Where to safari in South Africa

We hope that by using this page you can get a feel for which area of the country you want to visit. We understand that for a first time safari goer it can all seem a bit daunting so please contact us either through our contact us page or by email Richard@southernsands.co.uk where we can discuss you perfect trip.

Whatever parks or reserves you chose for your safari it is important to understand that great guides can elevate safaris to a higher level.

Many clients have preferences for wanting to see specific wildlife or specific animal behavior on their safaris. We know that in nature nothing is guaranteed but we have the knowledge to make sure you visit the right places to give you the best chance of having your dream safari. By entrusting us with planning your safari we will place you into the best accommodation with the best guides available.

We only know this due to the extensive experience we have in these areas. If we don’t have personal experience of any part of your itinerary we will ensure we speak to others in our network that do.

We have put together some information on some of our favourite safari destinations below. It is by no means exhaustive but we hope it gives you a flavor for some of the different reserves and national parks. The list includes mainly the larger reserves or parks that are open to large reserves for the authentic wilderness experience. There are many more parks and reserves throughout South Africa that are worth including on a trip so please contact us to discuss your requirements and we can match that to the best possible locations and accommodation.

 

Kruger Park National Park

Lets start with the largest reserve in South Africa. The Kruger National Park is one of the most famous parks in Africa and is the size of a small country. All of the Big Five are present in large numbers, Few visitors leave this park disappointed.

Kruger National Park offers magnificent wildlife viewing. All the major safari animals are present including the big five. Big cats are present in healthy numbers and lions in particular are seen frequently especially in the savannah areas of Satara and further south although they occur throughout the park.

Elephant and buffalo are common, and both can be seen in huge numbers. Areas in the north of the Park are famed for their magnificent large male Elephants known as Tuskers. Whilst walking safaris are commonplace throughout the Park the walks in the far northern areas near Punda are out of this world.

Kruger’s main habitat is woodland savanna in some areas the vegetation is relatively thick, especially during the Wet season. This huge park can be divided into 17 ecological zones which support more large animal species than any other National Park in Africa.

Pros

  • You can see more mammal species here than any other park in Africa
  • It is famed for exceptional bird watching in the summer months
  • First class facilities and infrastructure
  • Excellent choice of lodges and rest camps for all budgets
  • Huge range of activities available
  • Some excellent family friendly options

Cons

  • The south of the park can get busy in the high season
  • In parts of the reserve the tar road network creates a lack of wilderness appeal

Another great advantage of the Kruger is that it can be easily combined with a range of experiences both within the park and the surrounding areas, you have the gorges and spectacular views of the Blyde River Canyon and the panoramic route. There are excellent animal rehabilitation centres that can be visited. It also makes for an ideal itinerary to match with the Victoria Falls In Zambia.

Greater Kruger – Sabi Sands

Sabi Sands shares a 50km unfenced border with Kruger National Park and offers some of the best wildlife viewing in South Africa. It is home to a range of exclusive and luxurious lodges all offering the ultimate big five experience.

It is possible to see all of the big five in a short visit and is perhaps one of the most reliable areas to see Leopards. The area is also famed for its lion prides that frequently come into dispute over the prime territory that is Sabi Sands.

Sabi Sands is popular amongst wildlife photographers and as such some of the lodges have expert guides and amazingly well equipped vehicles designed especially for photographers. If you want to come back from your African safari with the best possible pictures Sabi is a great option. Contact us for the best lodges for photographers and film makers.

Pros

  • Game viewing is excellent and it is easily possible to spot the big five during a short stay.
  • Part of a much larger protected area
  • Excellent guides and some great facilities for photographers
  • Lodges offer first class facilities and some amazing dining
  • Some out of this world family friendly accommodation options

Cons

  • Caters only for the high end of the market
  • Big emphasis on the big five unless you stay for a longer safari

Timbavati

Still within the Greater Kruger area is Timbavati which has open borders with the Kruger. Being part of the Greater Kruger ecosystem it offers an authentic wildlife experience. All of the Big Five are easily spotted including leopard. The park is famed for its extremely rare white lions and although these are by no means guaranteed, Timbavati is probably your best chance to see a White Lion in the wild.

Game viewing is exceptional whilst the Big Five is definitely a focus all other large safari animals are present and cheetah and hyena are regularly seen. Big cats are seen on most drives, but rhino can require more effort. A favourite of ours on safari is the Wild Dog and these can be regularly seen at Timbavati.

Pros

  • Excellent wildlife viewing including the Big Five
  • Day and night drives and walking safaris available
  • Part of a very large eco-system
  • Good choice of lodges and budgets
  • Less busy than some other Greater Kruger areas
  • Easy to access the Panoramic route and Blyde River Canyon

Cons

  • Emphasis on ticking off the Big Five species

Madikwe

Madikwe is served by only a handful of lodges so it can feel like quite an exclusive safari experience. The wildlife viewing is excellent and is comparable to the private reserves of the Great Kruger. Although Big Five sightings are generally very good, leopard sightings can sometimes be challenging.  This area is known to be one of the most reliable locations to see Wild dogs and sightings tend to be superb (we saw our first ever Wild Dogs here so it holds fond memories for us!). This is another area where lodges can cater for keen photographers. Some lodges have specialist safari vehicles whilst others have low level photographic hides at waterholes for dramatic close up shots!

Pros

  • Excellent wildlife viewing including Wild Dogs
  • Malaria-free
  • Exclusive experience and not as expensive as some other reserves
  • Open vehicle game drives
  • Night drives and walking safaris available
  • Full day drives available

Cons

  • Leopard sightings not as abundant as some other locations
  • Fully fenced park and not part of a bigger ecosystem

Shamwari

Shamwari is the most popular of the Eastern Cape private reserves. It offers excellent wildlife viewing with a good variety of animals including all of the Big Five. It is known for its excellent lodges with great guides and excellent food and service. Shamwari is perfect for a family safari with its ‘Kids on Safari’ programme. We can provide trips which include volunteering work with a focus on the preservation of wildlife, local ecology and community work.

Very importantly however the reserve works very closely with the Born Free foundation and on site there is the he Big Cat Rescue and Education Centres which serve to highlight issues of both wildlife conservation. If travelling to Shamwari this is a must visit.

Pros

  • Excellent wildlife viewing
  • Caters specifically for kids and is Malaria-free
  • Excellent guides
  • Night drives and walking safaris available
  • Great volunteering options

Cons

  • Only fully inclusive packages
  • Can be expensive
  • Not part of a bigger protected area

Kalahari

The Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park is a merger of the Kalahari Gemsbok National Park in South Africa and the Gemsbok National Park in Botswana. This park is different from any parks listed here and for us the attraction here is for the sense of wilderness. The night skies here are mind blowing. There are red sand dunes and inhospitable desert it is a location where you feel a million miles from home (especially if like us you are from the South East of England!)

The Kgalagadi is not a Big Five destination, there are no elephant, rhino or buffalo. Animal numbers are lower than in more classic safari destinations, but the open terrain and sparse vegetation makes for very good viewing. Predator sightings are excellent and include lion, (keep a watch for the famous black Maned Kalahari males) leopard, cheetah and of some of the smaller species such as bat-eared-fox and Cape fox. But to be honest it is a privilege to be in the Kalahari and sometimes game is a bonus!

Pros

  • Off the beaten track great wilderness appeal
  • Excellent wildlife viewing
  • Opportunity to see Black maned Kalahari Lions
  • Stunning desert scenery and great photographic opportunities
  • Excellent bird watching
  • Good range of accommodation

Cons 

  • Less variety of species than in savannah reserves
  • Far away from South Africa’s main tourist attractions
  • Very hot conditions and harsh environment not to everybody’s taste

Oudtshoorn – Meerkats

We have covered reserves and parks above where you stand a great chance of seeing iconic South African wildlife. But what about the little Meerkats, to many visitors to South Africa (especially Brits due to THAT insurance commercial!) Meerkats are as important as the Big Five so whilst it is possible to find Meerkats in the Kalahari for you best chance we can include Oudtshoorn where the Meerkats are habituated to humans so close up photos are (nearly) Guaranteed!

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