You can’t go wrong with safaris in South Africa. From its wild beaches and buzzy cities to its weird and wonderful wildlife reserves, there’s little doubt it’s one of Africa’s most memorable destinations. But what are the top 5 wildlife reserves in South Africa?
And while the allure of Kenya’s Masai Mara and Botswana’s Okavango Delta provide stellar sightings of the Big Five, South Africa isn’t short on mighty animal encounters either. But where to head?
Top 5 wildlife reserves in South Africa
Visiting South Africa you’ll either base yourself in one of its cities, taking part of your holiday as a Safari, or spend all your time on one of its reserves. Here’s where the animal action’s at:
Kruger National Park (Mpumalanga and Limpopo Provinces)
It’s fair to say many travellers have heard stories about Kruger’s traffic congestion on its paths that criss-cross the savannah. Yes, you’re going to see other cars on the road ‘this is South Africa’s flagship game reserve’ but when you’re watching a pride of lions tucking into their latest kill on the side of the road, its hardly the end of the world.
Kruger is world renowned and for very good reason it is one of the top 5 wildlife reserves in South Africa. Lying along the border of Mozambique in the northeast of the country, it has everything from walking safaris to wildlife spotting by horseback, as well as Masorini, a restored Iron Age village.
Addo Elephant National Park (Eastern Cape)
There’s something indulgently exotic about wrapping yourself in a thick blanket while glimpsing elephants mill around a waterhole from your lodge’s balcony. Unforgettable, and entirely possible, at South Africa’s third largest national park.
Get behind the wheel on a self-drive trip and navigate its paths stretching from the semi-arid karoo area around Darlington Dam, over the rugged Zuurberg Mountains, and to the coast between Sundays River mouth and Bushman’s river mouth.
And as well as being a veritable sanctuary to these long-nosed gentle giants, it also has healthy populations of lion, buffalo, black rhino, spotted hyena, leopard, and a variety of antelope and zebra species, making it the place to tick off some of Africa’s most curious creatures.
Sabi Sands Game Reserve (Mpumalanga)
For a super-luxury, ultra-indulgent safari experience, it doesn’t get much more astounding than this. Smartly sitting in the southwest corner of Kruger National Park, Sabi Sands Game Reserve isn’t short on once-in-a-lifetime wildlife spots.
From a lonely rhino quenching its thirst by a waterhole, to the elusive leopard concealing itself in the spindly branches of a baobab tree. And all from the comfort of your architecturally spectacular terrace with a G&T in hand. Well deserving its spot as one of the top 5 wildlife reserves in South Africa.
Shamwari Game Reserve (Eastern Cape)
Nature buffs will lose their hearts in this malaria-free game reserve in the Eastern Cape. Forming a natural extension of the lush Garden Route, it trickles along the Bushman’s River halfway between Port Elizabeth and Grahamstown, and is a leader in sustainability principles, from its wildlife research team to its anti-poaching unit.
With your own personal game ranger, prepare for up, close and personal animal encounters like no other, before heading south for great white shark diving, cosmopolitan nightlife and fantastic flats available to rent in Cape Town.
Hluhluwe Umfolozi Game Park (Kwazulu Natal)
Africa’s oldest game park may be nearing its 120th birthday, yet it remains one of the country’s best, with an extremely rich diversity of tree and plant species. Travel here and you’ll pace the same pathways as Zulu kings such as the mighty Dingiswayo and Shaka, while stalking the Big Five is very possible from the many viewing hides overlooking waterholes.
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