South Africa is famous for its big-cat sightings. © Andrew Schoeman

Best South Africa Safaris

The best South Africa safaris are just as diverse, but equally magical, as the ‘rainbow nation’ itself. This is because – perhaps more than any other country in Africa – South Africa boasts a remarkable variety of landscapes, cultures and wildlife. Let’s take a look at the experiences, lodges, itineraries and parks on offer.

The best South Africa safaris vary not in quality – this is a country that does safari holidays exceptionally well – but in content. That’s because of the generous range of options available, especially when it comes to luxury accommodation. 

It’s a truism that the best South Africa safari lodges tend to be found in private protected areas, such as Sabi Sand game reserve adjoining Kruger National Park. Often, fences between adjacent areas have been dropped as part of visionary conservation schemes. The resulting free movement of wildlife leads to exceptional game viewing. 

The best South Africa safari experiences may focus on a particular species or type of animal, such as learning to locate big cats or discovering the secret skills of rhino trackers. They may focus on a unique landscape or habitat, such as South Africa’s vast expanse of Kalahari sands or the fynbos vegetation of the Cape Peninsula. 

South Africa’s fecundity is legendary, with the winelands of the Western Cape producing world-class vintages – perfect for accompanying a gourmet meal created using seasonal ingredients from an organic kitchen garden. 

Even South Africa’s best safari itineraries may not manage to encompass everything that’s wonderful about South Africa. Perhaps that’s why so many travellers return year after year, whether motivated by another nine holes or discovering a whole new province. 

Heading any list of South Africa’s best safari parks and reserves, Kruger is an expanse of wilderness the size of Switzerland. Snapping at its heels like wild dogs are Addo, Pilanesberg and the ruggedly beautiful Table Mountain National Park. 

Take a look below to find out more, as well as to learn when to go.

When to Go

South Africa’s seasons are essentially the inverse of the Northern Hemisphere, meaning that these are the warmer summer and autumn months. Much of South Africa receives its rain now, in the welcome and refreshing shape of brief, sharp afternoon downpours. The exception is the Western Cape, where warm, dry days make for perfect beach conditions. The bushveld of the Greater Kruger National Park is dry as this period begins – making it easier to see wildlife – becoming progressively lusher with the rains. Newborn animals vie for your attention with migrating birds.

These are the cooler months of winter and spring. The Western Cape receives its rain now, but elsewhere it’s dry. Vegetation becomes sparser and wildlife congregates at water sources, making this the best time of year to go on safari in Greater Kruger National Park. Cold mornings and evenings contrast with pleasantly warm days, so dress in layers. To combine beach time with wildlife viewing, your best option is Maputaland in KwaZulu-Natal, with its famously warm year-round climate.

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