The 10 best safaris to do in South Africa

South Africa is, unsurprisingly, one of the best safari destinations in the world. The country has a large number of animal reserves and national parks inhabited by exceptional and fascinating wildlife. In addition to offering grandiose landscapes of astonishing diversity, South Africa is the destination where you have the best chance of observing the lions, buffaloes, elephants, leopards and black rhinos that make up the Big Five. From the unmissable Kruger to the more confidential Madikwe, these parks have a unique and unforgettable adventure in store for you. Ready to meet Africa’s most emblematic animals in their natural habitat? Discover without delay the 10 best safaris to do in South Africa.

1. Parc National Kruger

Lions in Kruger National Park, South Africa

The best time to go : all year round, and/or between November and December for the period of births.
The best of the park : best place to see the Big Five

Covering an area of ​​approximately 20,000 km2, the Kruger National Park is one of the largest game reserves in Africa and the most important in the country. But what makes Kruger Park particularly popular is the presence of the famous Big Five. In total, nearly 150 species of mammals, including giraffes and cheetahs, and 500 species of birds live freely in the bush of this famous park.

Kruger is the perfect place to go on a safari in South Africa, but note that it is also very busy. It is located in the northeast of the country, about 5 hours drive from Johannesburg .

2. Addo Elephant National Park

Elephants, Addo National Park, South Africa

The best time to go : all year round, and/or from June to November to have the chance to see whales.
The advantages of the park : considered the kingdom of elephants, the presence of the Big Seven and a malaria-free zone.

Going on a safari in Addo Elephant National Park is sure to come across herds of African elephants in their natural habitat. Today, this reserve is home to over 500 elephants, as well as black rhinos, lions, hyenas, Cape buffaloes, antelopes and a wide variety of birds.

Located in the south of the country, in the Sundays River Valley, Addo Elephant Park is the third largest park in South Africa, after Kruger and Kgalagadi. Better than the Big Five, Addo National Park, which is bordered by the ocean, is home to the Big Seven which additionally includes the southern right whale and the great white shark.

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3. Pilanesberg National Park

Safaris to do in South Africa: Pilanesberg National Park

The best time to go : all year round, even if the best time is the dry season, from May to September.
The advantages of the park : very affordable, possibility of observing a variety of fauna, including the Big Five, in a quieter atmosphere.

Let’s continue our tour of the best safaris to do in South Africa in the Bojanala region, in the heart of the Pilanesberg volcanic crater. This park, with an area of ​​550 km2, benefits from an exceptional geographical location between the Lowveld (low altitude plain) with its humid vegetation and the dry Kalahari desert.

It is therefore wild animals from two different ecosystems that cohabit in the Pilanesberg. Thus, you can observe, among others, the Big Five, giraffes, zebras, crocodiles, white rhinos, snakes or buffaloes!

4. Madikwe Reserve

Portrait of a zebra, Madikwe Game Reserve, South Africa

The best time to go : all year round
The advantages of the park : more exclusive, possibility of seeing the Big Five and wild dogs or African wild dogs.

Madikwe is an animal sanctuary in northwestern South Africa, on the border with Botswana. This private reserve is managed by the North West Parks and Tourism Board (NWPTB) and is only accessible to people sleeping in the park’s lodges. Madikwe benefits from a particularly rich and varied fauna and flora. The rangers take care to guarantee the tranquility of the animals and offer good safari conditions to visitors by limiting the number of 4×4 on the same observation.

What awaits you on a safari in Madikwe? The Big Five, black antelopes, impalas or even wild dogs, an endangered species!

5. Mapungubwe National Park

Safaris to do in South Africa: Mapungubwe

The best time to go : all year round, especially from May to August to stay dry
The advantages of the park : a UNESCO World Heritage Site, rich history and breathtaking landscapes

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Let’s continue our top safaris to do in South Africa with Mapungubwe. Mapungubwe National Park in Limpopo Province is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Steeped in history, this park protects the remains of Mapungubwe Hill, capital of the first South African kingdom.

Mapungubwe is also distinguished by its natural landscapes composed of giant baobab trees, river forests and sandstone formations. And the wildlife is just as abundant! In particular, you can see in this real paradise hundreds of different species of birds, white and black rhinos, elephants and meerkats.

6. Hluhluwe-Imfolozi Reserve

Antelopes, Hluhluwe-Imfolozi, South Africa

The best time to go : all year round. During the rainy season, from October to March, the vegetation is more verdant and lush.
The advantages of the park : the oldest reserve in Africa, concentration of rhinos and presence of the Big Five.

Founded in 1895, Hluhluwe-Imfolozi is the oldest of African reserves. With more than 1600 white rhinos, a rare species, and 370 black rhinos, it is home to the largest concentration of rhinos in the world. But these are not the only animals to live in this hilly setting!

By going on a safari in the Hluhluwe-Imfolozi reserve, you have every chance of coming face to face (or almost) with the Big Five, giraffes, nyalas or even wild dogs.

7. Sabi Sand Reserve

An adult lioness and her sub-adult baby walking in the first golden morning light., Sabi Sand, South Africa

The best time to go : all year round
The advantages of the park : renowned for its population of leopards, presence of the Big Five, very exclusive and calmer.

Sabi Sand is one of the best nature reserves among safaris to do in South Africa. It is located in the immediate vicinity of the iconic Kruger Park with which it shares no barrier. The animals are therefore free to move from one park to another. As a result, it is not uncommon to spot the Big Five, antelopes, hyenas and above all, majestic leopards in this private reserve.

8. Kgalagadi Park

Safaris to do in South Africa: Kgalagadi

The best time to go : all year round, especially from May to October
The advantages of the park : observation of oryxes and incredible desert landscapes

The Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park is shared between the Kalahari region of South Africa and Botswana. It actually brings together two former national parks, which are the Kalahari Gemsbok National Park (South Africa) and the Gemsbok National Park (Botswana). In this desert ecosystem, lions and cheetahs rub shoulders with wildebeest, zebras, meerkats and a large number of bird species.

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But the emblematic animal of the park is the oryx ! Do you dream of a unique experience in the heart of the African bush? Go on a safari in Kgalagadi Park!

9. Shamwari Reserve

Safaris to do in South Africa: Shamwari

The best time to go : all year round, especially from December to February
The advantages of the park : malaria-free zone, presence of the Big Five and spectacular landscapes

The private reserve of Shamwari, which means “ my friend ” in the Shona language, is home to no less than five different ecosystems. While immersing yourself in the wilderness of Shamwari, in the Eastern Cape, you will probably encounter the Big Five, rhinos, cheetahs or even zebras.

In addition, the park has set up a program on the conservation and protection of endangered species. Shamwari has been voted the world’s best safari and conservation reserve for several consecutive years.

10.Marakele National Park

Koudou, Marakele, South Africa

The best time to go : during the dry season, from May to September
The advantages of the park : malaria-free zone and the colony of Cape vultures

Let’s finish this selection of safaris to do in South Africa in Marakele, in the province of Limpopo. It is in this national park that you will find the largest colony of Cape vultures in the world, endangered birds. Nestled in the heart of the Waterberg Mountains, Marakele offers a unique environment for the coveted Big Five, and the hundreds of other mammals and birds that call it home.

You are now ready for the big trip! Which of these safaris to do in South Africa will you choose?

All Photos credit: Shutterstock

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Mohamed SAKHRI
Mohamed SAKHRI

I am Mohamed SAKHRI, the creator and editor-in-chief of this blog, 'Discover the World – The Blog for Curious Travelers.' Join me as we embark on a journey around the world, uncovering beautiful places, diverse cultures, and captivating stories. Additionally, we will delve into mysterious and, at times, even bizarre destinations.

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