Embark on the Ultimate Adventure By Going on a Safari in South Africa
It’s a Wild World out There
Safaris are the ultimate adventure. Clad in khaki, armed with a good hat and an even better camera, you’ll feel like a true explorer as you cruise savannas in a beat up Land Rover. (Not only will these items make you feel like an explorer these, among other safari gear, will ensure you are safe and comfortable on the trip!)
South Africa is one of the best safari destinations on the entire continent, with vast parks that are home to some of the greatest creatures on Earth.
For all the animal lovers and wanderlusters, here is a guide to South Africa safaris.
The Best Safari Parks
Start planning your safari by deciding on the park you want to visit. You can plan a trip that incorporates two or three parks, but unless you have a pretty big budget, chances are you’ll only be able to afford to visit one. A safari can set you back anywhere from a few hundred to a few thousand dollars, but more on that later.
These parks are all stunningly beautiful, with classic African vistas. Most importantly, they all have great wildlife spotting opportunities, so no matter where you go you’ll get the true safari experience.
Kruger National Park
One of the most famous national parks in all of Africa, Kruger is the most popular safari destination in South Africa. Don’t let that put you off though — around the size of Wales, there is more than enough space in the park for all the visitors it gets, not to mention the vast array of wildlife that lives there.
Mala Mala Game Reserve
A private reserve that boasts all of the Big Five (the lion, the African elephant, the Cape buffalo, the leopard and the rhinoceros), Mala Mala is a classic safari option. It is quiet and uncrowded, which is invaluable on the safari circuit.
Phinda Private Game Reserve
Phinda is one of the best places in Africa to see the elusive cheetah.
Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park
On the border with Botswana, Kgalagadi appeals to anyone who wants to take the wheel and do a self-driving safari. The red dunes and dry rivers in the park also create some fabulous scenery.
Sabi Sand Game Reserve
Sabi Sands is where you should go if you want to tick off sightings of the Big Five — in fact, this reserve is considered to be one of the best places to spot wildlife in the world.
You are almost guaranteed to see all of these animals on your tour, but one of the downsides of this is that safaris here can feel like they are structured around checking off the more celebrated animal species.
From Budget to Luxury: Choosing Your Level of Comfort
Although a safari in South Africa is never going to be dirt cheap, you can find tours on the whole spectrum, from budget camping gigs to the ultra-luxurious options that ensure comfort and style the whole way.
The cheapest way to go on safari in South Africa is to organize your own tour, and to stay in national parks. This will require a little more research, independence and advance planning, but you could save yourself hundreds of dollars a day.
South Africa National Parks — or SANParks — runs 20 national parks across the country. These parks have cheaper lodging than private reserves. The accommodation available covers everything from basic campsites and huts, to guesthouses and chalets.
You can make bookings via sanparks.org, the central website for all the parks. To complete the budget experience, you can then opt for a self-drive tour.
Another option to keep safari costs down is to book accommodation outside of the parks and reserves. Towns close to popular destinations like Kruger have a whole selection of campsites, hotels and resorts to choose from, and many of them will also be able to arrange tours if you don’t have your own vehicle.
For DIY safari tours you can expect to pay between $150 and $200 a day, depending on the style of accommodation you choose. For a bit of extra help arranging a low-cost safari, your best bet is to check out African Budget Safaris — they have a comprehensive directory of safaris to suit all budgets and travelers.
Mid-range is a fairly broad category, encompassing any safaris costing between $300 and $1,000 per day. The cost difference mostly comes down to the accommodation you choose. Even simple safari lodges can cost several hundred dollars a night, and glamping options with hot water showers and proper beds aren’t much cheaper.
If you’re after a decent level of comfort and relative ease, a good option is to book a package safari that includes all of your accommodation, meals, transport and a guide. This will land you squarely in the mid-range field, but you’ll be able to enjoy a fuss-free experience.
To take advantage of higher-end accommodations for mid-range prices, try and book your travel in the off season. The chic Samara Private Game Reserve has rates starting at less than $200 for a tent suite in low season, for example, which includes meals and game drives.
In high season, the same experience would cost twice as much, if not more.
If you’re aiming toward the higher end of the cost scale and spending upward of $1,000 a night doesn’t faze you, it’s easy to go all-out on luxury on a South African safari.
The higher-end options are usually the private reserves, where you will have unparalleled proximity to wildlife, fewer crowds to contend with, and accommodation complete with every amenity you can imagine.
You’ll also be able to enjoy more individual attention and customized tours. You can tailor your safari however you like, with a combination of driving, walking and even flying tours.
A couple of luxury all-inclusive lodges to look out for are:
- The Ant’s Nest: A family-friendly colonial homestead with a relaxed and homely vibe. It’s equal parts cozy and luxurious, with expert game drives to boot.
- Royal Malewane: One of South Africa’s best up-market safari lodges, it comes equipped with state-of-the-art vehicles and veteran trackers and guides. You’ll get closer than you thought possible to the Big Five, then return to the lodge to be pampered in the decadent suites.