Angama mara wildebeest migration.

Malaria-free Safaris in Africa

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Niarra Travel

Planning a safari in Africa is an exciting prospect for travellers – and while we believe that safaris are generally a safe option, a topic that our Travel Researchers are asked about time and time again is the subject of malaria in Africa.

You can do many things ahead of your trip, especially when packing for a safari, to reduce your risk of coming into contact with malaria, such as bringing insect repellent, wearing the right clothing after dusk, sleeping under nets and taking prophylactic medicines. You can also be selective about when you go on safari, as risk is substantially lower in the winter months. In some cases, you may want to eliminate the worry altogether, especially when travelling with young children on a family safari.

In those instances, these are a few of our favourite malaria-free safari (or ultra-low risk) recommendations across Southern and East Africa.

Elephants seen on a safari game drive.

Malaria-free Safaris in South Africa

South Africa offers a number of options around the country. Some of these include:

Tswalu Kalahari Reserve

Tswalu Kalahari Reserve is South Africa’s largest private game reserve. Wedged between the Kalahari Desert and the arid savannah in the Northern Cape, it is home to some fascinating desert-adapted wildlife, as well as several endangered species such as black rhinos, black-maned Kalahari lions, leopards, wild dogs, cheetahs and pangolins.

A wide range of activities is on offer at the reserve, ranging from nature walks to stargazing, horse riding or hanging out with meerkats! Tswalu welcomes families at all three of its camps and actively encourages children to participate fully in the safari experience (no age restrictions for private game drives), receiving a Junior Ranger training guide on arrival and a full programme of activities.

Wild dogs in the Tswalu Kalahari Reserve.

The Eastern Cape Reserves

The Eastern Cape is a perfect safari destination for those looking to reduce the risk of malaria when on safari, especially if you are also visiting Cape Town and The Garden Route, or combining your safari with a beach experience. All of the reserves in the area are malaria-free and most offer all the Big Five and so much more.

Options include Addo Elephant National Park (home to over 450 elephants) and private reserves like Shamwari, Kariega, Kwando and Lalibela. One of our favourite places to stay is Fort House in Kwandwe, where guests are treated to an exclusive-use four-bedroomed private villa surrounded by a conservation success story that also supports the local marginalised rural community, through the Ubunye Foundation.

Black rhino and her calf in Kwandwe

Madikwe Game Reserve

Madikwe Game Reserve in the North West Province, near the border with Botswana, is malaria-free and offers a fantastic Big 7 safari (The Big 5 plus wild dogs and cheetahs) in a beautiful ecosystem that has been rewilded from previous farmland thanks to Operation Phoenix in the late 1990’s.

One of the best things about this reserve is that, although it is not a private reserve, they do not allow self-drive visitors. This means that there is never a “queue to view” at sightings and all game drives are conducted by qualified rangers, offering a more personal experience than most National Parks. Stretching across 760 sqkm, it's one of the largest reserves in the country, with a wide selection of accommodation options, from luxurious exclusive-use homes like Morukuru River House to rustic eco-lodges.

Herd of zebras grazing in the Madikwe hills.

The Pilanesberg

The Pilanesberg National Park is a beautiful malaria-free reserve just a few hours’ drive from Johannesburg by road. Centred around an extinct volcano crater, its setting is very unique and is home to all the Big Five. Visitors can self-drive, enjoy guided game drives – or treat themselves to a hot air balloon flight over the reserve at dawn.

Sibella yawning cheetah cub samara karoo south africa

The Waterberg

Just three hours’ drive from Johannesburg, the Waterberg is one of South Africa's most popular family safari destinations thanks to its easy accessibility and malaria-free status. Sprawling over 150,000 hectares, the reserve offers a wonderful variety of ecosystems and habitats which can be explored on foot, by game drive or on horseback.

One of our favourite places here is Marataba Founders Camp in Marakele National Park, where guests can get actively involved in conservation efforts, be it tracking cheetah or learning how to identify rhinos by ear notches.

Cheetah resting in a tree.

Malaria-free Safaris in Kenya

When it comes to Kenya, there is a very low risk of malaria in and around Nairobi and in the highlands above 2,500m. Some of our favourite experiences close to Nairobi are a visit to Karen Blixen, the Sheldrick Wildlife Trust's elephant orphanage or the Giraffe Centre, before heading off towards the highlands.

Maasai Mara

The Mara is mostly a low-risk malaria area thanks to its elevation – sitting at around 6,000ft above sea level. The park is most famous for the annual wildebeest migration, with thousands of wildebeests, antelopes and zebras are constantly on the move in search of fresh grasslands, all the while stalked by a variety of predators.

The best time of year to see this spectacle in the Mara is between July and October before they head into Tanzania’s Serengeti – but there’s never a bad time to visit this iconic wildlife destination. One of our favourite accommodation options in the area is Angama Mara where you can spend time in their photographic studio, enjoying sundowners on the kopje from the famous film, Out of Africa, or on game drives exploring the Mara Triangle.

A lion family prowling in the Angama mara.

Laikipia

A pioneer in community-based conservation, the Laikipia Plateau in central Kenya is known for its rugged beauty, fantastic Big 5 wildlife sightings as well as endangered species, such as Grevy's zebra and reticulated giraffe.

Some of our favourite, low-impact ways to explore this 350 sqkm conservancy is on horseback or mountain bikes, which is offered by the likes of Borana Lodge, a GER® (Global Ecosphere Retreat®) member of The Long Run. It is considered ultra-low risk for malaria. We believe it is one of the best places in all of Africa to encounter white and black rhinos, which thrive here in numbers seen nowhere else.

There are also other areas where malaria risk is considered low, especially out of the rainy season, such as Samburu and Ol Pejeta.

Giraffe surrounded by people on horses in the Lewa Wilderness in Laikpia.

Malaria-free Safaris in Botswana

Botswana is known for its water-based safaris, and therefore, malaria prophylactics are recommended when visiting most areas, including the Okavango Delta. However, by visiting the more remote reserves where there is a low population and very dry environment with no stagnant water for breeding mosquitos, the risks are very low.

Northern Tuli / Mashatu Game Reserve

Situated in eastern Botswana, on the border with South Africa, the Tuli Block boasts a variety of habitats, including riverine forests, open savannah, and rocky outcrops, providing sanctuary to elephants, leopards, and rare antelope species.

Mashatu is on the fringe of the Kalahari Desert is largely considered malaria-free (unless they have had a particularly wet season) and is home to no less than seven of Africa’s “giants” – the African elephant, the lion, giraffe, the baobab tree, the eland, ostrich and the kori bustard.

Elephants near the Mashatu Game Lodge

Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park

Kgalagadi is Botswana's only malaria-free safari experience. Whether you're tracking elusive predators, enjoying sundowners and a Kalahari sunset, the Kgalagadi promises an unforgettable safari adventure.

Meerkats in the Kalahari Desert

Why is malaria more common in Africa?


There are many reasons that malaria is so persistent in Africa, including poverty, human movement, resistance and climate change. Malaria thrives in tropical and subtropical climates where parasites, especially the female Anopheles mosquito, are responsible for high transmission.

Due to poverty, the local population is less likely to have access to mosquito nets, pesticides, prophylactics - and medication to treat those already infected. A mosquito needs to have bitten an infected person to pass it on to the next – so in densely populated areas it is more easily spread.

It is important to remember that prophylactics are readily available, and that malaria is curable if diagnosed quickly and treated correctly. You can read more about it on the ECDC website.

Are you looking to embark on a malaria-free safari in 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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