Journey of giraffe at phinda reserve in south africa

Best Safari Destinations in South Africa

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Niarra Travel

South Africa, a country of unparalleled biodiversity and an extensive range of wildlife habitats, offers some of the most unforgettable safari experiences in the world. From the bushveld of the Kruger National Park to the desert landscapes of the Kalahari, each safari destination has something unique to offer all who visit.

South African safaris promise an abundance of wildlife, beautiful landscapes and a chance to connect with the nature around you. When it comes to searching for the very best safaris in South Africa, you are truly spoilt for choice. Here we have curated a shortlist, which outlines the unique charms, landscapes and experiences to be found in each of these popular South African safari destinations.

Mala Mala Camp South Africa gamedrive

Kruger National Park

Best safari for: Spotting the legendary Big 5

The all-encompassing nature and colossal scale of Kruger National Park means it is often considered by many to be the best safari in South Africa. The park is situated in the Mpumalanga province, in the northeastern part of the country, and covers an astonishing 19,485 sqkm.

The park's vast landscapes, which range from dense forests to open grasslands, are home to over 500 bird species, 114 reptile species and 147 mammal species. Among its high density of animals are significant numbers of the iconic Big 5 - lion, elephant, buffalo, rhino and leopard.

Kruger is managed by SANParks (South African National Parks) and became the country’s first national park in 1926. It showcases the extensive interaction between humans and the lowveld environment over centuries, from ancient bushman rock paintings to majestic archaeological sites, like Masorini and Thulamela, preserving both cultural and natural heritages​.

There are many different accommodation options within the Kruger National park, ranging from private luxury lodges, such as Lion Sands Tinga Lodge, to self-catering rest camps. This is equally the perfect park for those who are venturing out on their first safari and an exhilarating wildlife haven for those who would consider themselves to be safari veterans.

Luxury tented camp in the lush landscapes of Kruger National Park.

Tswalu Kalahari Reserve

Best safari for: Sustainable luxury

Set on the southernmost edge of the Kalahari Desert, Tswalu offers you an immersive escape into the wild. It is the largest private game reserve in South Africa and centres around its extensive conservation efforts. Here, reserve staff work tirelessly to restore biodiversity and protect endangered animals, such as the black rhino, brown hyena and cheetahs.

The area offers some of the best luxury safaris in South Africa, focused on slowing down and appreciating the beautiful landscape and biodiversity that surrounds you. The space is vast and exclusive, with a maximum of six safari vehicles operating at one time within the 100,000 hectares of pure African wilderness, making it feel as though you are experiencing a truly personal South African safari.

At Tswalu Kalahari Reserve, you have full access to your own private safari vehicles, which presents opportunities to experience the environment on a more personal level through encounters with habituated meerkats, walking safaris, tracking, horse riding and stargazing.

There are just three lodges in Tswalu. Tswalu Tarkuni accommodates ten people and Tswalu Motse is designed as a small village, with a total of nine dwellings. Visit the spa, take a walk through the cellar or enjoy the library and photographic studio between safari drives. At the end of a long day in the bush, you can wander down to Klein JAN, a restaurant that celebrates sustainable ingredients and authentic flavours. Another option is the Loapi Tented Camp, which includes six one-or-two guest homes for the ultimate private wilderness experience.

Tswalu wild dog

Sabi Sands

Best for: Spotting leopards

Sabi Sands runs adjacent to Kruger National Park, allowing the animals to roam freely between the two regions. It is widely considered one of the best safari destinations in South Africa for spotting leopards in the wild, due to the higher density of these majestic cats within the park’s boundaries.

The terrain here is typical of South Africa’s Lowveld, with rocky outcrops, thicket vegetation and the occasional open savannah plain. As you roam among these lands, by jeep or on foot, surrounded by the trumpeting of elephants, grunting of hippos and growls of the elusive leopard, you’ll feel immersed in the untouched wilds of the African continent.

The experience of a safari here is marked by the intimate and luxurious lodges scattered across the reserve, which provide an exclusive window into the heart of the African bush. From the comfort of these lodges, you are invited to partake in activities like thrilling game drives, night safaris, walking tours, and even hot air ballooning, ensuring a comprehensive immersion into the wild heart of the nation.

Leopard

Madikwe Game Reserve

Best for: Family safaris

Madikwe Game Reserve is a protected area that spans over 750 sq km, bordering Botswana. The vast open plains of woodlands and grasslands are home to the Big 5, as well as colourful wild dogs, elegant cheetahs and 60 other mammals.

As one of the lesser-known reserves, this hidden gem is regarded as one of the highest quality conservation areas in Africa. Their unique approach emphasises the importance of benefiting the local communities alongside environmental preservation.

Madikwe Game Reserve is a malaria-free zone, making it the ideal destination for families with children. While you are here, you’ll have the option to go on game drives, bush walks, fishing excursions, take cooking classes and even unwind at a wellness spa. With no set schedule, you’re free to choose how you’d like to spend your time within the reserve.

One of the more standout accommodations is Morukuru River House, situated along the main perennial Marico River, which sleeps six people. During your stay, you’ll have a personal chef, butler, private guide and tracker to ensure that your stay is relaxing and memorable.

Herd of zebras grazing in the Madikwe hills.

How To Have The Best Safari In South Africa

Choosing the best safari in South Africa for you depends on what you would like to experience. Most of the parks mentioned above are situated in regions that have hot, balmy summers with occasional heavy downpours and cool, dry winters.

The best time to visit is typically considered to be between May and September, which is when you’ll have the most animal sightings as they congregate around water holes. However, while travel between November and February may offer lower chances of spotting wildlife, it does allow for dramatic backdrops - perfect for those looking to capture South Africa at its most awe-inspiring.

What sets South Africa apart is not just its diverse wildlife and stunning landscapes but also the country’s commitment to conservation and sustainable tourism. By choosing to go on a safari here, you're not only signing up for the adventure of a lifetime but also contributing to the protection of these magnificent creatures and their habitats.

Sabi Sands Game drive

Are you looking to embark on the best safari in South Africa? Then get in touch with our team on +44 (0) 20 3821 5994 (UK), +1 (833) 215 9353 (US), or at explore@niarratravel.com and begin creating your journey.

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