It’s the number one question for any traveller: where to safari in South Africa?
The country is geared up for safari. And there is such a selection of safari lodges and game reserves that the issue is less about where, and all about how to choose the best safari experience possible.
We help you make this decision by including a list of the top game reserves for spotting game, and a selection of safari lodges (luxury & budget – keep scrolling!).
Where to safari in South Africa?
Best parts of the country for safari
The practice of ‘no fences’ between Kruger and many of these game reserves, means that wildlife is free to roam as it has for millennia.
Northern Cape – the most sparsely populated, and thus beautiful and exciting, province that has a fair number of lodge choices, and the Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park where black-maned lions are a real draw card.
Best time to go on a safari in South Africa
Winter (May to September).
- the grass is not as dense as in summer
- the mosquitoes and other flying insects are less likely to aggravate
- the scenery is beautiful
Note: mornings and evenings can get seriously chilly between June and August, even though days are pleasantly warm (the Northern Cape in particular).
Where to land when going on safari
It depends on how long you have in the country.
If you’re in South Africa primarily for game:
Fly into Johannesburg. You’ll be in bushveld country within four hours of landing.
Mpumalanga and Limpopo provinces are both regarded as prime game viewing country. And they’re both easy to reach from Johannesburg.
If you have time on your hands:
Land in Cape Town and take in Table Mountain, beaches and winelands first.
From there you can either head up the Garden Route to Addo Elephant National Park, up the West Coast to Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park, or fly across the country to KwaZulu-Natal (iSimangaliso) or Johannesburg (Kruger).
Safari in Luxury
Here’s your number one tip for where to safari in South Africa: if you can afford it, go to one of the top safari lodges.
Why a luxury safari?
- You’ll benefit from their expert rangers and trackers, who can take their vehicles off road (what South Africans call ‘bundu bashing’) to follow the game.
- Some of the best of these safari lodges are linked directly to Kruger National Park and many of them benefit from unfenced relations with the park, with game free to flow between the park and the private reserve. You will see a lot more game this way.
- The dearth of tourists by comparison with major parks like Kruger, which become inundated during peak season.
In summary: look for those private reserves with fewer than 20 rooms, abutting Kruger.
Luxury safari lodges adjoining Kruger:
Luxury safari lodges nearby:
If you don’t find what you’re after, scan this complete lists of luxury game lodges in the Wild Frontier.
Safari on a budget
The best part of doing a safari on a budget is the freedom you have to do your own thing – no breakfast and game drive time schedules to meet.
Most national game parks and reserves have a network of excellent tarred roads on which one can drive in an ordinary hired car. There is every chance you’ll spot a lot of game this way.
A high-clearance vehicle is better for seeing beyond the first clump of trees, but not essential.
A few tips for budget safaris:
- Stay just outside the game park you select (cheaper).
- Visit out of season (December and other school holidays increase tariffs).
- Stick to the country’s national parks – there are 20 of them across the country, and they are, on the whole, cheaper.
Safari lodges on a budget:
Top game reserves to go on a safari in South Africa:
Don’t go without
- your child’s (under 18) full unabridged birth certificate!
- binoculars, zoom lens cameras
- a hat
- warm clothing
- sunscreen and insect repellent (not as necessary in winter)
- a good pair of boots or walking shoes