Broadly speaking, a safari is one of the coolest things you can ever do on vacation. While there’s never a guarantee that you’ll see every animal you want to see, and different safaris can offer very different experiences, the concept remains the same. You get to explore a beautiful natural environment, typically with some very interesting people, and get a close (but safe) look at some of the world’s rarest and most fascinating animals.
Safaris are available to travelers all over the African continent. But as you might expect give its popularity with tourists, South Africa has more opportunities than many other countries. So to help narrow them down I’m taking a quick look at four of the best safari reserves and packages throughout the country.
1. Kruger National Park
The Kruger National Park is one of the biggest safari areas in the world, and one of the most popular in all of Africa. Located in the Northeast near the border with Mozambique, it’s been set aside as a reserve since the late-19th century. Kruger National park is large enough to encompass a variety of habitats (some more lush and wooded, others more open and dry), and is home to all of the “big five” game animals: lions, leopards, rhinoceroses, African elephants, and African buffalo. And in addition, as one write-up stated, there are more mammal species roaming free overall than at any other game reserve. Visiting, you have the option of a self-drive experience on a 4×4 and a guided van tour, and there are plenty of different lodges to stay at.
For more information about the Kruger, read my Ultimate Safari Guide guide to the Kruger
2. Hluhluwe Umfolozi Game Park
Another Eastern park, Hluhluwe Umfolozi Game Park is located near the coast and north of Durban. And in practice it’s actually fairly similar to Kruger, though not as large. It’s another park where you can see the big five game species, as well as enjoy a self-drive safari experience, should you want to. The environment is a little bit different at Hluhluwe Umfolozi – for the most part, wetter – and the park is a little smaller. But it’s not as if you’ll easily come to the end of it. Hluhluwe Umfolozi also happens to be the oldest game reserve in all of Africa.
3. Madikwe Game Reserve
Close to the Botswana border and the Kalahari Desert, Madikwe is a slightly different sort of park. It too offers big five viewing opportunities, but in a somewhat more private environment (only people staying at the Madikwe lodges are allowed out into the park at any given time), and with a different terrain. Madikwe also offers a more dynamic vacation opportunity for those interested, because it’s one of the parks that launches expeditions from the Sun City Resort in Rustenberg. Known as one of the best resorts in the world for casino activity, Sun City is teeming with luxury and recreation, and makes for a fun place to stay a night or two on either end of a Madikwe safari.
4. Addo Elephant Park
We’ll wrap up with Addo Elephant Park, which is in the South, on the Eastern Cape. It’s one of the largest reserves in the country and it actually isn’t a big five park. But that’s not to say it doesn’t have some unique opportunities of its own. The park’s website currently puts the number at over 350 African elephants in the park, as well as 280 buffalo, black rhino, and antelopes. Additionally, the Sundays River flowing in from the Indian Ocean provides some special scenery that enhances the park further. Throw in fairly close proximity to Port Elizabeth as the start of the Garden Route and it’s hard not to want to visit.
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