still, similar facilities are available at most major public reserves, including iSimangaliso, Hluhluwe-Imfolozi, Pilanesberg, uKhahlamba-Drakensberg, and any number of less publicized places.

South Africa is a destination that caters to all budgets, offering something special that is sure to meet your expectations. The level of three or even four-star graded establishments is generally higher than that of European standards, for example.

Therefore you’re able to travel on a more restricted budget.

South Africa is well-suited to budget travelers . There are backpacker hostels, affordable B&Bs, and self-catering options in all major centers. There are also very affordable and well-equipped campsites, usually with hot water in the ablution blocks and electricity.

For transport, the perennially popular hop-on, hop-off Baz Bus connects Johannesburg to Cape Town via the uKhahlamba-Drakensberg, Durban, East London, Port Elizabeth, and the Garden Route.

Excellent and affordable coach services run along with these and most other trunk routes.

Budget safari holiday in South Africa

Most backpacker hostels offer or can arrange various excursions – from half-day, wine-tasting trips out of Cape Town to multi-night Kruger safaris out of Johannesburg – at prices that cater to their intended clientele.

Although restaurants in South Africa are very affordable by international standards, the cost of eating out three times a day will add up, and you can save a lot of money by self-catering and buying ingredients and drinks directly from supermarkets and liquor stores.

Low Season Rates

You’ll be able to take advantage of some very generous low-season pricing offered by several safari lodges depending on the time of year you travel for your budget safari holiday in South Africa.

Low season rates in South Africa are available from the beginning of May to the end of September when the country is experiencing winter.

Surprisingly, this is not the rainy season for Kruger National Park and many other private reserves in South Africa.

Instead, the rainy weather in Cape Town is to blame for the low season prices all around South Africa!

This is excellent news for wildlife enthusiasts, as these are the best months to go on a budget safari holiday in South Africa. May through September is the dry season for Kruger and Madikwe .

The bush isn’t as lush and green at this time of year, allowing for greater game viewing, and the animals are more dependent on waterholes and rivers because it’s the dry season.

This also makes it easier to locate the game in the winter. This is the perfect place to go if you want to see a variety of African animals collected around a waterhole early in the morning before the heat of the day sets in on your budget safari holiday in South Africa .

Budget Safari Lodges

South Africa, in particular, has a wide choice of less expensive or budget private lodges . While they aren’t exactly budget, they provide the same game-viewing experiences as their more expensive neighbors at a fraction of the cost.

You can’t go wrong with one of these budget lodges if you’re going to South Africa primarily for the animals. While the accommodations aren’t quite as polished and elegant, and the food isn’t quite as sumptuous, they offer fantastic value for money and world-class safaris.

A must-for for anybody with a taste for bush luxury is a stay at one of the small and exclusive camps or lodges set in private reserves or concessions such as the Kruger concessions , Sabi Sand , Madikwe , Phinda , and the vicinity of Addo Elephant National Park .

Typically these lodges combine chic Africa-themed accommodation with world-class cuisine, fine wines, attentive staff, and, most importantly, thrilling game drives led by expert guides in open-sided 4x4s.

A three-night stay at any given lodge or camp is probably ideal for a luxury South Africa Safari .

Luxury safari holiday in South Africa_Singita_LeBombo

Elsewhere, Cape Town , the nearby Cape Winelands , and Garden Route are studded with small but superb boutique hotels that combine five-star service and amenities with individualistic decor.

The most comfortable way to travel on a luxury holiday would be to fly between major centers and then arrange airport pick-ups and drop-offs and any required outings with the lodge or hotel you book into.

South Africa is a real treat when it comes to wining and dining on a generous budget. Any good tour operator can put together a package of this sort for those who don’t want the bother of arranging it themselves.

For more luxury safaris in Africa , have a look at the options we offer.

Holiday Styles and Options in South Africa

  • 4×4 Rental South Africa
  • A Photography Safari in South Africa
  • A Relaxed Safari Holiday in South Africa
  • An Active Holiday in South Africa
  • An Adventure Holiday in South Africa
  • Beach and Bush Safari Holidays in South Africa
  • Big Five Safari Holidays in South Africa
  • Birding Safari Holidays in South Africa
  • City and Bush Safari Holidays in South Africa
  • Foodie Holidays in South Africa
  • Malaria Free Safari Holidays in South Africa
  • Walking Safari Holidays in South Africa

Rent a 4×4 for Your Journey in South Africa

Explore Africa in a 4×4. Visit untamed wilderness area, rich in wildlife and packed with adventure.

Intrepid explorers can literally follow their heart across all manner of terrain, to discovering the true beauty of Africa from the comfort of an offroad venture.

Take to the road less travelled with a rental 4×4 vehicle from our sister company, Drive South Africa. It’s easy to compare and save on all 4×4 rental cars. The booking process is simple and efficient. There’s no better way to book your 4×4 rental online.

Drive South Africa caters to local and foreign African adventure travel enthusiasts. We specialize in off road vehicle hire, 4×4 off road equipment and self-drive wildlife safaris.

4×4 Rental Options

Choose from a huge range of offroad 4×4 rental vehicles ready to take you wherever you want to go. Select your ride from reliable 4x4s like the Toyota Hilux, Ford Ranger, Suzuki Jimny, and Toyota Fortuner.

Benefits of Renting in a 4×4 in South Africa

  • Explore South Africa at your own pace.
  • Experience the freedom and flexibility that comes with renting a 4×4
  • Go on an epic road trip with all the convenience you need

We also offer 4×4 rentals in Botswana, Namibia, Zimbabwe, Zambia and Mozambique.

Sabi sands is ideal for a kruger national park photo tour

South Africa is a highly photogenic country , especially in the summer months (November-April) when the air is least hazy, and landscapes are at their greenest.

The coastline and mountains all make great subjects. Still, the country’s most popular venues for photography are its game reserves, with their magnificent array of wildlife, which tends to be better for photographing during a winter safari.

For dedicated photographers, it’s worth weighing off the pros and cons of a guided safari in a private reserve such as Sabi Sand or a self-drive trip in a public reserve such as Kruger .

wildlife photography in south africa lioness

Private reserves are generally much more costly to visit, and guides tend to focus strongly on the Big Five rather than less glamorous but equally photogenic subjects such as birds and antelope.

In addition, people with long lenses may find the seating arrangements in the open 4x4s rather cramped unless they arrange private game drive safaris in advance.

On the other hand, most private reserves offer far superior sightings of lions, leopards, and other photogenic predators that you can hope for in public reserves.

Also, the ability to drive off-road means you can stick with the subject for longer and usually get far closer to it and line up better.

A photography safari in South Africa_Kommetjie beach

First-time safari goers should also be aware that wildlife photography requires faster and higher-magnification lenses than most other subjects.

The ideal lens combination would be a zoom that goes up to 300 together with a fixed 400, with a fastest f-stop of 4 or better, 2.8. A beanbag to rest your lens and minimize camera shake risk is a vital accessory.

To save weight, you can travel with an empty bean bag and fill it up with rice or something similar upon arrival at your destination.

travel quotes for south africa safari

South Africa’s lovely coastline offers ideal holiday conditions for chilling out, catching a tan, taking the occasional dip, and relaxing over a paperback or magazine.

Most coastal resorts also boast a fine array of restaurants where seafood and other cuisines can be enjoyed, along with fine homegrown white and red wines.

If you want to punctuate lazy seaside days with the occasional gentle stroll, you’re probably best heading for one of the rural or suburban beaches that line the Garden Route and Eastern Cape coast .

A relaxed safari holiday in South Africa_Oliver's Restaurant and Lodge

For those who prefer a more overtly resort-like setting, the standout region is Durban and the south KwaZulu-Natal coast .

At the same time, Cape Town and the adjacent peninsula are ideal for those wanting the modern amenities and varied cultural life associated with a world-class city.

People seeking a relaxed holiday might prefer to limit their itinerary to a couple of venues, spending up to a week at each to minimize day-to-day travel and really settle in.

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With its fine year-round climate and varied landscapes, South Africa is custom-made for a holiday for active travelers. Indeed, there are a few parts of the country where a good selection of fun activities can be integrated into a regular holiday.

An active holiday in South Africa_Surfing Ballito

A lovely area for active travelers is the Garden Route , where low-key physical activities range from canoeing along the Touws River and several excellent mountain biking routes to any number of coastal and montane day walks ranging from 5km (3mi) to 20km (12mi) in duration.

None finer, perhaps, is the cliff-top trail through Robberg Nature Reserve.

The Garden Route is also an excellent area for swimming, surfing, sea-kayaking, and other marine activities, perfect for an active holiday.

Cape Town and its environs offer a similar array of activities to the Garden Route . These range from cliff walks in the whale-watching capital of Hermanus or on the stunning Cape of Good Hope to a steep but scenic day hike from the City Bowl to the summit of Table Mountain .

An active holiday in South Africa_Hiking Table Mountain

Another popular walking destination is the uKhahlamba-Drakensberg . Casual ramblers can easily explore the foothills of this stunning range, but the upper slopes are unpredictable in terms of weather. They are recommended only to experienced and adequately equipped hikers.

Generally speaking, game viewing is a relatively inactive pursuit since most reserves understandably forbid unguided walking.

Overnight guided wilderness trails are available in the Kruger National Park and Hluhluwe-Imfolozi, but these must usually be booked well in advance.

Most private reserves will also offer guided walks as an alternative to game drives, but these tend to focus on birds, insects, and other small wildlife rather than seeking out the Big Five .

Unguided nature trails are typically free and up to 10km (6,2mi) in duration. They can be found in many minor reserves that lack dangerous wildlife.

An active holiday in South Africa_Horseback riding Noordhoek

South Africa has a strong culture of recreational running and cycling. Mountain bikes can easily be hired at most destinations with good cycling possibilities, and you can ask local running clubs about park runs, time trials, and other good local routes.

Bring suitable footwear and a few pairs of thick socks if you plan on walking a lot. A walking stick can be useful in hilly areas or on trails with loose rocks underfoot. Binoculars will greatly enhance bird and other wildlife sightings on the trail on your walking safari.

An adventure holiday in South Africa_Fish River Canyon

South Africa is a brilliant destination for adventurous travellers. Hard to beat, in fact.

Depending on your tastes, interests, age and level of fitness, activities on offer range from week-long rafting excursions along the Orange River as it follows the border between the Northern Cape and neighbouring Namibia, to multi-day coastal hikes such as the world-famous Otter or Oystercatcher Trails.

Mountain biking in the remote montane heights of the uKhahlamba-Drakensberg is a highlight, as is an overnight guided wilderness trail looking for wildlife and camping wild in Big Five reserves such as the Kruger National Park or Hluhluwe-Imfolozi.

Whilst the Garden Route is renowned for its paragliding courses.

An adventure holiday in South Africa_Abseil Table Mountain

Other popular one-off adventure activities range from caged shark-diving in Mossel Bay and diving the coral reefs off Sodwana Bay to the world’s highest bungee jump (215m) off the Bloukrans Bridge and abseiling off Cape Town’s Table Mountain.

Longer adventure activities such as hiking trails, rafting trips and wilderness trails should definitely be booked well in advance in order to build your itinerary around the dates.

An adventure holiday in South Africa_hiking

Discovering South Africa’s landscape

Adventure travellers should pack sensible outdoor clothing as well as waterproof clothing (trousers and jackets) and appropriate walking shoes or hiking boots, It would also be advisable to check if any specialist clothing and gear is required to bring from home.

Day activities such as bungee jumps or caged dives can usually be arranged on the spot, or with a day or two’s warning. Probably the best part of South Africa for tackling a wide array of adventure activities on to your itinerary is in Cape Town and the Garden Route .

Beach and bush safari holidays in South Africa_Twelve Apostles

South Africa is an ideal location for a beach trip and bush safari. Time permitting, it’s best to split the ‘bush’ and ‘beach’ components. For a bush safari, try the Kruger National Park and associated private reserves for a great chance of ticking off the Big Five or almost-as-good but malaria-free Madikwe and Pilanesberg Game reserves northwest of Johannesburg.

For beach holidays , it would be hard to beat the Garden Route (best in the southern summer) or KwaZulu-Nata l south coast (good in winter too). For a shorter best-of-both-worlds holiday, there’s no better candidate than the iSimangaliso Wetland Park , with a night or two’s diversion to nearby Hluhluwe-Imfolozi or Phinda .

leopard are elusive big five animals to spot

For many first-time visitors to Africa, a top priority is ticking off the so-called Big Five : lion, leopard, buffalo, elephant, and rhino. South Africa offers many excellent opportunities to do this. It’s the easiest place in Africa to see rhinos since it supports more than 90% of the continental population of these endangered creatures. It’s also the African country best suited to self-drive safaris.

South Africa’s top Big Five destination is the Kruger National Park , extending over 20,000km2 (7,722 square miles) to form one of Africa’s largest and most iconic safari destinations.

cape buffalo one of the big five animals

Kruger is home to around 40,000 buffalo, 13,000 elephants, 1,600 lions, 2,000 leopards, 7,000 white rhinos, and 400 Black rhinos. For those who can afford it, great alternatives to Kruger are the exclusive private reserves that border it and ‘concession lodges’ that occupy enclaves within it.

South Africa boasts many other world-class safari destinations, including the malaria-free Pilanesberg and Madikwe Game Reserves northwest of Johannesburg.

travel eexpert big five safari south africa

The narina trogon in iSimangaliso Wetland Park

South Africa is a superb birding safari destination . The national checklist comprises around 840 species, and includes the world’s largest bird (ostrich) and what is reputedly its bulkiest flying species (kori bustard) along with a dazzling variety of birds of prey, ranging from the largely terrestrial Secretary bird to the charismatic African fish eagle and macabre Lappet-faced vulture.

It also supports a dazzling array of colourful bee-eaters, turacos, parrots, rollers, and waxbills.

Birding safari holidays in South Africa_Kori Bustard

There are several sites in South Africa where a moderately skilled birder could tick 100 species in a day. Foremost among these – and an excellent overall introduction to African birds – is the Kruger National Park , though some would argue that iSimangaliso Wetland Park outranks it. But rewarding birdwatching can be enjoyed anywhere in South Africa, even in the suburbs of Cape Town and Johannesburg .

Of particular interest to visiting birders are the 35 species more-or-less endemic to South Africa (some have a range extending into the small bordering kingdoms of Swaziland and Lesotho) and several other near-endemics with a range that extends a small way into Namibia and/or Botswana. Good sites for these localized species include the Western Cape , the uKhahlamba-Drakensberg , and Pilanesberg/Madikwe .

Birding safari holidays in South Africa_Sunbird

Avian variety is most significant in the southern summer (November-March) when several resident species assume a colorful breeding plumage and dozens of migrant species arrive from Europe or elsewhere in Africa. Several good regional field guides can be bought at any decent bookshop in South Africa.

City and bush safari holidays in South Africa_Cape Town

No other country matches South Africa when it comes to offering a world-class city and bush holiday. Cape Town is the most beautiful city in Africa and arguably the best equipped for urban attractions such as museums, live music, restaurants, and wine-tasting venues. A Cape Town holiday also offers fabulous beaches and the incomparable Table Mountain.

City and bush safari holidays in South Africa_Giraffe

It can be twinned with the Kruger National Park (and/or associated private reserves) for a Big Five safari to match anything else Africa has to offer (though those seeking a malaria-free safari experience might prefer Madikwe and Pilanesberg Game Reserves northwest of Johannesburg).

Foodie holidays in South Africa_Carbon Bistro

South Africa’s larger cities have thriving culinary scenes, and visitors will find the quality very high and prices very affordable by international standards.

A celebrated facet of South Africa’s cuisine is the superb variety of good, affordable wine produced mainly in the Western Cape. Cape Town and the nearby Cape Winelands are rightly renowned as the culinary capitals of South Africa.

They would form the obvious starting point of any foodie holiday in the country.

Foodie holidays in South Africa_Reubens One and Only

Seafood is particularly recommended anywhere along the coast, while excellent venison can be enjoyed in the vicinity of the Kruger National Park .

Oudtshoorn in the Karoo region is famed for its lean, free-range ostrich meat (and eggs). At the same time, Durban excels in Indian restaurants, the latter usually offering an excellent vegetarian selection.

Foodie holidays in South Africa_roti

Don’t forget to try some of the several dishes that are more-or-less unique to South Africa on your South African vacation. ‘Cape Malay’ specialties include sosatie kebabs (a variation on the Indonesian satay) and a fruit-sweetened baked mincemeat dish called bobotie.

Spicy boerewors ‘farmer’s sausage’ is an integral component of any casual braai (barbecue) countrywide, while biltong is an air-dried strip of salted and spiced beef or game meat reminiscent of American jerky.

Foodie holidays in South Africa_La Motte

Although malaria is a major travel concern in much of Africa, it has a minimal presence in South Africa. Indeed, more than 95% of South Africa, and most of its major attractions, are entirely free of malaria .

There are only two exceptions. The eastern Lowveld of Mpumalanga and Limpopo, which includes the Kruger National Park and associated private reserves, is classified as moderate risk.

Malaria free safari holidays in South Africa_Hluhluwe-Imfolozi Game Reserve

Then there is coastal KwaZulu-Natal , north of Richards Bay, which is regarded as low risk and includes iSimangaliso Wetland Park and Hluhluwe-Imfolozi Game Reserve.

Transmission in these areas is more or less confined to the rainy summer months. Most other safari destinations in South Africa are malaria-free, notably Madikwe and Pilanesberg Game Reserves and Addo Elephant National Park .

There is also no malaria in other popular areas such as Cape Town, the Cape Winelands , the Garden Route , Durban, the KwaZulu-Natal south coast, the uKhahlamba-Drakensberg, and Johannesburg.

Walking safari holidays in South Africa

South Africa is an excellent destination for keen walkers. Hundreds if not thousands of day trails have been marked out countrywide, many within easy reach of cities such as Cape Town or Durban.

South Africa also supports a superb network of overnight hiking trails ranging from easy one-night excursions to more arduous five- or seven-night mountain treks.

The Garden Route is particularly well suited to walkers. It supports any number of coastal and montane day walks ranging from 5km (3,1mi) to 20km (12mi) in duration – none finer perhaps than the clifftop trail through Robberg Nature Reserve.

South Africa’s ultimate walking destination is the uKhahlamba-Drakensberg , which offers opportunities for both casual ramblers and experienced and adequately equipped hikers.

Walking safari holidays in South Africa_Drakensberg hike

Guided multi-day wilderness trails operate in the Kruger National Park and Hluhluwe-Imfolozi, but must be booked well in advance. Shorter unguided nature trails, typically up to 10km (6,2mi) in duration, can be found in many minor reserves that lack dangerous wildlife.

If you plan on walking a lot, bring suitable footwear and a few pairs of thick socks. A walking stick can be helpful in more hilly areas or trails with loose rocks underfoot.

Who is Travelling to South Africa with you?

  • A South African Holiday as a Couple
  • Family Safari in South Africa
  • LGBTQIA+ Safari Holidays in South Africa
  • Solo Traveling Through South Africa
  • South Africa Honeymoon

A South African holiday as a couple_Madikwe Safari Lodge

Most parts of South Africa are suited for a couples holiday. However, it’s easier for couples traveling without children to self-drive (which also helps keep costs down) and ensures plenty of privacy and quality time together.

Many couples opt to visit areas like the Garden Route , Kruger Park , and iSimangaliso , which are ideal for self-drive exploration and romantic interludes.

(P.S. If you’re looking for Romantic Holiday Packages , we’ve got some great travel deals for you.)

A family holiday in South Africa

South Africa is one of the world’s best family-friendly safari destinations . It’s mostly malaria-free and offers excellent infrastructure and relatively good road networks. There are also several parks that provide self-drive safaris, making it ideal for families wanting to holiday in the African bush.

Pilanesberg National Park

Amongst the best family-friendly parks is Pilanesberg National Park in the North-West province. Not only does it neighbor the famous Sun City entertainment resort, but it’s malaria-free , an easy two-hours drive from OR Tambo International Airport in Johannesburg, and hosts the Big Five .

Addo Elephant Park

Addo Elephant National Park is not only overflowing with elephants but the rest of the Big Five can also be sighted in the park on safari.

The beauty of the park is that its proximity to the coast allows families to see whales at the right time of the year. Once inside the park, there are several excellent, affordable camps and self-catering options with good roads.

The Kruger National Park is the crown jewel in South Africa’s wildlife crown and is the most accessible – an easy four-hour drive from Johannesburg makes it an excellent option for families. Within the park itself, there is an abundance of affordable accommodation options, which are surrounded by the Big Five .

Madikwe Game Reserve in the North-West is also 100% malaria-free and is regarded as South Africa’s best private game reserve. They cater to families of all sizes and ages, with their “Jungle Drives” for children under the age of four and the “Children’s Safari” for slightly older kids. (P.S. If you’re looking for Family Holiday Specials , we’ve got some great travel deals for you.)

LGBT safari holidays in South Africa

South Africa ranks among the world’s more progressive countries regarding LGBTQIA+ rights. Indeed, the new South African Constitution, drawn up in 1996, was the first in the world to outlaw discrimination based on sexual orientation, and in 2005 South Africa became the fifth country in the world, and first in Africa, to recognize same-sex marriage.

Cape Town is the most amenable city in Africa for LGBTQIA+ visitors, thanks to a lively and friendly gay scene focused on De Waterkant and parts of Green Point.

LGBT safari holidays in South Africa_Pink Loerie Festival

Larger cities such as Johannesburg, Pretoria, and Durban also have thriving LGBT Communities. Of the smaller towns, Knysna is renowned for its annual Pink Loerie Pride Carnival. Elsewhere in South Africa, attitudes tend to be more conservative, but LGBT rights are guaranteed, and you are highly unlikely to encounter open discrimination.

Solo traveling through South Africa Drakensberg Hike

Solo travel through South Africa is a pleasure. Locals are friendly, and you’ll be able to meet many people. Most parts of South Africa are suited to solo travel.

Locals are welcoming and often go out of their way to make single travelers feel at home.

Cape Town , in particular, is suited to those who relish urban attractions, whether it be museums, galleries, theaters, bars, nightclubs, and live music venues.

Private reserves are probably better suited to single travelers than national parks and other public sanctuaries since they tend to offer a more hands-on personalized service.

Solo travelers tend to gravitate towards more urban attractions than couples. Cape Town is a must for solo travelers and a good base for exploring the gorgeous Cape Peninsula and the Cape Winelands.

Many solo travelers prefer not to self-drive, which makes it challenging to explore areas like Kruger Park and Garden Route unless you join an organized tour. Private game reserves such as Sabi Sand and Phinda are particularly well-suited to solo travelers.

An excellent way for single travelers to explore South Africa is by combining the Baz Bus and the many backpacker hostels scattered around its cities and other main sites of interest. 

The Baz Bus is an affordable hop-on, hop-off bus service that connects Johannesburg, Durban, Cape Town, and several other popular places of interest.

Its clientele is dominated by single travelers who are receptive to making new friends and meeting like-minded travel companions on the road. 

Likewise, most backpacker hostels have lively communal areas where it’s easy to meet other travelers.

They usually also offer affordable group tours to local sites of interest, as well as overnight tours further afield, for instance from Gauteng to the Kruger National Park or Cape Town to the Winelands .

At a more luxurious level, most private reserves operate group game drives. Many also encourage guests to dine together, making it easy for solo travelers to mingle on holiday.

In the middle range, solo travelers seeking personalized attention should consider booking into small B&Bs and other owner-managed lodges rather than larger, more institutional hotels.

There are no risks specific to solo travel in South Africa. Still, single women, in particular, should apply the usual common sense precautions such as not walking alone in cities at night and avoiding deserted beaches.

Additionally, you should notify family and friends of your whereabouts during your travels.

South Africa honeymoon_Singita Ebony Lodge

An authentic South Africa honeymoon is lovely for romantic holidays, especially for those who want to mix up the romance with outdoor pursuits such as game viewing and walking.

A romantic getaway in South Africa_Tintswalo Atlantic wedding

If it’s bush luxury you’re after for your South Africa honeymoon, look no further than a lodge in a private reserve (for instance, Sabi Sands, Madikwe or Phinda), many of which have honeymoon suites and can arrange romantic gas lit dinners on a private terrace or deep in the bush.

Another popular venue for a honeymoon safari in South Africa is the Super-Luxurious Sun City complex , which lies just two hours’ drive from Johannesburg and borders the excellent malaria-free Pilanesberg Game Reserve .

Kruger as a honeymoon destination

Ideally, pair up your South Africa honeymoon with a few days at a coastal resort such as Umhlanga Rocks and Ballito in KwaZulu-Natal , Plettenberg Bay, and Knysna on the Garden Route , or even Cape Town itself.

Finally, no self-respecting foodie should miss out on the Cape Winelands on their honeymoon, which hosts some of South Africa’s finest, most gracious, and most romantic restaurants and wine-tasting venues.

Where to go on Safari in South Africa for your honeymoon

Thornybush lodge.

Each lodge has a unique nature that lends itself to the romanticism of celebrating love; whether it’s a private candlelit dinner or simply the magic of being immersed in the bush, Thornybush Lodge ensures you get only the best in special treatment.

Let us take care of the small things while you spend quality time together and enjoy your intimate moments in one of the most romantic safari destinations in Africa.

Another famous African safari lodge for honeymooning in Southern Africa is Lion Sands – an award-winning lodge that was just rebuilt in 2016 with stunning views of the Sabie River in Kruger National Park.

The rooms are enormous and uber-private, with fireplaces, viewing decks, and private pools.

Tintswalo Private Safari Lodge

Sharing an unfenced boundary with the renowned Kruger National Park, Tintswalo Safari Lodge sits on the pristine Manyeleti Private Game Reserve, home to some of the best game viewing and game drive experiences South Africa has to offer.

Royal Malewane

For a six-star safari lodge experience that is delectably deluxe, look no further than Royal Malewane , where you can watch elephants from your very own pool.

Royal Malewane is easily accessible by air and road and is located in the Thornybush Private Game Reserve on the Western Border of The Greater Kruger National Park.

The closest airport is Hoedspruit, and there is a private landing strip at Royal Malewane. This is an ultra-luxurious private safari lodge and an ideal South Africa honeymoon.

What You Need To Know

  • Why Go to South Africa?
  • South Africa Visa Requirements and Fees
  • Packing List for a South Africa Holiday
  • Highlights of South Africa
  • Medical Insurance for South Africa
  • South Africa vs Botswana
  • Wildlife in South Africa
  • South Africa vs Namibia
  • Getting Around in South Africa
  • South African Cultures and Their Nuances
  • Medical Requirements for South Africa
  • Travelling to South Africa
  • South African Food and Tipping
  • Is South Africa Safe?
  • Vaccinations for South Africa
  • Languages in South Africa
  • Changing Money in South Africa
  • Health Care in South Africa
  • Shopping in South Africa
  • Medical Emergencies in South Africa
  • Lodges in South Africa: The Do’s and Don’ts

No other country in Africa, and few anywhere else in the world, offers a diversity of attractions to rival South Africa. South Africa is one of the continent’s finest Big Five destinations.

The Kruger National Park and Hluhluwe-Imfolozi Game Reserve have all the amenities and attractions one would expect from world-class wildlife destinations.

lion kruger national park wildlife safari

While adjoining private reserves such as Sabi Sand and Phinda rank among the world’s most luxurious venues for all-inclusive guided safaris. Importantly, when it comes to families with young children, South Africa is unique in that several of its most alluring Big Five reserves – for instance, Madikwe, Pilanesberg, and Addo Elephant National Park – lie within regions that are 100% free of malaria.

South Africa is remarkable when it comes to the ‘smaller stuff’. Indeed, some ecologists regard it to be the world’s third most important country in terms of overall biodiversity, thanks to its unusually high level of endemism.

The tiny Cape Floral Kingdom, centered in Cape Town, contains approximately 5% of the world’s plant species, two-thirds of which occur nowhere else on the planet.

fynbos flora in cape town

Wildlife aside, South Africa’s 2,500km (1,553mi) coastline is one of the most varied in the world and holds the opportunity for the best beach holidays.

Split between the warm Indian Ocean and cooler Atlantic, it’s studded with idyllic sun-kissed swimming beaches but also embraces everything from the subtropical forested dunes and coral reefs of iSimangaliso Wetland Park to the craggy, windswept cliffs of the Cape and Robberg Peninsulas.

South Africa today displays a unique cultural blend of African, European, and Asian influences.

There’s the bold economic powerhouse of Johannesburg and its more stately coastal counterpart Cape Town, the curry houses of Indian-influenced Durban, and the French vinicultural tradition and Dutch-derived architecture that characterizes the Winelands around Stellenbosch.

cape peninsular south africa safari credit sowetotour.co.za

Elsewhere, traditional Zulu and Ndebele cultural villages pay homage to the country’s indigenous cultural diversity, as does the incomparable wealth of prehistoric rock art found in the uKhahlamba-Drakensberg.

A significant part of modern South Africa’s fascination is the immense progress it has made as a unified nation since the first democratic election in 1994, a progression placed in sobering historical perspective by a visit to Johannesburg’s Apartheid Museum or Cape Town’s District Six Museum.

At the opposite end of the immediacy scale, the three-million-year-long hominid fossil record preserved in the ancient limestone caverns of Gauteng’s Cradle of Humankind has no equal elsewhere in the world.

All in all, South Africa is a country like no other.

  • All visitors must present a passport upon arrival at their port of entry. This must be valid until at least 30 days after the end of their intended stay and must have at least one blank page to accommodate entry and exit stamps.
  • Technically, visitors should also have a return or onward ticket and be able to demonstrate access to sufficient funds to cover day-to-day expenses for the duration of their stay, but these requirements are seldom enforced.
  • Visas for stays of up to 90 days are not required by holders of the following passports: Australia, Andorra, Argentina, Austria, Belgium, Botswana, Brazil, Canada, Chile, Czech Republic, Denmark, Ecuador, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Iceland, Ireland, Israel, Italy, Jamaica, Japan, Liechtenstein, Luxembourg, Malta, Monaco, Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Paraguay, Portugal, San Marino, Singapore, Spain, St Vincent & the Grenadines, Sweden, Switzerland, Tanzania (90 days per year), United Kingdom (including Guernsey and Jersey, Isle of Man and the Virgin Islands, and British Overseas territories), United States of America, Uruguay, Venezuela, and Zimbabwe.
  • Visas for stays of up to 30 days are not required by holders of the following passports: Antigua and Barbuda, Barbados, Belize, Benin, Bolivia, Cape Verde, Costa Rica, Cyprus, Gabon, Guyana, Hong Kong, Hungary, Jordan, Lesotho, Macau, Malaysia, Malawi, Maldives, Mauritius, Mozambique, Namibia, Peru, Poland, Seychelles, Slovak Republic, South Korea, Swaziland, Thailand, Turkey, and Zambia.
  • Holders of other passports must organize a visa in advance and require at least two unused pages for endorsements. A multiple-entry visa is required for those planning an air or road excursion from South Africa to another neighboring country.
  • A strictly enforced new ruling to curtail child trafficking requires that all children under 18 show an unabridged birth certificate upon arrival in or exit from South Africa (or if a visa is necessary when they apply for that). If the child is traveling with one or neither parent, a parental consent affidavit or equivalent document from the absent parent(s) is also required.

Aside from checking relevant vaccinations and seeking advice about anti-malaria drugs, no special preparations are required for a trip to South Africa.

All over-the-counter medications are widely available at pharmacies, but you might want to buy essentials such as sunblock and insect repellent before you travel.

Travelers who wear contact lenses might find that their eyes are more irritable in the dry heat typical of parts of South Africa. Pack glasses as a backup on your South African holiday.

Travelling with Children

If you are traveling with children, please ensure that you have all the required documentation and original birth certificates for each child.

This is part of the child visa regulations implemented by the South Africa Home Affairs department, and more information can be obtained using this [checklist].

If you are traveling to South Africa and a safari is part of your planned itinerary, then there are a couple of things to consider packing. Some of the items below will be helpful;

  • High-SPF sunscreen and a sunhat
  • Comfortable, lightweight clothes of neutral colors
  • Comfortable closed shoes
  • A light fleece or sweater for the evenings
  • Insect repellent
  • Camera equipment
  • Anti-malarial medication if you’re in a malaria area (rare)
  • US dollars in cash – You don’t need much, but a couple of hundred will allow you to at least change if need be and helps for tipping purposes as well.

South Africa attracts more than its fair share of repeat visitors. Some return every year or two to enjoy the familiar pleasures of a favorite beach on a beach holiday or re-explore the vast expanses of the Kruger National Park , where no two days on safari are ever quite the same.

For others, it would be the fact that South Africa offers so many fresh potential experiences to more adventurous travelers.

Hluhluwe Game Reserve south africa safari black rhino and calf

You’ve done Cape Town and the Kruger ? Then try KwaZulu-Natal’s contrasting UNESCO World Heritage Sites: the lush subtropical beaches and rich wildlife of iSimangaliso Wetlands Park and superb hiking and rock art associated with the lofty uKhahlamba-Drakensberg.

You could also always opt for a few days in the lovely Cape Wineland s, followed by a coastal foray along the Garden Route to the Eastern Cape.

Or head northwest to the vast and thinly populated Northern Cape, whose main attractions include the wildlife-rich red dunes of Kgalagadi, spectacular spring wildflower displays of Namaqualand, and magnificent Augrabies Falls.

Coupled with the excellent amenities and highly favorable exchange rate, this diversity makes South Africa an ideal holiday destination for repeat visitors.

namaqualand northern cape south africa safari credit northern cape tourism

Full medical travel insurance, including air evacuation from remote areas, is highly recommended. Be aware that some insurance policies may not cover activities deemed to be hazardous, for instance, paragliding or scuba diving.

When traveling to South Africa, we always recommend you speak to a local travel consultant to ensure you have all the proper documentation and cover.

These policies and procedures may change, and therefore, your local operator cannot be held responsible in cases of a medical emergency. There are a couple of fantastic resources for both, such as Just Landed , that can guide you through the process.

Botswana is a more pure wildlife destination than South Africa. Its main safari reserves, for instance, the Okavango and Chobe , are less accessible than their South African counterparts, far wilder in feel, and tend to cater more to high-cost, low-impact fly-in tourism.

South Africa vs Botswana

Botswana thus offers more of an overt wilderness experience than anything in South Africa. Still, it’s not well suited to budget-conscious travelers or DIY self-drivers like Kruger or Pilanesberg.

South Africa is a more family-friendly and affordable safari destination than Botswana. It has a far greater variety of attractions.

Botswana has nothing to compare to historical South African cities such as Cape Town or Stellenbosch or to the lofty heights of the uKhahlamba-Drakensberg.

It is a landlocked country with no coastline compared to 2,500km (1,553mi) in South Africa. South Africa is also the only country in Africa to boast several malaria-free safari destinations .

Several Big Five reserves protect the more charismatic large mammals associated with the African savannah. Foremost among these is the Kruger National Park and its abutting private reserves.

Still, other key safari destinations include iSimangaliso Wetland Park, Hluhluwe-Imfolozi, Madikwe, Pilanesberg, Addo Elephant National Park, and a variety of smaller and more exclusive private reserves.

These premier reserves all support healthy lion, elephant, and buffalo populations. South Africa stands as the world’s most important stronghold for rhinos (around 90% of the global population of White rhinos and Black rhinos is concentrated there).

At the same time, the private reserves bordering Kruger have few, if any, rivals when it comes to intimate leopard encounters.

Other wildlife associated with these reserves includes African wild dogs, cheetahs, spotted hyenas, giraffes, zebra, warthogs, baboons, and Vervet monkeys.

Wildlife in South Africa_Leopard

The country supports around two dozen species of antelope, ranging from the outsized eland and stately spiral-horned greater kudu to the gregarious Blue wildebeest and impala and arid-country specialists such as gemsbok, springbok, and the diminutive forest-dwelling Red and Blue duikers.

Several large mammal species are endemic to South Africa. The Black wildebeest and Blesbok are associated mainly with grassy habitats in the Highveld.

At the same time, the Cape mountain zebra and bontebok are fynbos-dwellers more-or-less confined to the Western Cape.

Marine wildlife is a strong feature of South Africa. The clifftop town of Hermanus offers the world’s finest land-based whale-watching, while other aquatic wildlife attractions range from caged shark dives at Mossel Bay and turtle-nesting excursions in iSimangaliso to the penguin colony at Cape Town’s Boulders Beach and dolphins that frequently visit many of the country’s bays.

Wildlife in South Africa_wild dog

South Africa is a key bird-watching destination . The national checklist comprises around 840 species and includes the world’s largest bird (ostrich) and what is reputedly its bulkiest flying species (kori bustard), along with a dazzling variety of bee-eaters, turacos, parrots, rollers, and waxbills.

Wildlife in South Africa_Zebra Karoo National Park

The national checklist comprises around 840 species and includes the world’s largest bird (ostrich) and what is reputedly its bulkiest flying species (kori bustard), along with a dazzling variety of bee-eaters, turacos, parrots, rollers, and waxbills. d several more are near-endemics with a range that extends a small way into Namibia and/or Botswana.

whale watching in South Africa

Avian variety is most significant in the southern summer (November-March) when several resident species assume a colorful breeding plumage and dozens of migrant species arrive from Europe or elsewhere in Africa.

There are several sites in South Africa, most notably perhaps Kruger, where a moderately skilled birder could tick 100 species in a day.

Wildlife in South Africa_Birds_Knysna Turaco

South Africa and Namibia stand out as two of the few countries in Africa truly suited to self-drive travel.

Both also have excellent safari opportunities, self-drive or otherwise, in the form of Etosha National Park in Namibia, and Kruger National Park (among others) in South Africa.

In most other respects the two countries are very different. Namibia is of greatest interest for its dramatic desert landscapes, most famously the stunning red dunes of Sossuvlei , and for the overwhelming sense of space one might expect of the most thinly populated country in sub-Saharan Africa.

South Africa is a more family-friendly and varied destination than Namibia, and generally more affordable too. There is nothing in Namibia to compare to historic South African cities such as Cape Town or Stellenbosch (though the remote German-influenced port of Luderitz tries its best).

And while Namibia does boasts a long and scenic Atlantic coastline, it is for the most part too barren and windswept to qualify as a conventional beach holiday destination comparable to South Africa’s Garden Route or KwaZulu-Natal .

A good network of domestic flights connects Johannesburg and Cape Town to other major cities such as Mbombela (for the Kruger Park ), Durban, East London, Port Elizabeth, and George (for the Garden Route ).

Trunk roads are all surfaced and well maintained, so self-drive is a straightforward option, provided you have a valid license. The usual international car rental companies are represented in all major cities and airports.

Driving is on the left side of the road, as in the UK, which may require some adjustment for drivers from mainland Europe, the USA, and elsewhere who are accustomed to driving on the right.

Getting around South Africa_Baz Bus

A popular option with backpackers, the Baz Bus is a hop-on hop-off service that runs through the interior between Johannesburg and Durban via Ukhahlamba-Drakensberg, then along the coastal N2 between Durban and Cape Town via East London, Port Elizabeth, and the Garden Route.

Inexpensive Greyhound-style coaches also cover most trunk routes.

South African cultures and their nuances_San Bushmen

  • South Africa has four main ethnic groups that comprise the entire population.
  • 11 official languages are spoken, with English being the most widely used.
  • South Africa is affectionately known as the Rainbow Nation because of its diversity in its people, climates, geography, and wide array of experiences.
  • It covers 1,21 million square kilometers, making it roughly twice the size of France.
  • South Africans are very warm and accommodating.
  • The culture isn’t homogenous; instead, it’s a collection of different cultures, with different ones being predominant in different regions.
  • The population comprises a wide range of backgrounds, including people of mixed African, Asian, and European descent.

South African cultures and their nuances_Zulu people

  • Eating with a knife and fork is the norm, except at some traditional
  • South African society is pretty liberal, as everyone’s rights are protected under the constitution.
  • South Africans express affection very openly, so shaking hands and slaps on the back are commonplace.

Malaria is absent from most parts of South Africa, and it’s nowhere as prevalent as in much of equatorial Africa.

Exceptions are the eastern Lowveld of Mpumalanga and Limpopo, which is classified as a moderate-risk malarial area, and coastal KwaZulu-Natal north of Richard’s Bay, which is regarded to be low-risk.

Transmission is more or less confined to the rainy summer months. For this reason, travelers who intend to visit the Kruger National Park and/or adjacent private reserves from September to May are advised to take antimalarial drugs, and visitors to iSimangaliso Wetland Park and Hluhluwe-Imfolozi might also consider it.

Several such drugs are available, and it’s best to seek advice from a doctor or travel clinic a few weeks before your trip.

It’s also advisable to take all reasonable precautions against being bitten by the nocturnal Anopheles mosquitoes that transmit the disease.

Wear a long-sleeved shirt, trousers, and socks in the evening, apply a DEET-based insect repellent to any exposed flesh, and sleep under a net, in an air-conditioned room, under a fan, or with a mosquito coil burning.

Travelers with young children or who prefer not to take medication could consider visiting one of several malaria-free safari destinations, for instance, Madikwe, Pilanesberg, or Addo, in preference to the Kruger National Park.

  • Almost all visitors from abroad fly to South Africa. The main hub for international flights is OR Tambo International Airport on the outskirts of Johannesburg, but some carriers also operate international flights to Cape Town and/or Durban.
  • The national carrier, SAA, operates an extensive flight network between Johannesburg and many major cities in North and South America, Europe, Asia, Australia, and elsewhere in Africa.

Travelling to South Africa_Cape Town International Airport

  • It’s also possible to enter South Africa overland from the neighboring countries of Mozambique, Zimbabwe, Botswana, and Namibia. Still, you’d only be likely to do so as part of an extended overland trip through Africa.
  • There are overland borders with the Kingdoms of Lesotho and Swaziland, the former surrounded entirely and the latter on three sides by South Africa. It’s doubtful anybody would enter South Africa directly via either of these small countries. Still, some itineraries pass through them (Swaziland in particular), in which case any visitor who requires a visa should apply for multiple entry.

Restaurants operate on a similar basis to those in Europe or North America. A 10-15% tip to the waiter is standard, depending on the quality of service.

At hotels, it’s usually easier to sign drinks and meals to the room than to pay cash, but you could still leave a tip for an individual waiter or bartender or add one to the bill before you sign it.

Hotel porters usually expect a tip of around R10 per item of luggage.

On organized tours, most tips are handled by the guide, but it’s customary to tip the guide and/or driver at the end, usually as a group rather than individually.

Upmarket lodges and camps that operate on a full-board basis generally have a tip box at reception. Tips will usually be distributed between all the staff, a system that seems fairest to backroom workers in a country where hotel staff is very poorly paid.

Any guides, drivers, and trackers should be tipped in game lodges that offer guided game drives. Many such lodges have guidelines in the rooms; failing that, ask management for a directive.

South Africa has strict foreign exchange regulations, so it’s best tip in Rands rather than hard currency.

Is South Africa safe?

Crime rates are high but, as a rule, not directed specifically at tourists. The main crime hotspot areas are probably the CBDs of the three largest cities (Johannesburg, Cape Town, and Durban), but an element of risk exists everywhere.

That said, the overwhelming majority of visitors have hassle-free holidays, and so should you if you follow the commonsense do’s and don’ts below:

  • Before you leave home, make sure you have a scan or other electronic version of all important travel documents in case they are lost or stolen. Carry copies of these scans on all suitable devices and email them to yourself.
  • Make sure your luggage can easily be padlocked; this won’t prevent a determined thief from slashing it open, but it is a solid deterrent to casual light fingers.
  • Never leave cash, mobile phones, electronic devices, and other valuables lying around in your hotel room, and where possible, store your passport and other essential documents, as well as spare cash and cards, in a hotel safe.
  • Avoid displaying expensive jewelry, cameras, laptops, or large amounts of cash in urban areas.
  • Avoid walking around towns after dark. If you do, there is safety in numbers, and it’s always advisable to stick to busy and well-lit streets.
  • Be very alert around ATMs, especially in quiet areas and after dark.
  • Self-drivers should keep their car doors locked, and windows closed in urban areas. When leaving the car parked in transit, lock all valuables in the boot.

The one vaccination certificate you may be required to show at immigration is yellow fever, and then only if you arrive from or via the yellow fever belt of Africa or South America.

Other recommended vaccinations are tetanus and polio. You could also consider immunization against hepatitis A and B, diphtheria, rabies, typhoid, cholera, and tuberculosis.

That said, please ensure that you always check with your local travel clinic or doctor before traveling, as there are different guidelines depending on the country you are traveling from.

Languages in South Africa

The most numerically significant language is isiZulu, the mother tongue of roughly 22.5% of South Africans, followed by IsiXhosa (16%) and Dutch-based Afrikaans (13.5%).

English, the first language of 9.5% of South Africans, is the lingua franca of the tourist industry and will be spoken to a high to middling standard by practically all waiters, bartenders, shop assistants, and staff of hotels and other tourist-oriented institutions.

The other official languages are SeSotho, Sepedi (also known as North SeSotho), IsiNdebele, Tshivenda, Setswana, Xitsonga, and siSwati.

south africa currency

The South African Rand (ZAR) trades at very favorable rates to most international currencies. There’s no need to bring large amounts of hard currency cash or to buy Rands in advance.

Major international credit/debit cards (for instance, Visa, MasterCard, and, to a lesser extent, American Express) can be used to draw local currency at 24-hour ATMs throughout the country (the one exception being in most national parks and game reserves) and to pay directly for almost all services and goods.

That said, it’s a good idea to carry a bit of hard currency cash as a fallback, say the equivalent of around US$200-400; this can be exchanged into Rands at any bank or Bureau de Change.

Although South Africa has a public healthcare system, it is underfunded and understaffed, and facilities tend to be overcrowded, with some 20% of the country’s doctors employed to serve around 80% of the population.

By contrast, private medical facilities compare favorably with anywhere in the world and also tend to be affordable.

Shopping in South Africa_Waterfront

Johannesburg, Cape Town, Durban, and other large cities are liberally dotted with shopping malls that typically contain several supermarkets and a plethora of other retail outlets selling the sort of goods you’d expect in similar establishments in North America and Europe.

Shopping in South Africa_Market on Main

Home-grown foodstuffs, wine, beer, and other local produce tend to be very inexpensive by international standards, but imported goods can be pricey.

Smaller towns tend to have at least one mall offering a similar range of goods but less choice than their big city counterparts. Shopping opportunities are somewhat more limited in game reserves.

If no other assistance is at hand, call a medical emergency service. The government-run emergency number for ambulances in South Africa is 10177. Private 24-hour national emergency and ambulance services include ER24 (084 124), which is linked to a private network of 50-plus MediClinic hospitals, and Netcare 911 (082 911). The police flying squad can be reached at 10111.

  • Cover up when on safari; closed shoes are a must (or at least open shoes that fasten tightly). Consider neutral-colored clothing when in the bush. Keep it down to preserve noise pollution and respect fellow safari-goers.
  • Notice the small things. While sighting the Big Five in South Africa is a must, noticing the smaller details will make your experience that much more enriching.

Lodges in South Africa: The dos and don'ts_Casual Clothing

  • Don’t get too close to the wildlife – the power of nature is unpredictable and formidable and should be respected at all times.
  • Take a pair of binoculars if you want a good close-up of wildlife while still maintaining your distance.

Lodges in South Africa: The dos and don'ts_Buffalo

  • Protect yourself in terms of insects and viruses. Always check what vaccinations you need.
  • Understand how game drives work. Private lodges offer game drives for guests (anywhere from 4-10 people). There is generally a chance for a coffee break in the morning and sundowners in the evening.

Lodges in South Africa: The dos and don'ts_Gondwana Game Reserve

  • Rangers are usually in radio contact with other vehicles and allow the other the courtesy of enjoying a sighting before making it known to the rest of the vehicles.
  • Pack the right kit for a safari.
  • Keep children entertained with an animal checklist when on game drives.

Lodges in South Africa: The dos and don'ts_Children

  • Sit in the middle of the vehicle. This gives you the best of both vantage points.
  • If you’re a keen birdwatcher or photographer, you may want to consider a private vehicle – just be sure to comply with the game lodge rules, i.e. never get out of your vehicle.
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2nd floor, Tygervalley Chambers One, 27 Willie van Schoor Avenue, Bellville, Cape Town , 7530

Hluhluwe Game Reserve

Hluhluwe Game Reserve - Hluhluwe Imfolozi Park

Experience one of the finest game reserves, south africa has to offer....

 Hluhluwe Imfolozi Game Reserve, Is a Big 5 Game Park in the KwaZulu Natal Regine Of South Africa. The oldest proclaimed reserve in Africa. Still Wild, With 96000 Hectares of Wilderness Awaiting you. 4x4s Dusty Roads Rolling Hills Of Sunsets, Magnificent Big 5 Sightings & Photographs Everywhere. Time To Safari, In The Bush Felt Of  Zululand...

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Hluhluwe-Imfolozi Park Overview

Where is the Hluhluwe Game Reserve located? The Hluhluwe Imfolozi Game Reserve is located in the province of KwaZulu Natal. The nearest town is known as Hluhluwe 13 Km from the Hluhluwe Imfolozi Game Reserve. The nearest city is Durban approximately 236 km. Accessing the game reserve from Durban take the N2 (national toll road) and travel in a Northerly direction. For all of the gate, access points click here .

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Accommodation & Safari Specials

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Hluhluwe Hilltop Camp


Hluhluwe game reserve accommodation, Hilltop Camp Pool

The Best Trip Ever!!! John & David 5 Out Of 5 Stars

Reviewed 2019 Thank you very much for a great time,

We spent with Heritage Tours & Safari.

Special thank you to Vusi and our safari guides,

John and David. All three days were amazing!

Excellent Trip Ngcebo 5 out of 5 star

Reviewed 1 week ago

Well done on the service of the staff at Heritage Tours from the office staff to guides.

Went on a half day safari with Ngcebo as a tour guide who was very informative and knowledgeable about the game.

Was a pleasure to have him as a tour guide.

Visited February 2019

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Hluhluwe Combo Safari

Bush & Boat Big 6 Safari Whats App Us: +27 64 037 6415 Email Inquiries Hluhluwe Combo Safari What has to be one of our most popular Day Safari Combos that includes both the Hluhluwe-Imfolozi Park and the iSimangaliso Wetland Park. Set out early morning into the world-acclaimed Hluhluwe-Imfolozi Park on a Half-Day Big 5…

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Why Visit Hluhluwe Game Reserve

Why Visit Hluhluwe Game Reserve For Starters its the oldest proclaimed game reserve in Africa and also home to the African Big 5 What is without a doubt the very best Game Reserve in KwaZulu Natal, the Hluhluwe-Imfolozi Park never disappoints. 96000 Hectares of Bush, Wildlife, Hides, and Magnificent Views awaits you. This game reserve…

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Big 5 Safari Package

Big 5 Safari Packages Like to Visit and Enjoy sightings of the Big 5 on Safari, why not browse some of our magnificent Big 5 Safari Packages. South Africa, KwaZulu Natal is home to some of the most amazing bush and savannahs on the continent. With easy access, incredible people, and of course marvelous Packages…

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Big 5 Safari Holiday Discover & Witness Africa’s Big 5 on a Safari Holiday, Visit the oldest Proclaimed game reserve in Africa, the Hluhluwe-Imfolozi Park and South Africa’s first World Heritage site, iSimangaliso Wetland Park. When one imagines the Mighty Big 5, one can but only think of African Sunsets, Wildlife, and Magnificent Savannahs as…

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Did you know that the Hluhluwe-Imfolozi Park is the oldest proclaimed nature reserve in Africa. Set in the heart of Zululand (KwaZulu Natal) a mere 2.5 hours north of Durban. This Big 5 Park offers some magnificent scenery of wildlife.

The Hluhluwe-Imfolozi Park is truly an amazing park to visit while in KwaZulu Natal. Various entry gates makes for easy access and also eliminates congestion. One may enter the park via 3 gates namely the Nylazi Gate, Memorial gate and Cengeni Gate.

hluhluwe-imfolozi park day drives

Hluhluwe-Imfolozi Park is 96000 hectares (960 square kilometers) in size. Small in comparison to the Kruger National Park which is 1948500 hectares (19485 square kilometers).

This however makes the Hluhluwe-Imfolozi Park more accessible and manageable while out on a full or half day safari. The park offers visitors numerous Hides, Loop roads, picnic areas, shops and restaurant. Make sure should you be doing a self drive that you purchase a map at one of the entrances as the park is large and may become a bit confusing should you not have a map. It is advisable to enter the park as early as possible and always keep to the speed limit (40km/h) at all times please. Do not leave ones vehicle unless in a designated area.

day safari options to hluhluwe-imfolozi park

Hluhluwe-Imfolozi Park is a Big 5 Park, one may encounter Lion, Leopard, Buffalo, Rhino (black and white) and Elephants. Some other wildlife species that one may also encounter while in the Hluhluwe-Imfolozi Park include:

And many more species

big 5

Set in the heart of Zululand, KwaZulu Natal South Africa. The Hluhluwe-Imfolozi Game Reserve is located 2,5 Hours (236 km) North of Durban, KwaZulu Natal's capital.

From South Africa's capital city, Johannesburg to the Hluhluwe-Imfolozi Game Reserve it is 550km. Other interesting areas include South Africa's very first world heritage site the iSimangaliso Wetland Park which is approximately 54km from Imfolozi Park to St Lucia.

Co-Ordinates for Hluhluwe-Imfolozi Park is, 28.2198° S, 31.9519° E

Hluhluwe-Imfolozi Park Gate Co-Ordinates:

  • Nylazi Gate:     28.250506 S, 31.990149 E
  • Cengeni Gate: 28.190968  S, 31.886181 E
  • Memorial Gate: 28.068431 S, 32.141565 E

Nyalazi gate imfolozi park

A Safari into Hluhluwe-Imfolozi Park costs are dependable on the type of Safari that one may opt for these include:

  • Half Day Safari
  • Full Day Safari

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Their are numerous hides scattered between the Hluhluwe and the Imfolozi Park. What is a hide? A hide is exactly what it says a hide (hideaway) so that the animals can not see you.

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The Hluhluwe-Imfolozi Park is situated in the KwaZulu Natal Province. Warm tropical weather year-round. Situated on the North-Eastern side of South Africa.

The park is a national public park and one of the largest in Natal. The governing body is Ezemvelo KZN Wildlife

Home to the African Big 5, the park also boasts numerous other species such as Cheetah, Wild Dogs, and many others. This includes 1200 plant species, 84 mammals, and 350-400 bird species

Where is the Hluhluwe-Imfolozi Park?

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2 Day South African Wildlife Safari

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This tour offers the following benefits to cruise passengers: Cruise Friendly Refund Policy Shore Excursions with this benefit will offer a full refund if any of the following occur: - Your cruise ship arrives late, and you miss your Shore Excursion as a result. - Your cruise ship changes its date of arrival and it is not possible to reschedule. - Your cruise ship skips port. - Your cruise is canceled by the cruise line. - You cancel prior to the Cancellation Deadline on your confirmation voucher. In the event of a refund claim for one of these reasons, Project Expedition will verify the cruise ship’s actual itinerary before processing a refund. To be eligible for a refund, you must submit your claim in writing no later than 14 days after the scheduled date of the Shore Excursion.

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Game Reserves Near Cape Town

Top Five Game Reserves for Safaris Near Cape Town

south africa overnight safari

Cape Town is known around the world for its stunning scenery, world-class restaurants, and fascinating cultural landmarks (including Robben Island and Bo-Kaap ). However, what many visitors don't know is that the city is also a convenient base for exploring some of the finest game reserves in the Western Cape. If you don't have time to head north to major South African reserves like Kruger or Mkhuze , don't worry; you can also look for safari animals in Cape Town's backyard. All of the reserves listed in this article are within a few hours' drive of the Mother City. They're also malaria -free.

Note: Driving times given below are based on departure from central Cape Town near the V&A Waterfront and may be considerably shorter or longer if you're staying in the suburbs. For the quickest travel times, make sure to plan your journey around off-peak traffic hours.

Buffelsfontein Game Reserve

Although safari purists may balk at the idea of a reserve that keeps its carnivores in separate enclosures, Buffelsfontein Game Reserve is nevertheless the most convenient option for those with limited time to spare. As a 1,600-hectare converted cattle ranch, the park is just over an hour's drive from central Cape Town and is home to four of the Big Five (lion, leopard, buffalo, and white rhino). Guests will also have the opportunity to spot cheetah , giraffe, zebra, and several iconic antelope species on a half or full guided game drive.

The half drive lasts for 1.5 hours, while the full drive takes around three hours and departs at 9 a.m. or 2 p.m. If you book an afternoon full drive on any day except Sunday, you'll also get to see the park's carnivores being fed. For a totally different safari experience, consider booking a mountain bike safari instead. If you do have time to extend your stay, there are a variety of accommodation options, from bush camps and self-catering chalets for budget travelers to more luxurious four-sleeper cottages. There's a restaurant, swimming pool, and bar on-site.

Aquila Private Game Reserve

​Located a two-hour drive northeast of Cape Town, Aquila Private Game Reserve  is a 4-star park offering half-day, full-day, and overnight safari options. The 10,000-hectare conservancy is home to the Big Five including rhino, elephant, lion, leopard, and buffalo. All five of these species have been reintroduced to the Western Cape after being driven to the brink of extinction by the big game hunters of the past. The park is also home to the Aquila Animal Rescue and Conservation Centre , which provides a sanctuary for rescued safari animals that are no longer able to survive in the wild.

If the idea of a traditional safari vehicle is a little too tame, consider booking a horse-ride or quad bike safari instead. Although the park is close enough for a day trip from Cape Town, overnight accommodations include a luxury lodge and several exquisite chalets. The chalets offer indoor fireplaces and outdoor showers, allowing you to fully appreciate the magic of life in the bush. Other useful amenities include a bar, a restaurant, an infinity pool, and a spa. Aquila also offers transfers from Cape Town hotels via mini-bus, private vehicle, airplane, or helicopter.

Inverdoorn Game Reserve

Half an hour beyond Aquila Private Game Reserve lies  Inverdoorn Game Reserve , another 10,000-hectare protected area in the Klein Karoo. Inverdoorn achieved Big Five status in 2012 with the introduction of a herd of elephants. It is also home to non-profit organization Western Cape Cheetah Conservation and visitors are given the opportunity to see these magnificent predators up close. Since 2018, the reserve has implemented a strict no-touch policy in accordance with the latest ethical conservation practices.

The park also offers a choice of 4- and 5-star accommodation options. There's a tented camp and a series of well-appointed chalets, while the multiple-room guest houses are perfect for families or friends traveling together. For the last word in luxury, opt for a night in the exquisite Ambassador Suite. Overnight guests are invited to join a walking safari at sunrise, when the animals of the reserve are at their most active. The route to Inverdoorn takes you through the Cape Winelands ; consider stopping for a tasting along the way.

Sanbona Wildlife Reserve 

From Cape Town, you can drive to Sanbona Wildlife Reserve in approximately three hours. Nestled at the foot of the Warmwaterberg Mountains, the reserve is a Klein Karoo paradise known for its indigenous wildlife and ancient rock art . Measuring some 54,000 hectares, it is also made special by its vast, sprawling landscapes. You'll find the Big Five here, as well as cheetah and smaller native mammals including the rare riverine rabbit. The wide range of activities on offer include birdwatching, nature walks, rock art tours, and stargazing. Boat safaris on Bellair Dam offer a different game-viewing perspective. 

Since game drives take place at sunrise and sunset, most visitors to Sanbona Wildlife Reserve opt to stay overnight. There are three luxury lodges to choose from, including a tented camp with spa baths, private decks, and a fine-dining restaurant. If you want to experience Africa at its most authentic, consider a walking safari with a stay at the back-to-basics Explorer Camp. A kids' program , childminding services, and a dedicated family lodge make this the ideal choice for those traveling with children. 

Grootbos Private Nature Reserve

When you've ticked the Big Five off your bucket-list, consider taking a two-hour drive southeast of Cape Town to coastal  Grootbos Private Nature Reserve . Located at the meeting point of the Atlantic and Indian Oceans, the reserve is the ultimate destination for spotting the Marine Big Five: namely, great white sharks, southern right whales, bottlenose dolphins, African penguins, and Cape fur seals. The lodge offers coastal safaris in association with Dyer Island Cruises . Cage diving with great white sharks , whale-watching tours, horse-riding, nature walks, and botanical safaris are also offered. 

The reserve, which measures 2,500 hectares, is home to almost 800 different plant species; 100 of which are endangered and six of which were discovered for the first time on site. Its protected milkwood forests are over 1,000 years old. In order to have enough time to explore its wonders, you can stay overnight either at the Garden Lodge, the Forest Lodge, or in a private luxury villa. Each eco-friendly option is designed to complement the reserve's incredible natural beauty. Amenities range from tranquil swimming pools to organic 5-star dining. 

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Hluhluwe-Imfolozi Park, South Africa: The Complete Guide

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  • Best Safari In South Africa: Adrenaline Pumping Experiences In The World’s Wildest Corner

23 Mar 2023

From intoxicating game drives, fierce wild beasts roaming free and untamed, to the most unique landforms to soothe the eyes, nothing beats the thrill of an African safari. Set out on a safari in South Africa that takes you on an unparalleled journey through the most mysterious and lethal jungles of the world. Whether you chase the Big Five in speedy jeeps, track wild animals through thick jungles on foot, ride majestic elephants, or tame the skies with a hot air balloon ride over herds of fearless fauna, you’ll encounter such joy of watching the wild in their natural habitat as never before! Scroll down and see where all you can go to enjoy the best safari in South Africa .

Wildlife Safaris In South Africa of The Big 5

Experience the thrill of tracking Africa’s  Big Five – the buffalo , elephant , rhino , lion , and leopard . Most national parks in South Africa offer opportunities for game drives wherein they allow one to get the closest possible encounter with Africa’s Big Five.

15. Addo Elephant National Park

elephants at Addo Elephant National Park in Africa

Home to Sylvester , Addo’s celebrity lion, and an enormous herd of mighty elephants that can be easily spotted congregating near the Hapoor Dam of the park. Your safari will also take you on a game hunt in search of their elusive leopard. Other than these, rhinos and buffaloes can easily be seen in the open. The park has strict measures for monitoring behaviour patterns of the Big 5 so that it can ensure you’re able to spot all on your tour, which is why it is the among best safari in South Africa. The park also offers Marine Eco Tour for spotting whales and sharks. So you get to see all the giants of the Earth in one tour.

Location: R335 Paterson Road, Addo, 6105, South Africa South African safari cost: INR 1,200/- per person TripAdvisor Reviews

Must Read: South Africa In December: Explore The Best Of This Safari Paradise In Winter 2022!

14. Kruger National Park

go on an adventurous kruger national park safari

Spot the Big 5 in their natural habitat at one of the renowned Kruger National Park safari in Africa. Revel in the chance to encounter an abundance of wildlife, which means you are more likely to spot lions, leopards, elephants, rhinos and buffaloes, than in other parks around the world. So keep your fingers crossed to get lucky and spot some of them on your safari. Indulge in the immersive Wilderness Trails to get up close and personal with the park’s amazing beasts. Kruger National Park offers everything from Early Morning Guided Trails, Night Safaris, camping facilities. Night Safari is a hot favorite of all wilderness lovers who visit Kruger. In a night safari, experienced guides drive you deep into the South Africa jungles to let you sneak up on its most nocturnal animals. Get the best of South African safaris in Kruger National Park.

Location: Malalan Gate, Nelspruit 1350, South Africa South Africa Safari Cost: INR 1,500/- per person TripAdvisor Reviews

Suggested Read: Honeymoon In Africa: Top 11 Romantic Getaways For The Best And Unique Experiences!

13. Marakele National Park

spot ostriches at Marakele National Park

Marakele is a delightful sanctuary housing an impressive variety of wildlife. Nestled in the heart of Waterberg Mountains, the park is a must visit for all who wish to spot the Big 5 of Africa. In fact, this park is an ideal getaway from those visiting the charming cities of Johannesburg and Pretoria located close by. While here, you’ll be able to spot the Tuli elephants brought into the park in 1999, other than indulging in exciting game drives in open safari vehicles across the park, or engaging in bush walks with professionally trained field guides. Strictly follow the instructions of the filed guide.

Location: Nylstroom, Limpopo, South Africa Admission Cost: INR 850/- per person TripAdvisor Reviews

Suggested Read: 10 Things To Do In Johannesburg That Bring Out Its Vibrant Charm

Camping Safaris: Night Safaris & Jungle Stay

Go one step further than witnessing the wild creatures of Africa – stay amidst the beasts in their natural habitat. Many parks in South Africa provide incredible night safari and overnight camping experiences to its visitors so that they can plunge into the ultimate thrill of being one with nature.

12. Camdeboo National Park

visit http://d27k8xmh3cuzik.cloudfront.net/wp-content/uploads/2017/08/Camdeboo-National-Park, one of the best safari in south africa

Other than a diverse wildlife, the Camdeboo Park offers unique landscapes, ecosystem, and tremendous scenic beauty. With surreal rock formations jutting out of the ground, the Karoo of South Africa features some of the greatest natural wonders formed millions of years ago. When here, tourists can indulge in night safaris and camping with a bonfire for an invigorating experience. The joy of camping in the fierce South Africa jungles is unmatched and a must for all adventure lovers. The best accommodation here is the Lakeview Tented Camp, which are four rustic and fully furnished tents designed to provide a relaxed nature experience to visitors. The double sharing tents have a braai unit, fridge, table, chairs, a communal kitchen with microwave, apart from comfortable bedding and towels. They have some of the best safari lodges in South Africa.

Location: N9, Graaff-Reinet, 6280, South Africa South African Safari Cost: INR 480/- per person Accommodation Cost at Lakeview: INR 1,600/- per person on double sharing TripAdvisor Reviews

Suggested Read: Safari Honeymoon In South Africa Is About Kindling Love In The Wilderness! Are You Game?

11. Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park

Kgalagadi-Transfrontier-Park_19th oct

Want to spot some enormous black-mane lions, swift leopards, and sneaky raptors? Then Kgalagadi is one of the best South African safari parks to be at! Sprawling with red dunes, and rare animal species like gemsbok, springbok, eland and blue wildebeest lurking around in herds, the park is a fascinating haven for wildlife and nature lovers. Other than spotting wild beasts and witnessing the marvels of nature, one can also indulge in overnight safari tour and camping while here. The Kalahari Tented Camp at Kgalagadi is perfect for night camping and for immersing in the best of what nature has to offer here at Africa. Situated high up on a red sand dune, the tents overlook a waterhole in the dry bed of the ancient Auob River. This exclusive campsite boasts 15 desert tents tastefully decorated tents with rustic finishing, offering guests complete seclusion and the best of luxury safari in South Africa.

Suggested Read: 19 Best Places To Visit In Morocco In 2022

Location: Mata Mata, Upington, South Africa South Africa Safari Cost: INR 1,400/- per person Accommodation Cost at Kalahari: 4,000/- per person on double sharing TripAdvisor Reviews

Elephant Safaris: Get close to the majestic beings

Are you too in awe of these solemn species? Then South Africa is the perfect place for you to be for a close encounter with these gentle giants.

10. Adventures With Elephants, Limpopo

people riding elphants at Adventures With Elephants

A one-of-its non-profit initiative by some dedicated individuals of the Hensman family, AWE provides more than the usual ‘Touch and Feed’ elephant experience. It offers unrivalled intimate hands-on educational elephant interactions, Elephant Back Safaris, swims with elephants, and starlight safaris, the prime reason it’s renowned as one of the best safari in South Africa. Their passionate and experienced elephant handlers will let you bank on some wonderful encounters with these magnificent beings, apart from imparting in-depth knowledge about them. Lying adjacent to the Zebula Country Club, the 300-hectare facility is an hour’s drive from Pretoria and is located 35 km away from Bela Bela.

Location: R101, adjacent to Zebula Country Club, Bela Bela, Waterberg, Limpopo Timings: 7 AM to 5 PM on all days of the week Website | TripAdvisor Reviews

Suggested Read: 10 Enchanting Honeymoon Destinations In South Africa

9. Inkwenkwezi Private Game Reserve

greet elephants at Inkwenkwezi Private Game Reserve

At Inkwenkwezi, you can not only spot a number of wild animals like antelopes, giraffes, zebras, and other predators, but also get a chance to interact with elephants, one of the world’s most amazing animals. Elephant safaris here are more of hands-on learning experiences which includes lots of one-on-one interactions with these graceful beings, something that’s utterly enjoyable for both kids and elders alike. Cuddle and play with baby elephants, and ride the bigger ones while spending time at this sanctuary. Inkwenkwezi Private Game Reserve lets you to get closer to these adorable giants and know them better.

Location: Inkwenkwezi Private Game Reserve, Schafli Road, Cintsa, Wild Coast, Eastern Cape Safari Cost: INR 3,600/- per person TripAdvisor Reviews

Walking Safaris: Take a stroll in the Africa jungles

Explore the wondrous terrains and the fabulous diversity of wildlife in South Africa on foot! Take relaxing walks in its many national parks with professionals by your side. Walking safaris are the best way to soak in the natural goodness of Africa and spot predator tracks, insects, birds, and animals.

8. Sabi Sands Reserve

spot leopards at Sabi Sands Reserve

Located north-west of the Kruger National park, this enormous 65,000-hectare game reserve is home to some of Africa’s best flora and fauna, which is why it is among the most excellent places to visit in South Africa for a wildlife safari. Many lodges here daily offer travelers optional walking safaris along with bush dinners and bush breakfasts, provided the weather is suitable for the same. Leopards are the main attraction here and are so accustomed to safari jeeps and cars that they pay no heed if these vehicles follow them around. And thus, you stand a better chance to not just spot a few of them, but also to closely watch their actions.

Location: Mpumalanga, South Africa Safari Cost: INR 1,200/- per person TripAdvisor Reviews

Suggested Read: 10 Unique Places To Visit In Namibia In 2022: Home Of Hilly Dunes & Ferocious Cheetahs

7. Sanbona Wildlife Reserve

spot african deer at Sanbona Wildlife Reserve

Discover the essence of Sanbona on a delightful walking safari with the guidance of your experienced rangers by your side Apart from afternoon and evening walks (depending on which animal is where), the park also conducts early morning walking trails where tourists can greet animals grazing peacefully or playing with their offsprings. Another reason why Sanbona is listed among the best safari in South Africa is because it’s the first private game reserve in the Western Cape to play host to free-roaming big cats like lions and cheetahs. Sanbona has initiated a unique conservation programme to save and reintroduce White Lions in the park, a rare species that was thought to have been wiped out from jungle of South Africa. The reserve is also suited for nature lovers with its undulating mountains, lush plains, gorgeous flora, rock formations, and even rock art!

Location: R62, Between Montagu & Barrydale, Montagu 6720, South Africa Safari Cost: INR 1,500/- per person TripAdvisor Reviews

Suggested Read: Head To Masai Mara National Park For An Ultimate Encounter With Africa’s Best

Bird Watching Safaris: Spot the winged visitors

6. mapungubwe national park.

Mapungubwe National Park_18th oct

Mapungubwe is home to over 400 species in a relatively small area, with a remarkable mix of woodland, grassland, and water species. Since it’s among the undiscovered South African safari parks, you’re sure to enjoy a completely secluded safari tour and spot more birds than anywhere else due to minimum human presence. Some of the birds you can spot in this craggy landscape include – Meve’s (Longtailed) Starling, Tropical Boubou, Pel’s Fishing Owl, Verreaux’s (Black) Eagle, Cuckoo Birds, Southern Pied Babbler, Crimson-breasted Shrike, Black-faced Waxbill, Black Eagles, Cinnamon-breasted (Rock) Bunting, Black-backed Puffback, White-crested Helmetshrike, White-fronted Bee-eater breeds, African Fish Eagle, and many more! Look close and be patient, bird watching is an art!

Location: Musina, 900, South Africa Safari Cost: INR 850/- per person TripAdvisor Reviews

5. West Coast National Park

spot flamingoes at West Coast National Park

This safari ensures some of the most picturesque sites on the way. Bordering the Langebaan Lagoon which attracts an enormous influx of wetland migratory birds every year, the West Coast National Park is an invigorating bliss to the bird lovers and bird photographers of the world. Summer is the best time to visit the lagoon, as most birds have just arrived, fatigued, from their transcontinental travel. While here, one can spot birds like – Osprey, Knot, Sanderling, Curlew Sandpiper, Ringed and Grey Plover, Bar-tailed Godwit, Southern Black Korhaan, Cape Spurfowl and Grey-winged Francolin, Southern Grey, Cape Penduline Tit, Ant-eating Chat, White-throated and Yellow Canary, Karoo Lark, Chestnut-vented Tit-babbler, Bokmakierie and Cape Bunting, and more.

Location: West Coast DC, South Africa Safari Cost: INR 725/- per person in flower season, and INR 362/- per person in non-flower season TripAdvisor Reviews

Suggested Read: 12 Handpicked Resorts In South Africa

Canoeing Safaris: Paddle away over scenic streams

Wade in the marshy waters of South Africa and encounter big game in the form of elephants, hippos and crocodiles. A series of set-date canoe safari options are available to tourists on the upper and lower Zambezi, also the Selinda Spillway in northern Botswana. The best part about canoe safaris is that they don’t disturb disturb buffalos, kudus, elands, and predators like lions and other large mammals as they gather near the shorelines. Other than animals, you can also spot a large variety of bird life through canoe tours.

4. Tamarind Canoe Safari

embark on a charming Tamarind Canoe Safari

The Tamarind Canoe Safari is among the most popular South Africa tours and safaris that operates in lower Zambezi. The tour starts from the silent, deep gorges of the Kariba and takes visitors all the way down to the renowned World Heritage Site Mana Pools through the sublime Victoria Falls. The Tamarind Canoe Safari is one of the best ways to experience big game and real African wilderness. A safari through this water route lines with dense forests, gives you an opportunity to witness an altogether different side of the African wildlife.

Location: Kariba Gorge, Zambezi River, Zambia and Zimbabwe border, South Africa Packages starting from: INR 55,200 per person

Suggested Read: 3 Days In Maldives: This Picture-Perfect Honeymoon Escapade Will Make You Jealous!

3. Selinda Adventure Trail

go canoeing at Selinda

For an unmatched adventurous canoe safari, one must try the Selinda Trail with its unique canoeing and walking combination. Indulge in exhilarating activities, starting with a thrilling helicopter flight to the starting point of the tour, then walk or paddle away on the serene and scenic river for up to 20 km, carefully monitoring the flow of the water. This exclusive guided canoe tour is an outstanding addition to safari in South Africa since the waterway’s creation recently in 2009 due to shifting of tectonic plates. Selinda canoe safari also provides opportunities for camping, birdwatching, and stargazing!

Location: Selinda Reserve, Botswana Packages starting from: INR 1,00,000/- per person Website | TripAdvisor Reviews

Hot-Air Balloon Safaris: For the aerial views of the wildlife

Fancy a balloon safari tour in South Africa? A hot air balloon ride in South Africa lets you gaze at expansive views of large volcanic landforms, rare rock formations, unique geological features, herds of wildlife, of the Game Reserves in South Africa, while you glide peacefully in your comfortable magic carpet!

2. Pilanesberg National Park

go hot air ballooning at Pilanesberg

Pilanesberg figures prominently in the list of the most family-friendly South Africa safari holidays. The park is an easy 2 hours drive from Johannesburg and offers an unbearably tranquil experience of soaring in the skies to travelers. The elevated views will grant you mesmerising views of the Pilanesberg Alkaline Ring Complex (unique geological feature born from volcanic activity), and a brilliant perspective of herds of antelopes, buffaloes, and elephants. The Pilanesberg Hot Air Balloon Safari also includes welcome drinks of wine, full English breakfast, first flight certificate, and a transfer to your hotel.

Location: Bojanala, North West, South Africa Packages starting from: INR 1,00,000/- per person Duration of flight: 1 Hour (customisable) TripAdvisor Reviews

Suggested Read: 10 Best Things To Do In Africa For The Traveler Who Wants It All

1. Kafue National Park

go hot air ballooning in Kafue National Park

On popular demand, hot air ballooning has now kicked off in Kafue National Park as well. The skies of Busanga Plains of Zambia are now covered in colourful balloons during daytime, which is a treat to watch! It is now one of the most exclusive hot air ballooning destinations in Africa, offering complete seclusion and mind blowing bird’s-eye scenic views to travelers of the park and its wild inhabitants. Post the ride, a delicious champagne breakfast is served to guests at the park’s vast grasslands. The park is also known for its guided walking safaris and game drives, all of which make an excellent place for safari in South Africa.

Location: D769, Zambia Duration of flight: 1 Hour (customisable) TripAdvisor Reviews

Further Read: Honeymoon In Africa: Top 11 Romantic Getaways For The Best And Unique Experiences!

Excited already? Plan your trip to South Africa right away and indulge in thrilling safaris in South Africa to experience its wild side. Know of any more of the best safari in South Africa? Let us know in the comments below!

Ever wondered why South Africa is considered as the best place for a safari experience? Watch our South Africa travel video to find out!

Disclaimer: TravelTriangle claims no credit for images featured on our blog site unless otherwise noted. All visual content is copyrighted to its respectful owners. We try to link back to original sources whenever possible. If you own the rights to any of the images, and do not wish them to appear on TravelTriangle, please contact us and they will be promptly removed. We believe in providing proper attribution to the original author, artist or photographer.

Please Note: Any information published by TravelTriangle in any form of content is not intended to be a substitute for any kind of medical advice, and one must not take any action before consulting a professional medical expert of their own choice.

Frequently Asked Questions About Safari In South Africa

What is the best time to visit South Africa for safari?

The best time to visit for safari in South Africa is from May to September when the weather is just right for all kinds of safari and wildlife spotting.

How much does it cost to go on safari in South Africa?

South Africa safari prices vary from park to park and depend on what kind of safari you pick at that particular park – day, night, camping, walking, etc. The ideal price for South Africa safari tours packages starts from INR 18,500/- per person.

What animals do you see on a safari?

It would have been easier to mention what animals you do not see on a South African safari, as the list would have been extremely short! The best safari here will let you spot animals like lion, leopard, rhinoceros, elephant, buffalo, hippopotamus, cheetah, wildebeest, gorilla, giraffe, zebra, crocodile, hyenas, and more. One can also spot numerous varieties of birds like the ostrich, vultures, bustard, eagles, broadbill, sunbird, and more.

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Overnight Safaris from Johannesburg 

south africa overnight safari

Overnight Safaris from Johannesburg: A Journey into the Heart of the bush

Are you looking for an adventure into the wilderness of South Africa? Do you want to experience the thrill of encountering lions, leopards, and elephants up close? Then look no further than overnight safaris from Johannesburg! In this article, we'll explore everything you need to know about this thrilling and unforgettable experience, from what to expect on your journey to answering frequently asked questions.

Introduction: What are Overnight Safaris from Johannesburg?

Overnight safaris from Johannesburg are a unique and exciting way to experience the beauty and wildness of South Africa. These safaris typically take place in game reserves or national parks, where you'll have the opportunity to see a wide variety of wildlife in their natural habitat. You'll travel by 4x4 vehicle or open-top safari truck, accompanied by experienced guides who will help you spot animals and provide interesting information about the flora and fauna you encounter.

What to Expect on Your Overnight Safari from Johannesburg

If you're planning an overnight safari from Johannesburg, here's what you can expect:

  • Departure: Your safari will typically begin with a pickup from your hotel or a central meeting point in Johannesburg. From there, you'll travel to your chosen game reserve or national park, which may be several hours away.
  • Accommodation: Depending on the safari package you choose, you'll stay in either a comfortable lodge or a luxurious tented camp. These accommodations are typically located within the game reserve or national park, giving you easy access to wildlife and stunning landscapes.
  • Game Drives: Your safari will include several game drives, which take place early in the morning and late in the afternoon when animals are most active. During these drives, you'll have the opportunity to see a wide variety of wildlife, from majestic elephants and lions to graceful giraffes and leopards. Your guides will help you spot animals and provide interesting information about their behavior and habitat.
  • Bush Walks: Some safari packages also include guided bush walks, which offer a more intimate and up-close experience of the wilderness. You'll learn about the smaller creatures that make up the ecosystem and how they contribute to the overall balance of nature.
  • Cultural Experiences: In addition to wildlife encounters, many safari packages also include cultural experiences, such as visits to local villages or opportunities to learn about traditional African crafts.
  • Meals: Most safari packages include all meals, which are typically served in a communal dining area or around a campfire. You'll have the opportunity to try traditional South African cuisine and mingle with other guests.

south africa overnight safari

overnight safaris from Johannesburg

Check out the iconic wild animals of South Africa on our overnight safaris from Johannesburg

The most popular overnight safari options?

If you're looking for a truly unforgettable overnight safari from Johannesburg, two of the most popular options are Dinokeng Game Reserve and Pilanesberg National Park. Let's take a closer look at what makes these destinations so special.

Dinokeng Game Reserve

Dinokeng Game Reserve is a relatively new game reserve located just a short drive from Johannesburg. Despite its proximity to the city, it offers a truly wild and immersive safari experience. Covering over 18,000 hectares, the reserve is home to a wide variety of wildlife, including lions, elephants, rhinoceros, and much more.

One of the unique features of Dinokeng is its conservation efforts. The reserve is home to the De Wildt Cheetah and Wildlife Centre, which works to breed and release endangered cheetahs and other wildlife back into the wild. Visitors can even participate in a cheetah tracking experience, where they'll have the opportunity to get up close and personal with these incredible animals.

Dinokeng offers a range of accommodation options, from luxury lodges to more rustic tented camps. All accommodations are located within the reserve, giving you easy access to wildlife and stunning landscapes.

Pilanesberg National Park

Pilanesberg National Park is another popular destination for overnight safaris from Johannesburg. Located just a few hours' drive from the city, it offers a unique and diverse landscape, with rolling hills, rocky outcrops, and lush valleys.

One of the highlights of Pilanesberg is its wildlife, which includes not only the "big five," but also rare and endangered species like the wild dog and the brown hyena. The park offers a range of game drives, bush walks, and even hot air balloon safaris, giving visitors a variety of ways to experience the wilderness.

Accommodations in Pilanesberg range from luxury lodges to more affordable self-catering chalets. The park also offers several picnic sites and restaurants, where you can enjoy a meal while taking in the stunning scenery.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • What should I pack for an overnight safari from Johannesburg?

You should pack comfortable, lightweight clothing that is suitable for warm weather, as well as a hat, sunglasses, and sunscreen. You may also want to bring a light jacket or sweater for cooler evenings. Don't forget to bring a camera and binoculars!

  • Is it safe to go on an overnight safari from Johannesburg?

Yes, overnight safaris from Johannesburg are generally safe, as long as you follow the instructions of your guides and stay within designated areas. Game reserves and national parks have strict rules and regulations to ensure the safety of both visitors and wildlife.

  • Will I definitely see the "big five" on my safari?

While seeing the "big five" (lions, elephants, leopards, buffalo, and rhinoceros) is certainly a highlight of many safaris, it's not guaranteed. Wildlife sightings can vary depending on factors like the season, weather, and time of day. However, your guides will do their best to help you spot as many animals as possible.


+27 649760105, [email protected], 304 9th street, hermanus, 7200, za, useful links.

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Gondwana Private Game Reserve, Cape Town.

The 8 best safari day trips and weekends from Cape Town

Track down the elusive ‘Big Five’, and have a whale of a time doing it

Alicia Erickson

Can you go on a safari from Cape Town? It’s a question often asked by curious travellers thinking of planning a trip to the Mother City, unsure of whether they’ll be able to catch a glimpse of various fantastic creatures. Happily, the answer is a big ‘Yes indeed.’ Cape Town’s charm extends far beyond the urban centre, and one of its most alluring elements – beyond the mesmerising mountain views and glimmering Atlantic Seaboard – is its proximity to nature.

South Africa is renowned for its wildlife, and while the Western Cape may be a little more under-the-radar in this arena than other regions, it still has its fair share of nature reserves. Just a short drive from Cape Town you can spot the ‘Big Five’ (that ’s:  lions, leopards, rhinos, elephants and African buffaloes) roaming the veld, learn about conservation efforts and spot whales breaching from the Atlantic Coast. For those wanting to take a walk on the wild side, here are the best lodges and reserves for a safari day trip from Cape Town.

RECOMMENDED: 🏄‍♀️ The best   beaches in Cape Town 📍 The best   things to do in Cape Town 🏨 The best   hotels in Cape Town 🍽 The best   restaurants in the Cape Winelands

Alicia Erickson  is a travel writer based in Cape Town.   A t Time Out, all of our travel guides are written by local writers who know their cities inside out. For more about how we curate, see our  editorial guidelines  and check out our latest  travel guides  written by local experts.

An email you’ll actually love

The best safaris near Cape Town

Aquila Game Reserve

1.  Aquila Game Reserve

At just under a two-hour drive from the city, Aquila Game Reserve has certainly earned a name for itself as a top safari experience near Cape Town. The reserve helped reintroduce the Big Five to the Western Cape and is rooted in wildlife rehabilitation, land protection and community support. Whether you opt for a day trip or book a couple of nights, you can take a traditional safari in an off-road vehicle or choose to search for the Big Five from a quad bike. If you’re lucky, you may just spot the elusive Cape mountain leopard. After a day of wildlife thrills, soak in the infinity pool, refuel with some traditional South African cuisine or treat yourself to a spa afternoon. Accommodation ranges from rustic digs to plush cottages.

Inverdoorn Game Reserve

2.  Inverdoorn Game Reserve

A Big Five game reserve located around a two-and-a-half-hour drive from Cape Town, Inverdoorn Game Reserve is a wild escape into the arid plains of the vast, dessert-like Karoo region. A home to lions, elephants, giraffe, zebras, hippos and wildebeest, Inverdoorn also hosts a cheetah rescue and rehabilitation centre. This conseration-focused establishment offers an opportunity to disconnect in the wilderness while searching for some of South Africa’s most exciting creatures. Rest your head in cosy, tented camps and relax in a pool with views over the veld and golden mountains on the horizon.

Fairy Glen Private Game Reserve

3.  Fairy Glen Private Game Reserve

One of the closest safari experiences to Cape Town, Fairy Glen Private Game Reserve is set against the craggy foothills of the Brandwacht Mountains. Just over an hour from the city by car, Fairy Glen transports visitors to a magical, rustic setting, with options for both day and overnight safaris. Count yourself extra lucky if you spot a leopard, but elephants, lions and other creatures roam the plains in relative abundance. Stay overnight in the self-catering accommodation to maximise your chances of spotting various fantastic beasts at sunrise and sunset.

Goudkop Bush Camp

4.  Goudkop Bush Camp

This simple and underrated wildlife destination is found two hours north of Cape Town. Goudkop Bush Camp is a quiet cattle and sheep farm on Skrik van Rondom Farmstall, set in the heart of the Sandveld Nature Reserve. Stay in a thatched roof hut tucked into the slopes of the valley, hike along rocky trails, look for elk and other wildlife on a game drive, or simply unwind and do nothing in this slice of nature. The on-site restaurant and farm shop will keep you happily fed and watered during your stay.

Sanbona Wildlife Reserve

5.  Sanbona Wildlife Reserve

Stretching across 58,000 hectares, Sanbona Wildlife Reserve is a pristine and unparalleled experience in the South African wilderness. A three-and-a-half-hour drive from Cape Town – taking in the stunning scenery of the R62 tourist route along the way – will get you to Sanbona, situated in the rugged and beautiful valley of the Little Karoo, just outside Montagu. Treat yourself to a weekend of wildlife viewings rooted in conservation, while unwinding in luxury safari tents or manor houses among the still plains. Elephants, lions and giraffes are all in the mix when you’re on a nature walk or a safari drive through the rolling hills and dramatic rock formations. If you fancy tracking down some visual wonders that are even easier to locate, the stargazing here is also pretty spectacular.

Gondwana Private Game Reserve

6.  Gondwana Private Game Reserve

Situated along the Garden Route in Mossel Bay, Gondwana Private Game Reserve is a little further from Cape Town (a four-and-a-half-hour drive), but certainly worth the journey if time is on your side. Eco-friendly camps and villas ooze luxury safari aesthetic, while also blending into the towering green hills. From spotting elephants wandering the reserve and lions napping in the sun, to learning about the native fynbos species and searching for sunbirds, falcons and cranes on a bird-centric safari, a weekend at Gondwana promises to be a wild ride.

Grootbos Nature Reserve

7.  Grootbos Nature Reserve

Grootbos Nature Reserve embodies the meaning of ‘where the mountains meet the sea.’ Throw some forests into the equation, and you’ve got a spectacular eco-reserve. Just over two hours from Cape Town, Grootbos transports its guests deep into nature and offers an experience that’s notably different from a typical safari weekend. Set out from the elegant accommodation on a botanical walk to learn about endangered plants, look for over 20 species of mammal (including many types of antelope) and don’t forget to keep an eye out for whales appearing along the coast.


8.  Hermanus

Formerly a small fishing village, Hermanus has blossomed into a charming harbour town that attracts visitors from far and wide. Whale watching is what brings the crowds here, as Hermanus is graced with migrating southern right whales from June through to December. Try and spot them from the wind-swept beaches or join a boat tour and spend a day experiencing the splendour of these mighty marine mammals. Hop in your car, make that 90-minute journey from Cape Town and stay for a day or two in this whale watching paradise.

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Durban Safaris

Safari from Richard’s Bay

Are you wanting a safari from Richard’s Bay? We offer Big5 safaris from Richard’s Bay. If you are arriving on a cruise ship into Richard’s Bay we can collect you for a day or even an overnight safari. Popular choices include visiting Hluhluwe-Imfolozi Park , which is home to the Big Five. We also offer cheetah interactions at Emdoneni Lodge , elephant interactions at Bayete Zulu and boat cruises on the St Lucia Estuary. We will collect you from where your ship docks and drop you back off after your safari with us!

Book your next Big 5 safari from Richard’s Bay with Durban Safaris!

south africa overnight safari

  • Cape Town Tours
  • Safaris in South Africa

Best Safaris Near Cape Town

Cape Town, the city of sun-kissed beaches and magnificent mountains, also offers opportunities to embark on the adventure of a lifetime with a safari near Cape Town.

  • ~ mins read

Any trip to South Africa is incomplete without a tour of Cape Town – the city of sun-kissed beaches and magnificent mountains. There are plenty of things to do in South Africa , and Cape Town has a lot to offer. For the ultimate holiday in the country, take a tour that offers the cosmopolitan experience of Cape Town combined with an unbeatable African bush safari in the famous Kruger National Park or one of the excellent game reserves or national parks around.

However, if flying to the country’s north-eastern end for a safari in Kruger is not feasible, you can still get the best of both worlds while in Cape Town. Although there is no comparison of the wilderness of the South African national parks to the more tamed safari destinations around Cape Town, the fact that a safari is possible just a few hours’ drive from the city is exciting and convenient. There are many opportunities to embark on the adventure of a lifetime with a safari near Cape Town.  

Below we have listed the 7 best safaris near Cape Town in order of distance from the city. Some of these destinations also avail possibilities of sighting the Big 5 animals.

  • Michael Hinz

1. Aquila Private Game Reserve

south africa overnight safari

Photo Credit: Aquila Private Game Reserve

This 10,000-hectare reserve is known for its conservation efforts and excellent customer service. Aquila holds nothing back when it comes to its guests. There are three, half-day safaris available every day — early morning, afternoon, sunset, and options for full day tours and overnight packages. Sightings of the Big 5 are possible here, along with giraffes, hippos, antelope, and 170 bird species. Aquila’s main goal is to preserve and protect African wildlife. They have an on-site animal rescue center as well as leopard research facilities. 

  • Distance from Cape Town : 2 hours (176km) northeast of Cape Town in the historic town of Touws River. This is a great option for those looking for a day trip only.
  • Accommodation available: 4-star lodge offers standard rooms, family suites, and luxury cottages that include their very own fireplace. A restaurant, spa, infinity pool, wet bar, cigar lounge, and children’s entertainment center are also included.
  • Other activities: Horseback safari, quad bike safari, fly-in safari (arrive at the reserve via helicopter!)
  • Aquila Wildlife Safari Tour
  • Wildlife Safari at Aquila                                        

Horseback Safari near Cape Town

2. Garden Route Game Lodge

Safari Near Cape Town in Garden Route Game Lodge

Photo Credit: Garden Route Game Lodge

This reserve offers two safari tours daily, each lasting roughly 2–3 hours. One departs in the early morning and the other in the late afternoon, since these are the times the animals are the most active. On the tour, you are likely to spot four out of the Big 5; lions, rhinos, elephants, and buffalos. You can also see giraffes, zebras, various antelope species, and free-roaming cheetahs. Overnight guests are offered sunrise and sunset safaris along with a tour of the reptile center which houses 28 different snake species, Nile crocodiles, and tortoises.

  • Distance from Cape Town: 3 hours 40 minutes (350km) east of Cape Town in the village of Albertinia. It is possible to do as a day town from Cape Town, but it’s probably more comfortable to stay the night.
  • Accommodation available: Room options in the 3-star lodge range from standard rooms, to family and luxury suites, to honeymoon chalets. Full restaurant with terrace dining is on site.
  • Other activities: Families traveling with kids will love the 'Kids on Safari' option which allows children to explore and learn about the reserve under the guidance and supervisor of a field ranger. Bird fanatics will enjoy watching over 50 species of rare and native birds throughout the reserve. There is also a spa and pool at the lodge that’s perfect for unwinding after a long day on safari. 

3. Inverdoorn Game Reserve

Safari in Cape Town at Inverdoorn Game Reserve

Photo Credit: Inverdoorn Game Reserve

As self-proclaimed “luxury” safari, Inverdoorn may not be the cheapest on the list, but it’s certainly one of the most catered and comfortable. The reserve sits on 10,000 hectares in the arid Klein Karoo region. The grounds teem with birds and wildlife, including the Big 5, giraffes, zebras, hippos, impalas, springboks, and more. Inversdoorn is one of the most popular safaris in South Africa due to the high level of service provided by the staff and proximity to Cape Town.

Inverdoorn goes to great lengths to protect and preserve the animals that call their reserve home. RhinoProtect, a pricey security and research program specifically designed for the reserve’s resident rhinos, goes above and beyond to keep the animals safe from poachers. The Cheetah Sanctuary is another highlight. Visitors can view the fastest animal on earth partaking in running exercises that ready them for their release into their natural environment on the reserve.  

  • Distance from Cape Town: 2 hours 30 minutes (200km) northeast of Cape Town in Breede River.
  • Accommodation available: The 3-star Izibi Safari Lodge has stylish guest houses, up-scale chalets, and posh suites. Relaxation is the name of the game here with first-class culinary dining and poolside lounging.
  • Other activities: 2-day one-night safaris, private safari, sunrise/sunset safaris, walk with giraffes, cheetah encounters, cheetah runs.

A Safari Near Cape Town in Inverdoorn Game Reserve

4. Sanbona Wildlife Reserve

Sanbona Wildlife Reserve near Cape Town, South Africa

Photo Credit: Sanbona Wildlife Reserve

Sanbona is the biggest reserve on the list with 58,000 sprawling hectares. Situated at the foot of the Warmwaterberg Mountains, the impressive landscape and some unique and rare wildlife are what sets Sanbona apart from the others. Another unique selling point is the ancient rock art that can be viewed in the reserve. Dating back 3,500 years, the fascinating drawings depict the rituals and spiritual beliefs of the ancient tribes, the San and the Khoi-Khoi.

Safaris take place at sunrise and sunset and last for roughly 3 hours. Visitors can experience multiple landscapes and habitats as well as the chance to see the Big 5, iconic white lions, cheetahs, and rare riverine rabbit. Sanbona also offers boat safaris, creating a new and innovative way to tour the reserve.

  • Distance from Cape Town: 3 hours 15 minutes (256km) east of Cape Town in the town of Montagu. Unfortunately, due to the sheer size of the reserve, the establishment doesn't entertain day trips. Hence, spending the night is mandatory.
  • Accommodation available: Environmentally-friendly 5-star accommodation in the form of luxury tented lodges with private spa baths. Or book an entire manor complete with private bar, pool, and his and her bathrooms.
  • Other activities: Birdwatching, walking and hiking trails, rock art tours, and one of the best stargazing in South Africa. For those traveling with children, there’s a kids program that caters to little ones’ interests while educating them on the importance of conservation.

Sanbona offers Safari Near Cape Town

5. Fairy Glen Private Game Reserve

Claiming to be the closest Big 5 safari to Cape Town, this reserve does a lot of business with day-tripping tourists. While it’s true the Big 5 do call this reserve home, even the reserve admits that spotting a leopard is a rare occurrence. Located at the foot of the Brandwacht Mountains, surrounded in vegetation, fauna, and flora, Fairy Glen is rugged, natural, and full of wildlife.You’ll feel days away from the big city even though the reserve is only roughly an hour away from Cape Town.

The reserve offers half day safaris (with or without transportation from Cape Town), as well as overnight safari options. The tours can be conducted by vehicle or horseback. A nature walk to the Brandwacht Dam is included in the overnight safaris with a chance to see 250 bird species. 

  • Distance from Cape Town: 1 hour 20 minutes (113km) from Cape Town in the town of Worchester. This is the closest day-trip option on our list.
  • Accommodation available: Overnight safari guests have the option to stay in either the standard or luxury chalets. Bar and Braai (BBQ) facilities and an outdoor pool are included with the accommodation.
  • Other activities: Hiking trails.

6. Grootbos Private Nature Reserve

Grootbos Private Nature Reserve, near Cape town, South Africa

This 2,500-hectare private nature reserve is an award-winning eco-tourism destination near Cape Town in South Africa. Overlooking the pristine beaches of Walker Bay, this reserve has 118 species of birds and 29 mammal species as well as ancient forests that are home to rare and endangered plants. The reserve is especially known for its marine safaris during which you can spot whales, sharks, dolphins, seals and penguins. The Grootbos Foundation is dedicated to conserving the local wilderness and has pioneered sustainability initiatives in the region.

  • Distance from Cape Town: 2 hours (160km). 13km past Stanford on the R43.
  • Accommodation options: Two lodges have private suites with private decks, fireplaces and outdoor showers. You can opt to stay in a private luxury villa as well. 
  • Other activities: Marine safaris, birdwatching, hiking trails, horseback riding, whale watching and botanical tours. 

Experience Culinary Delights in the Boma garden of Grootbos

7. Buffelsfontein Game Reserve

Buffelsfontein, a former cattle ranch, reopened in 2002 as a 1,600-hectare game reserve. One of the game reserves closest to Cape Town, Buffelsfontein is home to four of the Big 5: lions, buffaloes, white rhinos and giraffes. Travelers can also see cheetahs, zebras, kudus, elands and oryxes in the reserve. Game drives take place twice a day and must be booked in advance. Travelers can go for either a three-hour game drive or one that lasts for 90 minutes. Overnight accommodation is available in bush camps, chalets and a guesthouse. The reserve also has a restaurant as well as a bar.

  • Distance from Cape Town: 1 hour (80km)
  • Accommodation Options:  A wide variety of accommodation options ranging from bush capms and basic chalets to luxury cottages and gusthouse rooms are available gor travelers. 
  • Other activities:  Bike tours and bush camping

Map of safari reserves near Cape Town

Before deciding on which safari near Cape Town to embark upon, consider your priorities. If you’re traveling with children, there are a few reserves that are more family-friendly than others. If traveling in comfort is a must, there are luxury options overflowing with South African hospitality. Or if it’s all about which animals you’re going to see, be it the Big 5 or a rare encounter with the White lion, there are safaris that can practically guarantee what you will spot these. Whichever safari you choose, we doubt you’ll be disappointed!

When you are done with the safari, you might want to try other activities available in and around Cape Town. We highly recommend taking on one of the many hiking trails in Cape Town or pursuing the famous road trip –  The Garden Route . 

You can gather helpful tips from our travel guide on how long to spend in South Africa . Feel free to get in touch with our travel experts for a customized tour of South Africa .

For a seasonal overview, see our article on the best time to visit South Africa .

Related Categories

  • South Africa Travel Guide
  • Hikes And Treks In South Africa
  • How Long To Stay In South Africa
  • Safaris In South Africa
  • South Africa Travel Advice
  • Top South Africa Attractions
  • What To Do In South Africa
  • When To Visit South Africa
  • Where To Go In South Africa
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Animals Around the Globe

Animals Around the Globe

10 Best African Countries for Safari

Posted: December 19, 2023 | Last updated: December 19, 2023

south africa overnight safari

#1 Botswana

Recommended Tours:

Thus, poachers are seen as enemies of the people. As a result, Botswana has come into view as Africa's most sought-after ecotourism destination. Starting from the Chobe National Park to the Moremi Nature Reserve, you'll be able to witness numerous gems all around the country.

Back in 2014, Botswana widely banned the hunting of wild animals and implemented strict laws which are still in practice. The country resumes its zero-tolerance for poaching and their very own environmental minister, Tshekedi Khama, has even launched a shoot-to-kill policy for poachers.

Botswana, with its wildlife conservation and natural parks, is a haven for nature lovers. It is currently in the top 5, as its approach to the protection and conservation of wildlife is worth the praise. As a country, it is very forward-thinking, some may even call it aggressively forward-thinking when it comes to its preservation and anti-poaching laws.

<p><strong>Recommended Tours:</strong></p> <p>Its fertile land provides a safe and comforting home to around 200 <a class="wpil_keyword_link" href="https://www.animalsaroundtheglobe.com/mammals/" title="mammal">mammal</a> species. This includes elephants, hippos, monkeys and so much more. Along with 650 bird species and 5,500 plants. Even though the country is still underdeveloped and most of the population live in rural households, its national parks, and sight-seeing destinations are on the top 10 of our lists.</p> <p>Even though many would face some difficulties in locating Malawi on a map, given how tiny it is, the country is home to the world-renowned Lake Malawi National Park. This is practically one-third of the country and is the most biodiverse lake in the world.</p>

Its fertile land provides a safe and comforting home to around 200 mammal species. This includes elephants, hippos, monkeys and so much more. Along with 650 bird species and 5,500 plants. Even though the country is still underdeveloped and most of the population live in rural households, its national parks, and sight-seeing destinations are on the top 10 of our lists.

Even though many would face some difficulties in locating Malawi on a map, given how tiny it is, the country is home to the world-renowned Lake Malawi National Park. This is practically one-third of the country and is the most biodiverse lake in the world.

south africa overnight safari

Most of the land in Namibia is occupied by the Kalahari and Namib Deserts. Along with that, the country also has 12 national parks and many other areas which are protected. So, if you go there for a safari, you'll have many rich areas to see and explore.

When it comes to countries with the least amount of population, Namibia is one of them. Which proves to be a good thing for nature. This is because most of the land in Namibia is still unspoiled by human filth or any sort of development, giving nature a chance to breathe.

south africa overnight safari

In the country's Volcanoes National Park, you'll find 10 habituated gorilla families. Groups of 8 trekkers can visit them for one hour per day. But that's enough to get the best African safari experience. And as a nature lover, you'll enjoy the experience to the max.

If you've been around for some time, you'll be familiar with Rwanda's mountain gorillas. They were famously broadcasted and their fight for survival was shown on  National Geographic . This was all thanks to the late  Dian Fossey  back in the 1970s who advocated for the rights of these mountain gorillas throughout her life.

Considering the tragic history surrounding the mass genocide of the people of Rwanda back in 1994, it's truly a blessing what the country has achieved in the past 25 years. There have been countless investments in infrastructure. This has resulted in the country being a very fast-growing destination for ecotourism.

south africa overnight safari

#6 South Africa

But given all the advantages, it's safe to conclude that South Africa also suffers from over-tourism. I mean, if you have so many great attractions, people will flock towards it. Chances are that you'll find yourself in the middle of dozens of unruly visitors who are not too keen on obeying the rules. This occurs mostly during the peak seasons.

Annually, the country has one million visitors. Its biggest attraction is the Kruger National Park with its enrichment in biodiversity. Visitors there also have the liberty to self-drive, thus, getting a first-person private but superb experience. 

For some time now, South Africa has been climbing the charts to become one of the most popular destinations for African safaris. Given its location, South Africa is a very convenient and cheap destination for people from the United States. Besides that, the country also boasts a well-developed infrastructure which makes it perfect for luxury travelers as well.

south africa overnight safari

#7 Tanzania

One of the most popular locations would be the Ngorongoro Conservation Area. The country is also a haven for 1100 different bird species. It's no wonder that Tanzania gets this much rep. Especially when the country boasts so many wonders.

We talked about Kenya being the top destination for Safari. Now Tanzania here takes second place in being the continent's most popular safari destination. And why shouldn't it? The country has 16 national parks and an extraordinary amount of wealth and wildlife wonders for the people to witness.

south africa overnight safari

Some of its natural attractions include housing the highest mountain range in Africa. It also has the world's largest free-standing volcano and the second-largest freshwater lake. With its 30 national parks and other wildlife reserves, Uganda boasts many more sanctuaries which are worth the visit. Especially if you're a lover of nature and wildlife.

Often called "The Pearl of Africa", Uganda is certainly a great pick for an African safari. Its reputation as being one of the best ecotourism destinations comes from the country's natural attractions and wildlife.

<p><strong>Recommended Tours:</strong></p> <p>Out of its 20 national parks, the Mosi-oa-Tunya National Park is home to many wildlife animals such as African elephants, Angolan giraffes, Cape buffalo, etc. Other than that, there are many private ownerships of National parks, notably the Kasanka National Park which is near the basin of Lake Bangweulu. It's a safe place where visitors can see 400 different avian species.</p> <p>Zambia may be a bit far down the list of popular destinations for your African safari, but many consider it to be a destination for diversified and immersive safari experiences, and making a notable feature on our 10 Best African Countries for Safari guide. The country is steadily focusing on conservation as their president has shown a keen interest and is working on building the nation's economy as well as the infrastructure.</p>

Out of its 20 national parks, the Mosi-oa-Tunya National Park is home to many wildlife animals such as African elephants, Angolan giraffes, Cape buffalo, etc. Other than that, there are many private ownerships of National parks, notably the Kasanka National Park which is near the basin of Lake Bangweulu. It's a safe place where visitors can see 400 different avian species.

Zambia may be a bit far down the list of popular destinations for your African safari, but many consider it to be a destination for diversified and immersive safari experiences, and making a notable feature on our 10 Best African Countries for Safari guide. The country is steadily focusing on conservation as their president has shown a keen interest and is working on building the nation's economy as well as the infrastructure.

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Which countries have cut funding to UNRWA, and why?

The UN urges continued funding to UNRWA’s ‘lifesaving’ aid in Gaza, after several Western countries cut aid to the agency.

A truck, marked with United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) logo, crosses into Egypt from Gaza, at the Rafah border crossing [Mohamed Abd El Ghany/Reuters]

The United Nations agency for Palestinian refugees (UNRWA), considered a lifeline for two million people in the besieged enclave, has suffered funding cuts after several of its staff were accused by Israel of involvement in the October 7 Hamas attack.

The UN on Saturday said that it had terminated nine out of 12 staff over the allegations and vowed to hold its employees accountable, but expressed its shock at the swift funding cut by several Western countries amid a humanitarian disaster in Gaza, which has been devastated by nearly four months of Israel’s aerial and ground war.

Keep reading

Palestinians condemn suspension of unrwa funding by western nations, unrwa probes employees over suspected involvement in october 7 attack, unrwa facility under israeli attack in khan younis, israeli forces blow up unrwa school in northern gaza.

“It would be immensely irresponsible to sanction an Agency and an entire community it serves because of allegations of criminal acts against some individuals, especially at a time of war, displacement and political crises in the region,” Philippe Lazzarini, UNRWA chief, said in a statement on Saturday.

The UN and Palestinian officials have called for continued funding for the agency’s “crucial work” since the announcement of the claims on Friday.

Here is what you need to know about the controversy.

INTERACTIVE - UNRWA at a glance-1706440421

What is UNRWA and who funds it?

The acronym stands for the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East. It was established in 1949 to cater to tens of thousands of Palestinians ethnically cleansed from their homes by Jewish militias from areas that currently form part of Israel.

The UN agency operates in the occupied West Bank, East Jerusalem and Gaza, as well as in Jordan, Lebanon and Syria – the neighbouring countries where the Palestinian refugees took shelter after their violent expulsion known as the Nakba or catastrophe.

According to its website, the UN agency supports the relief and human development of Palestinian refugees, working in a number of areas.

Examples of these fields are primary and vocational education, primary healthcare, relief and social services, infrastructure and camp improvement, microfinance, and emergency response.

The agency is funded almost entirely by voluntary contributions apart from a limited subsidy from the UN, which is used exclusively for administrative costs, according to UNRWA.

INTERACTIVE - Who funds UNRWA-1706440410

The work of UNRWA could not be carried out without sustained contributions from countries worldwide and the European Union, which represented 94.9 percent of all contributions in 2022, the agency says.

In 2022, 44.3 percent of the agency’s total pledges, or $1.17bn, came from the EU member states, who contributed $520.3m, including funds allocated by the institution via the European Commission.

The United States, Germany, the EU and Sweden were the largest individual donors in the year in question, contributing 61.4 percent of the agency’s overall funding in total.

Chris Gunness, a former UNRWA spokesman, said the UN agency has weeks only before it runs out of money for its crucial aid work to save Palestinian lives in Gaza. More than 26,000 Palestinians have been killed since Israel launched its offensive on October 7.

“My message to the Arab world, particularly to the Gulf, is where are you? Because they’re making billions each day on oil revenues. A tiny fraction of those oil revenues would see UNRWA’s financial problems disappear overnight. This unconscionable gap inflicted by these Western countries would be filled very quickly,” Gunness told Al Jazeera.

“Some of the most desperate people in the Middle East are now facing starvation, they’re facing famine, and the Arab states need to step up to the plate.”

What are Israel’s allegations against UNRWA staff?

The UNRWA said on Friday that the Israeli authorities have provided the agency with information about the alleged involvement of several UNRWA employees in the October 7 attack.

Lazzarini, the head of the UNRWA, said that he immediately terminated the contracts of these staff members and launched an investigation to establish the truth without delay.

The US Department of State said it was extremely troubled by the allegations, which it said pertained to 12 UNRWA employees.

The UN agency has long been under attack from Israel. On Saturday, Israeli Foreign Minister Israel Katz called on Lazzarini to quit his post.

“Mr Lazzarini please resign,” Katz wrote on social media platform X in response to the UNRWA chief’s warning over the consequences of funding cuts.

Gunness, the former UNRWA spokesman, said there is a “coordinated political attack” on the UN’s agency for Palestinian refugees.

“The Israelis have said they cannot win the war on Gaza unless UNRWA is disbanded. So what clearer signal do you want?” he told Al Jazeera on Sunday.

INTERACTIVE - Major donors pause funding for UNRWA_1-1706440416

How crucial is UNRWA and what did UN officials say?

The UNRWA is the largest humanitarian actor in Gaza and some 3,000 of its core staff out of 13,000 in Gaza continue to report to work despite the war, according to the agency.

UNRWA’s Lazzarini said two million people out of about 2.3 million population in Gaza depend on the agency’s humanitarian operation.

“I am shocked such decisions are taken based on alleged behavior of a few individuals and as the war continues, needs are deepening & famine looms,” the UNRWA chief posted on X.

“Palestinians in Gaza did not need this additional collective punishment. This stains all of us.”

The UN official added that the agency runs shelters for over one million people and provides food and primary healthcare even at the height of the hostilities .

Meanwhile, UN chief Antonio Guterres said that the tens of thousands of people who work for the UNRWA, many in some of the most dangerous situations, should not be penalised because of the recent allegations.

“The dire needs of the desperate populations they serve must be met,” he said.

UNRWA lifesaving assistance is about to end following countries decisions to cut their funding to the Agency. Our humanitarian operation, on which 2 million people depend as a lifeline in Gaza, is collapsing. I am shocked such decisions are taken based on alleged behavior of a… — Philippe Lazzarini (@UNLazzarini) January 27, 2024

Which nations have cut funding for UNRWA? Which have not?

The wave of suspensions of funding started with the US on Friday, right after the investigation was announced.

Canada, Australia, Britain, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, Switzerland, Finland, Estonia, Japan, Austria and Romania joined Washington as of Monday.

Meanwhile, the French foreign ministry announced that France has not planned a new payment to fund UNRWA in the first quarter of 2024, but would decide when the time comes what action to take in conjunction with the United Nations and its main donors.

The European Union (EU) announced on Monday that it would review whether it could continue to fund UNRWA in light of the allegations.

The EU’s executive arm, the European Commission announced that the body does not foresee any additional funding for the organisation until the end of February.

Ireland and Norway, however, expressed continued support for UNRWA, saying the agency does crucial work to help Palestinians displaced and in desperate need of assistance in Gaza.

“We need to distinguish between what individuals may have done, and what UNRWA stands for,” a statement by Norway’s government said, adding the organisation’s tens of thousands of employees in Gaza, the West Bank, and the region play a “crucial role” in distributing aid, saving lives, and safeguarding basic needs and rights.

Irish Foreign Minister Micheal Martin wrote on X: “Ireland has no plans to suspend funding for UNRWA’s vital Gaza work.”

Spanish daily, El País, reported on Monday that Spanish Foreign Minister José Manuel Albares said Spain would continue funding UNRWA. He asserted that while Spain is closely following the investigation into Israel’s claims, the accused are 12 individuals out of a total of around 30,000 UNRWA employees.


  1. ( Cape Town South Africa ) 2 Days Overnight Safari Game Reserve Tour

    south africa overnight safari

  2. ( Cape Town South Africa ) 2 Days Overnight Safari Game Reserve Tour

    south africa overnight safari

  3. ( Cape Town South Africa ) 2 Days Overnight Safari Game Reserve Tour

    south africa overnight safari

  4. Aquila Overnight Safari

    south africa overnight safari

  5. ( Cape Town South Africa ) 2 Days Overnight Safari Game Reserve Tour

    south africa overnight safari

  6. Hluhluwe/Emdoneni Overnight Safari

    south africa overnight safari


  1. South Africa safari: when to go, what you'll see, where to stay

    An early or late summer safari could be South Africa's best-kept secret, especially with the add-on of a beach holiday outside of Cape Town 's busiest time (from mid- December to end- January ). Elsewhere, the semi-arid Karoo and Kalahari are dry and clear-skied in winter and have low rainfall averages in summer but get very hot.

  2. Best Overnight Safaris From Johannesburg

    From luxury safaris to tented camping tours, South Africa Adventures can organise the ultimate overnight safari for you. About the Pilanesberg The Pilanesberg is the most popular overnight safari destination from Johannesburg. This is partly due to the proximity to the city as well as its abundance of wildlife. You can forget about the Lion King.

  3. THE TOP 10 South Africa Overnight Tours (w/Prices)

    Top South Africa Overnight Tours Overnight Tours Tours, Sightseeing & Cruises Tours by Duration How to Get Around Multi-day Tours Outdoor Activities Nature and Wildlife Tours Sightseeing Tours Safaris Private Sightseeing Tours Car Tours Motor Sports 4WD Tours Extreme Sports Sporting Events Tickets & Passes Cruises & Sailing Shore Excursions

  4. Big 5 Overnight Safari

    Overnight Safari Aquila Private Game Reserve and Spa Book Now Luxury Overnight Safari Close to Cape Town Just two hours from Cape Town, Aquila Private Game Reserve and Spa offers guests an authentic South African overnight safari experience.

  5. 15 of the best safaris in South Africa

    15 of the best safaris in South Africa - Times Travel View Today's edition Home Destinations Africa Cape Verde Egypt Kenya Morocco South Africa Asia China Indonesia Japan India...

  6. The Best Safari In South Africa: An Expert Guide

    Kruger and the surrounding private reserves are home to all of southern Africa's iconic mammal species, including the endangered African wild dog, its varied habitats support more than 500 bird species and many of the private reserves offer top quality specialised photo safaris.


    Premier Cottage. From R 4 490 / pps. View More. Aquila is more than just an unforgettable big 5 safari experience, it is an experience in luxurious African hospitality, real close to Cape Town. Join us for a day trip or spend the night or 2 with us in the Karoo.

  8. South Africa Safari

    Overnight options in the Eastern Cape are also profuse and varied. Although it's usually straightforward enough to find a competitively priced room, rates boom, and booking is usually necessary over the South African Christmas and New Year school holidays. ... South African safari grasslands have 30 species per square kilometre, greater than ...

  9. Hluhluwe Game Reserve South Africa A Big 5 Game Park Zululand Natal

    Hluhluwe Imfolozi Game Reserve, Is a Big 5 Game Park in the KwaZulu Natal Regine Of South Africa. The oldest proclaimed reserve in Africa. Still Wild, With 96000 Hectares of Wilderness Awaiting you. 4x4s Dusty Roads Rolling Hills Of Sunsets, Magnificent Big 5 Sightings & Photographs Everywhere. Time To Safari, In The Bush Felt Of Zululand...

  10. 2 Day South African Wildlife Safari

    Go wild in the Western Cape on an overnight safari trip from Cape Town! Travel off the beaten track to interact with wildlife and immerse yourself in the African bush. The Garden Route offers the perfect backdrop for a wildlife encounter, and the views along the way aren't too shabby either. This tour offers guided safaris in two prestigious private game reserves, a guided walk in the ...

  11. 2 Day Glamping + Safari: South African Western Cape Wildlife Tour

    See South Africa's wildlife on this glamping safari trip from Cape Town. Stay overnight in a secluded, free-standing luxury tent that overlooks a nearby waterhole. Keep your eyes peeled for Big Five animals on two 4x4 game drives and upgrade to include a guided walking safari where you observe orphaned elephants in their natural environment - at extra cost. This small-group tour is led by a ...

  12. THE TOP 10 Cape Town Overnight Tours (w/Prices)

    Overnight Tours Questions? (888) 651-9785 Top Cape Town Overnight Tours Overnight Tours Full-day Tours Private Sightseeing Tours Private and Luxury Adventure Tours Multi-day Tours Day Trips Sightseeing Tours Car Tours Trolley Tours Cruises & Sailing Audio Guides City Tours Air Tours Ports of Call Tours Historical Tours Plantation Tours

  13. Cape Town South Africa, 2 Days Overnight Safari Tour Game Reserve

    2Day Best Safari - Cape Town 1 night accomodation. incl Transfers. 1. Bus Tours. from. $475.05. per adult. Cape Town 2Days Tour- Aquila Safari Game Reserv & Robben IslandGetaway Overnight. 1. Cable Car Tours.

  14. Top Five Game Reserves for Safaris Near Cape Town

    Updated on 04/02/20 Fact checked by Jillian Dara Cheetahs at Inverdoorn Game Reserve. Kim Walker / robertharding / Getty Images Cape Town is known around the world for its stunning scenery, world-class restaurants, and fascinating cultural landmarks (including Robben Island and Bo-Kaap ).

  15. On Safari Africa

    Our main speciality is Wildlife Safaris. We do day tours and overlanding tours in our Wildlife reserves. One the oldest and the other, one of the largest in the world. We want you to experience the thrill of watching a massive wild bull elephant going about his business. Our professional Field Guides will amaze you with their knowledge on the ...

  16. Visit Shamwari Private Game Reserve for a 5-Star Luxury Safari ...

    In Eastern Cape near South Africa's sixth largest city, Gqeberha, Shamwari has operated as a game reserve since 1992. Nearly 62,000 acres of land are available for the many species of animals ...

  17. Best Safari In South Africa: Into 15 African Wildest Corners

    South Africa Safari Cost: INR 1,500/- per person TripAdvisor Reviews Suggested Read: Honeymoon In Africa: Top 11 Romantic Getaways For The Best And Unique Experiences! 13. Marakele National Park

  18. Best Safari from Cape Town

    Plan your safaris near Cape Town. Whether you're looking for 1/2 day game drives, a full-day safari near Cape Town, or an overnight Cape Town Safari. Aquila offers all the Big 5 animals, great rooms, and an African safari you'll never forget. Aquila is the best in South African safaris. When it comes to safari tours, Aquila is best.

  19. 5 Best Eco-Friendly Safari Adventures in South Africa

    Sibuya Game Reserve Location: Sibuya's reception is in the holiday village of Kenton-on-Sea in the Eastern Cape, about 130 kilometres from Port Elizabeth. Guests can fly to Port Elizabeth from Cape Town or Johannesburg. Best for: A coastal retreat Highlights: Going on on safari by river Not all safari parks are landlocked.

  20. Overnight Safaris from Johannesburg

    Explore our great selection of overnight safaris from Johannesburg. Our most popular tours inlcude Dinokeng and the Pilanesberg. English en. Français fr Deutsch de. Home; Tours; Categories; Destinations; Contact; Manage my booking +27649760105. overnight safaris south johannesburg.

  21. Cape Town 2-Days Overnight Aquilla Safari game Reserve

    Don't stress about organizing a rental car and figuring out where to go on a safari drive from Cape Town. Make your wildlife spotting a breeze by choosing this hassle-free private 2-day tour. To help you slow down and relax, the adventures are spread over two days, with multiple game drives, a wine region exploration, and a visit to a cheetah rescue and rehabilitation center included.

  22. 8 Best Safaris Near Cape Town For Day Trips and Weekends

    The best safaris near Cape Town Photograph: Michael van Rooyen 1. Aquila Game Reserve At just under a two-hour drive from the city, Aquila Game Reserve has certainly earned a name for itself as a...

  23. Safari from Richard's Bay

    If you are arriving on a cruise ship into Richard's Bay we can collect you for a day or even an overnight safari. Popular choices include visiting Hluhluwe-Imfolozi Park, ... South Africa. Tel SA : +27 824 607 775 Rocca Marina 9 Argyle Road Durban South Africa 4001 Email : [email protected]. London. Tel UK : +44 779 453 2248 Mountbatten Mews

  24. 7 Best Safaris Near Cape Town

    Any trip to South Africa is incomplete without a tour of Cape Town - the city of sun-kissed beaches and magnificent mountains. There are plenty of things to do in South Africa, and Cape Town has a lot to offer.For the ultimate holiday in the country, take a tour that offers the cosmopolitan experience of Cape Town combined with an unbeatable African bush safari in the famous Kruger National ...

  25. The best safari trips to book in 2024

    Whether you follow the Big Five - lions, leopards, elephants, buffaloes and rhinos - by four-wheel drive in South Africa, sleep under the stars during a walking safari in Zambia, cross paths ...

  26. 10 Best African Countries for Safari

    If you're craving the ultimate safari adventure, look no further. We've meticulously curated the ultimate guide to unveil the 10 Best African Countries for Safari, designed especially for ...

  27. Which countries have cut funding to UNRWA, and why?

    Which nations have cut funding for UNRWA? Which have not? The wave of suspensions of funding started with the US on Friday, right after the investigation was announced. Canada, Australia, Britain ...

  28. China investors eye Africa's Mauritius as it goes green, tries to

    Located near Madagascar, Mauritius could capitalise on its position as a gateway for China to enter the African market, and the tiny island hopes Chinese take an interest in its sugar-based rum.