When to go on Safari
I love the African bush. I have never gone on safari and been disappointed because I love everything about it. Winter and early spring are my favourite seasons in the bush for game-viewing. Saying that, any time I can spend on safari makes me happy and I find each day brings surprises and often unexpected sightings.
Winter – June, July, and August
Winter is an excellent time for a wildlife safari in South Africa. The grasses have died back, many trees and bushes have shed their foliage, enabling you to see so much more, and further into the bush. The absence of rainfall during the winter months forces antelope and other game to use waterholes. Their reliance on fewer watering holes attracts predators which are following the herds, increasing your changes of amazing game sightings.
Spring – September, October, and November
Spring heralds the start of the rainy season. The first rains promote new life in the bushveld. The African bush transforms into a brilliant green providing fresh abundant grazing and water for the herds of antelope and other game. The start of the rainy season also triggers the birthing for many antelope and other animals. The downside of visiting South Africa during the winter and early spring seasons is that it is regarded as the ‘High Season’ so accommodation rates are much higher. Request your travel agent to book early or use the shoulder seasons and hopefully you will get a better deal.
Choosing Self-Drive or a Private Reserve for your Safari
On safari there will be days when you will see more wildlife than others. Luck and timing plays a big role in sightings. But experienced rangers will enhance your opportunity of finding game due to their experience and knowledge of the bush.
Most tourists going on safari are often keen to spot the ‘Big 5’ : Buffalo, Elephant, Leopard, Lion and Rhino. I recommend selecting a private reserve for your wildlife safari as it enhances your changes of seeing the ‘Big 5’ and other select wildlife.
Rangers and trackers working on private reserves build up a history and knowledge of the bush they are traversing. This enables them to better locate wild animals which are often territorial and habitual. By understanding their environment, this knowledge and information helps them to enrich your African bush safari experience.
As opposed to a self-drive in a National Park, a well-managed private reserve provides guided day and night game drives, walks and other activities designed to maximise your game viewing experience.
My Favourite Safari Regions in South Africa
I am selecting private reserves in regions that are typically easily included in a South African Safari Holiday itinerary. I have broken the regions into ‘Malaria’ and ‘Malaria-Free’ regions. You should however, always check with your GP for the current advice with regards to vaccinations and anti-malarial drugs recommended for the region you are visiting.
Through good malaria control efforts, the disease is now restricted to certain districts in three provinces; namely the north-eastern KwaZulu-Natal, parts of Mpumalanga and Limpopo.
Mpumalanga is a high-risk area for malaria, so precautions need to be taken. The best way to avoid been bitten is by covering up and using insect repellent. I would recommend using local insect repellent. Tabard is widely available at supermarkets and pharmacies all over South Africa. Wear light coloured clothing when the sun sets and cover up as much as possible.
The Kruger National Park
The Kruger National Park (KNP) is one of the largest national parks in the world, covering an area of 19,485 square kilometres (7,523 sq. miles). The park is approximately 360 kilometres (220 miles) long, with an average width of 65 kilometres (40 miles). The KNP offers a selection of public and smaller private camps. Driving in the Kruger Park is amazing. Being able to drive all day using different routes in a game reserve is very special. The downside is, if you have limited knowledge of the bush, you may not recognise the less well-known creatures that make this incredible reserve their home.
Private Reserves outside the Kruger National Park
There are private game reserves which border the Kruger National Park. These private reserves, for example, Mjejane Game Reserve is across the Crocodile River from the Kruger National Park. Mjejane supports the ‘Big 5’ offering game drives and walks to visitors. Many people base themselves at a lodge such as Mjejane and then do day trips into the park. This offers you a more cost-effective solution and will work out a lot cheaper than booking into a private lodge in the Greater Kruger National Park (GKNP). However, the experience albeit often amazing, in my opinion, will not be as rewarding as a lodge in the GKNP.
Private Lodges in the Greater Kruger National Park
The private reserves within the Greater Kruger National Park (GKNP) are my first choice for any safari in South Africa. The world-renowned lodges offer 5-star accommodation, services, and Awesome game viewing opportunities.
Experience the African bush in style at Ulusaba. This is a stunning reserve with outstanding accommodation options. Ulusaba means “place of little fear”. At award-winning Ulusaba you can traverse over 13,500 hectares of private reserve. Pure luxury in the bush.
MalaMala Game Reserve
Comprising 13 300 hectares, MalaMala shares a 12-mile unfenced border with the Kruger National Park. Visiting MalaMala is often rewarded with exceptional wildlife encounters.
Londolozi is in the heart of the Sabi Sand Game Reserve within the GKNP. The reserve is renowned for its leopards as well as the breeding herds of elephant and buffalo that roam throughout reserve.
The Thornybush collection offers guests the choice of twelve different camps and lodges in a pristine part of the GKNP. The reserve covers 14,000-hectares of unspoilt African bushveld offering excellent ‘Big 5’ game viewing opportunities.
This fantastic reserve offers an affordable, luxury bush experience. Renowned for its hospitable and informative staff. The game drives offer opportunities to locate the ‘Big 5’ as well as a variety of other exciting African mammals. I absolutely love this lodge; the staff truly make your visit so memorable.
Klaserie Sands River Camp
At the Klaserie Sands River Camp expect to be impressed. This lush and intimate lodge accommodates just eight guests in luxurious suites along the dry N’tsiri riverbed. At Klaserie Sands River Camp you can enjoy a complete African safari experience, with daily game-drives as well as guided bush walks.
The Umlani Bushcamp is an eco-safari lodge in the Timbavati Private Nature Reserve, part of Greater Kruger National Park. Umlani offers a more basic experience enhancing the real magic of Africa. The traditional African reed and thatch huts are created utilising local Shangaan tribal architecture.
There is a very small risk of contracting malaria in the wet summer months from September to May in parts of South Africa. Based on new research, Hluhluwe-Imfolozi is now located in a low-risk zone, and antimalarials are no longer considered necessary.
Hluhluwe Imfolozi Park
The Hluhluwe Imfolozi Park is the oldest proclaimed reserve in Africa. This 96,000-hectare reserve is divided into two separate Parks, namely the Hluhluwe Game Reserve and Imfolozi Game Reserve.
Phinda Game Reserve
Phinda Game Reserve is located just outside of ISimangaliso Wetland Park on the northern Kwa-Zulu Natal coast. The park is known for its concentration of wildlife, including both white and black rhino.
North West Province
The Pilanesberg National Park
The Pilanesberg is an easy drive from Johannesburg and ideal for those out on holiday or business with limited time. The ‘malaria free’ reserve boasts several camps and apart from the ‘Big 5’ offers an awesome variety of game.
The Amakhala Game Reserve located in the malaria-free Eastern Cape of South Africa began in 1999 as a joint conservation venture between the owners of six lodges who are direct descendants of the original Frontier settlers some five generations ago and arrived here with the British settlers of 1820.
Shamwari Private Game Reserve
Shamwari Game Reserve is an awesome wildlife reserve offering excellent game viewing in the Eastern Cape.
Some areas in the eastern part of this province do pose a malaria risk. However, the Welgevonden and Marakele National Parks are located in ‘malaria-free’ zones.
Welgevonden Game Reserve (Dutch for “well found”), is a 34,850 hectare game reserve in the Waterberg District, of the Limpopo Province of South Africa.
North West Province
Madikwe Game Reserve
Madikwe Game Reserve is a conservation area in South Africa’s North West Province, bordering Botswana. The reserve’s grassland, forest and rocky hills are home to a variety of wildlife such as elephants, lions, leopards and rhinos, plus the endangered wild dogs.
A wildlife safari in South Africa is a must to include in any South African Holiday itinerary. Read our Blog Post: 10 Reasons to Holiday in South Africa