Nearly all the following options feature traditional safari activities such as guided game drives and most also offer hikes, walks and trails or other speciality activities. The majority of the reserves have resident Big Five game (Elephant, Lion, Buffalo, Rhino and Leopard) but also many equally fascinating species such as Cheetah or other endangered / rare animals plus excellent birding.
The Eastern Cape has got malaria free safaris down to a fine art. Most reserves are quick and easy to get to from Port Elizabeth, the Gateway to the Garden Route. The ‘friendly city’ forms a pivotal hub for busy visitors who do not have time / energy for lengthy car journeys or the budget for fly-ins. A bonus is that you can do the Garden Route and a Big Five Safari in one holiday without endless flight connections and transfers, also families with small children will have less stress and strain.
Bush and Beach
For visitors heading for East London, there are 2 reserves to choose from. Inkwenkwezi Reserve is close to the Wild Coast and offers Elephant-Back Rides and many outdoor activities. Nearer to the city is Mpongo Game Reserve.
About an hour north of Port Elizabeth there are 3 other reserves with seaside options. Addo Elephant National Park features a large population of Elephants as part of the Big 7 (including the Whale and White Shark) – it’s going to be a mega park with a marine reserve and a range of attractions. At Amakhala Game Reserve you can enjoy great river cruises while on safari. Kariega Game Reserve is close to the Blue Flag beach at Kenton-on-Sea and also offers cruises plus canoeing.
There are 4 reserves clustered around Grahamstown, the historic City of Saints, home to Rhodes University, the 1820 Settler Museum / Archives and the National Arts Festival. Kwande Game Reserve defines itself with a great Kids Programme, tailor-made walking safaris and protection of endangered wildlife such as the Blue Crane. Lalibela Game Reserve also has a great Kids Programme, while Pumba Game Reserve features a pride of free roaming White Lions (one of only 3 in the country). The Great Fish River Nature Reserve has a number of historic buildings and rock art sites to complement game drives.
The Great Karoo
This ancient region used to be the stomping ground of dinosaurs and there is evidence for this at many sites scattered over a wide area. Bushmen paintings and rock art sites are also quite common. Graaff-Reinet is at the heart of the action and there are 3 reserves nearby with game drives and other activities available. Mount Camdeboo Game Reserve offers Cheetah tracking, Anglo-Boer history and fossil tours. Mountain Zebra National Park highlights the protection of the Cape Mountain Zebra (saved from extinction) and rock art sites. Samara Game Reserve has a great Kids Programme, Cheetah tracking and rock art sites.
The Western Cape
The Western Cape is not known as a traditional safari destination, but there are certainly opportunities provided. Daily game drives and safari activities are offered on the Garden Route at Plettenberg Bay Game Reserve, or you can enjoy Elephant-Back Rides and bush walks at the Knysna Elephant Park. Inland near Beaufort West you can safari at the Karoo National Park, also known for its fossil displays, hikes, walks and trails. Just north of Cape Town at Aquila Game Reserve you can go quad biking and on game drives as well as visit rock art sites.
The Northern Cape makes an excellent escape when other parts of the country are in the depths of winter. Tswalu Kalahari Game Reserve near Kuruman features 4 very special animals, the Desert Black Rhino, black-maned Kalahari Lion, Cheetah and Roan Antelope. All the traditional safari activities are offered plus kids activities, also horse riding, dune sleep outs, rock art and hot air ballooning.
KwaZulu-Natal has a number of regions where you can enjoy malaria free safari activities combined with a variety of other options such as bush and beach, bush and mountain, bush and Zulu culture or bush and battlefields. A bush and mountain combination can be experienced at Nambiti Plains Game Lodge and Conservancy and also at Pakamisa Private Game Reserve. A quick escape from the city of Durban would take you to Tala Game Reserve, or you could combine bush and Zulu culture and visit Tula Tula Private Game Reserve.
North West Province
In the Pilanesberg National Park which is about 2 hours drive from Johannesburg. This extremely rare geological feature is one of the largest of its kind in the world. You can enjoy a great range of game viewing activities and also visit Sun City with its massive entertainment complex.
The Waterberg Biosphere in the Limpopo Province is also easily accessible from Johannesburg and Pretoria. The drive takes about 2 – 3 hours depending on where you go or you could fly-in. The Waterberg is recognised by UNESCO as the world’s only savannah biosphere and there are many attractions to enjoy in this area such as amazing rock art sites, cultural highlights and arts and crafts. Traditional safari activities and other outdoor options are available at these reserves.
Clearwater Kudu Lodge has a good number of White Rhino, while KaIngo Private Reserve and Spa has a Cheetah programme (also Buffalo and Sable). Kololo Game Reserve is involved in Leopard conservation and offers comprehensive activities including biking and tours. Mabalingwe Nature Reserve includes horseback rides in its safari activities and you can also go on bird watching drives. Apart from its Big Game, Marakele National Park is also a birding haven (especially raptors) with a huge vulture colony and the safari activities include a 2 night 4x4 eco trail.