The safari is a quintessential African experience that has captivated travellers for decades. The continent has many exotic destinations to choose from, but South Africa offers some of the most fantastic safari options for every budget. Home to a range of game-heavy private and national parks, visitors can choose from a selection of reserves abounding with animals and vegetation unique to certain parts of the country. Coupled with good infrastructure, South Africa remains the best place to experience this magical adventure. One of the keys to a good safari is an experienced guide and tracker team. In most private reserves and national parks you can expect incredibly skilled guides and trackers who have a deep understanding of their surroundings and an unparalleled knowledge of the bush. These highly experienced and passionate guides will make sure you experience the rare sightings that people remember forever.
One of the biggest benefits of visiting a private reserve is the exclusivity and unlimited access to every part of the reserve. Only authorised vehicles are allowed within the private concession, so you won’t be sharing a spectacular sighting with hundreds of other scrambling tourists. In private reserves, guides can drive off-road and get up close to sightings, no matter how off-the-beaten-track they are. The ability to go on a game drive at any hour of the day is also a huge advantage. Because the private reserves don’t have time restrictions, game drives take place in the early mornings and late evenings, when animals are at their most active. Your guide will pack hot coffee and rusks (a South African biscuit) for the morning drives, and gin and tonic and biltong for the evening game drives – these small luxuries will make your experience all the more enjoyable. Most of the private reserves offer all-inclusive or full-board options with meals and twice-daily optional game-drives included. Considering all the added extras, staying in a private reserve will often work out to be great value for money, especially in low or shoulder season.
For most locals, an annual bush holiday involves visiting one of the national parks and not a private reserve. South Africa’s national parks are as game-dense as any of the private reserves; they’re just less exclusive because they are a lot larger than private reserves. Although public national parks tend to have a lot of vehicles in high season (school holidays are very busy), there are many hidden roads, which don’t have any traffic at all. You also don’t have to limit yourself to a well-known, high-traffic park like Kruger.
There are many other national parks to choose from, such as The Pilanesberg National Park and Madikwe Game Reserve which are in the North West Province. The parks are home to an abundance of wildlife and some really good accommodation options. Tshukudu Game Lodge, Ivory Tree Game Lodge and Madikwe Hills and Madikwe Safari Lodge are all great, upscale lodges located within the national parks. These lodges can all be easily accessed by car from Johannesburg and although not always included in the price, they also offer game drives, meals and transfers, so you don’t have to worry about planning all the added extras independently. Alternatively, if you’re in search of a real, authentic adventure, there are many low-budget, basic accommodations, which can be found on the SANParks website, sanparks.org
Where to stay
Londolozi is a family owned Private Game Reserve with a range of Relais & Châteaux status accommodation options in the Sabi Sand Game Reserve. Unique to South Africa, the five outback lodgings embrace the Londolozi Life philosophy and provide premium luxury experiences with unsurpassed safari experiences. Rates start from Z10920 (about A$1023) for a Chalet in the Varty Camp inclusive of two game drives, nature walks led by trackers, and all meals and beverages. londolozi.com
For a mid to high-end lodge which is more affordable, Jock Safari Lodge is a great option. It is also located on a private concession of the park and has all the same benefits of a private reserve, but without the frills – or the high price tag. Rates start from R5970 (about A$545) per person per night for the Main Jock Lodge. jocksafarilodge.com