South Africa Safari Guide

Safari Options To Suit Every Budget and Abundant Wildlife

South Africa is where your safari dreams can come true. It is a country blessed with some outstanding safari destinations and abundant wildlife, and is one of the most popular regions in Africa for a safari experience - whether you are a 'safari first timer' or a returning safari enthusiast. It is also without doubt one of the best places to see the famous Big 5 (sometimes even in just one day!), and has a wide range of safari lodges to suit any budget. It is also the only country in Africa where you can go on safari without having to take malaria tablets - and for many people, this is a real bonus.

LeopardThe Kruger National Park is probably the best known and most popular of the South African safari destinations, and offers truly world-class Big 5 game viewing. The world-famous private game reserves and safari lodges in this area offer possibly the best Big 5 game viewing opportunities to be found anywhere on the entire African continent, with lion and leopard tracking a particular speciality. And it is not just about the safari experience - some of the private lodges here are amongst the best in the world, offering outstanding accommodation and service.

Even in South Africa, where the Rand normally means a holiday here is good value, a safari still has a reputation of being expensive, but you just have to pick and choose carefully and 'cut your garment according to your cloth' so to speak. Private lodges in South Africa range in price from Rand 3,000 per person per night to upwards of Rand 37,000 per night - so there is a wide choice to choose from!  The rates usually include your accommodation, all meals and both sunrise and sunset game drives in customised game viewing vehicles. The more expensive lodges will also normally include all of your drinks, and the accommodation will be more luxurious.

Whether you want to just go on safari, or combine a safari with a beach stay, or enjoy a safari before or after exploring other areas of South Africa for a more varied holiday experience, choosing South Africa will be the perfect choice. It really does offer so much in terms of wildlife, culture and scenery and of course accessibility - with major airlines flying here daily from across the globe.

We’ve got a huge soft spot for a South African safari. We’ve done every kind of safari imaginable here in all of the main wildlife viewing areas of the country, and personally visited most of the lodges that we offer. Needless to say, we really know our safari stuff!

Here’s our guide to safaris in South Africa, based on all of the knowledge and experience that we’ve picked up over the years. Hopefully, this will help you get an idea of what you need and want from your own South Africa safari holiday. Of course, we would be also delighted to answer any questions that you have about your holiday, so please do get in touch if you need a little extra help.


Kruger National Park

Lion sighting

Covering some 2 million hectares which are given wholly over to wildlife conservation, the Kruger National Park is home to an astounding array of wildlife - lion, leopard, elephant, rhino and buffalo, as well as zebra, antelope, cheetah, giraffe, hyena, wild dog - 147 different mammal species and nearly 500 bird species to be more precise!

If you choose to stay in a private neighbouring reserves or in one of the handful of private concessions in the Park itself, you’ll be treated to dawn and dusk guided safari game drives with an experienced ranger and tracker team that will take you off-road through the African bush, getting you unbelievably close to the wildlife you encounter.

Some of the finest safari lodges in South Africa are found here, as well as others which are more modest in terms of price.

Or you can head off in a hire car and explore the National Park under your own steam and have a real self-drive safari adventure.

A safari in Kruger - whether staying in one of the private reserves or self-driving in the National Park itself - is both exhilarating and wonderful, and something that we can’t recommend highly enough. 

Malaria-Free Safari Areas

Zebra in the Malaria-Free Shamwari reserve

South Africa is the only African country to offer a completely malaria-free safari experience.

The safari lodges and reserves in these malaria-free areas are particularly popular with families and wildlife lovers looking to a enjoy a safari adventure in a completely worry-free way without needing to take precautions for malaria.

The main areas are the Madikwe Game Reserve, on the borders with Botswana; the Welgevonden Game Reserve and other smaller reserves in the Waterberg area which are all just 3 hours north of Johannesburg; the Pilanesberg National Park; the reserves of the Eastern Cape; and the Nambiti Game Reserve in KwaZulu-Natal.

The majority of these reserves offer traditional Big 5 game viewing, and some even have the added excitement of horse back safaris or even quad bike safaris too!

There are plenty of lodges across all these reserves to choose from and we’re of course very happy to talk you through the differences and help you choose the right lodge for your safari.

For families in particular, many of these lodges also offer dedicated children programmes too.


Game Reserves & National Parks

South Africa has more safari lodges than any other country in Africa, so it can be understandably tricky knowing where to start. To help you get your bearings, take a look at the map below. By clicking on this map, you can see what safari options are available in each area.

All the safari destinations are easily accessible, be it by road (and this does not necessarily mean you have to drive yourselves - we can arrange transfers), by light aircraft flights directly into the reserves themselves, as well as scheduled flights from Johannesburg and Cape Town to small airports near the safari destination.

Map of South African Game Reserves The Drakensberg mountains KwaZulu-Natal Battlefields The Wild Coast Whale Watching Cape Town The Cape Winelands The Garden Route Port Elizabeth Safari lodges and self-drive safaris in the Eastern Cape Durban The Drakensberg mountains KwaZulu-Natal Battlefields Safari lodges and self-drive safaris in KwaZulu-Natal Safari lodges and self-drive safaris in Kruger & Sabi Sands  
  Greater Kruger Eastern Cape
    Sabi Sand   Shamwari
    Timbavati   Amakhala
    Thornybush   Kwandwe
    Balule   Kariega
  KwaZulu-Natal NW Province
    Phinda   Madikwe
    Mkuze Falls   Pilanesberg

Holiday Ideas

Couple walking along the beach at Mauritius

There is so much to see and do in South Africa that even the most dedicated wildlife enthusiast might be tempted to leave the safari reserves to explore this fascinating country further.

From the beautiful city of Cape Town and the surrounding winelands, to the dramatic coastlines of the Cape Peninsula, Garden Route and Eastern Cape, the scenery is dramatic and breathtaking.

Beyond the most frequently visited areas, KwaZulu Natal offers dramatic mountains, historic battlefields, and the chance to sample Zulu hospitality.

Alternatively, you can head out to Mauritius, Mozambique, or Seychelles to add a dash of Indian Ocean romance to your safari and beach holiday to give yourself time to relax before returning home.

Combining a Safari with Cape Town

Cape Town Waterfront & Table Mountain

Cape Town is undoubtedly the most popular city destination in South Africa, however it is about as far away from the most popular safari areas in South Africa as you can possibly get. .

Of course, this doen't mean it is difficult to combine Cape Town with a visit to South Africa's famous National Parks and private game reserves...but you will need to be prepared to travel.

Our guide to going on safari from Cape Town highlights all the options - from travelling along the Garden Route to the Eastern Cape game reserves, to flying up to one of the airports near Kruger before being transferred to your safari lodge.

And of course, if you would like to get a more personalised idea for you trip then we'd be delighted to hear from you.


Budget Safari Lodges

Safaris may have a reputation for being very expensive, but in reality a safari holiday doesn’t need to break the bank.

While it may be true that the top 5* safari lodges in South Africa come with a hefty price tag, there are plenty of other lodges available that are far easier on the pocket.

We can help you put together a safari holiday full of excitement and adventure on a more modest budget.

From lodges in Eastern Cape which combine perfectly with a trip to Cape Town and the Garden Route to lodges in the wild expanse of the magnificent Greater Kruger Park, our guide will help you find your ideal budget safari lodge in South Africa.


Budget Safari Tips

Enjoying a sundowner drink stop

We’ve been arranging safaris and going on safari ourselves for years, so we’ve learnt some great tips for keeping costs down.

If your budget for your safari holiday is a little on the tight side, we can help you get the most for your money.

There are a number of tips that are worth keeping in mind when booking your safari, including travelling in low season and keeping an eye out for special offers.

Read more about getting the most for your budget in our budget safari guide.

Special Offers

Coffee at the waterhole

Our special offers will help you get the very most out of your budget, allowing you to create the safari holiday that you’ve always dreamt of.

When we build itineraries for our customers, we always try to include special offers available for the trip. Right now, you can get an extra night FREE if you stay for 2 or 3 nights at a selection of our safari lodges.

Take a look at our Special Offers for all of the promotions that we’ve got running at the moment. These offers change fairly quickly, so act fast if something catches your eye!


Luxury Lodges

The prestigious Cheetah Plains

South Africa is home to some of the finest luxury lodges in the world, so if you’re celebrating a special occasion or looking for some real indulgence, you won’t be disappointed.

These lodges not only provide top notch and truly atmospheric accommodation, but they also offer world-class cuisine in decadent surroundings and wildlife experiences that you’ll remember forever.

We have visited the vast majority of these wonderful lodges, so do get in touch if you'd like a hand deciding where to go.

Tented Lodges

Gorah - a beautiful 5* tented camp in Addo

There’s something wildly romantic about spending the night under canvas, surrounded by the sounds of the African bush.

It conjures up a feeling of the bygone age of adventure, where explorers spent their nights gazing into clear, starry skies.

In South Africa, there are a whole host of tented lodges where you can experience this for yourselves and we have a great selection for you to choose from. They take 'glamping' to a completely new level...