South Africahas long been a popular destination for safaris, boasting a host of national parks and private game reserves that are home to some of the region’s most recognisable creatures – including the big five.
When I started looking into going on safari as part of a South Africa holiday, I was a bit overwhelmed by the choice on offer, so here are just three places I’ve come across that offer everything you could want from a wildlife-spotting tour.
Kruger National Park
As probably the most famous park inSouth Africa, this was my first port of call. In addition to the big five (lions, elephants, rhinos, leopards and buffalos), this 2 million hectare reserve is home to 147 species of mammals, not to mention more than 500 different types of bird and over 100 kinds of reptile. There are numerous fish and amphibians too, so it seems that no matter where you go you’ll find something fascinating to look at.
There are a few other lists of creatures you can seek out while you’re in Kruger National Park – including the little five, which is comprised of the buffalo weaver, elephant shrew, leopard tortoise, ant lion and rhino beetle, and the birding big six covering the ground hornbill, kori bustard, lappet-faced vulture, martial eagle, Pel’s fishing owl and saddle-bill stork.
Kariega Game Reserve
This private game reserve is situated on theGarden Routewithin easy reach ofCape Town, which makes it an excellent choice if you want to combine your time on safari with a trip into the city. Spanning some 9,000 hectares in theEastern Cape province, you’ll find all of the big five in residence here, along with countless other creatures.
Two rivers flow through the park while there are also areas of grassland, forest and African bushveld, so there is plenty of variety in terms of habitats. This means there’s the chance to spot all manner of animals besides the big five, including hyenas, hippos, waterbucks, fish eagles and giraffes. Aside from the diversity of the wildlife, the luxury lodge accommodation and onsite spa also appealed to me. I think unwinding after a morning’s game drive with a relaxing treatment will only enhance the safari experience.
Hluhluwe-Imfolozi Game Reserve
InKwaZulu-Natalis the Hluhluwe-Imfolozi Game Reserve – the oldest conservation area inSouth Africa. It was established in 1895, three years before theKrugerNational Parkwas set up. Again, the big five roam free here, so you’ve got a good chance of spotting each of these impressive creatures, especially white rhinos as the park boasts the world’s largest population of these majestic animals.
There are several lodges in the park and it’s possible to go on a walking safari, as opposed to a tour in a jeep, if you really want the chance to get back to nature. This kind of wildlife spotting is probably the most exhilarating – can you imagine coming face-to-face with a herd of elephants or even a pride of lions as you’re walking along one of the wilderness trails? Of course, you’ll be accompanied by an experienced guide on any excursion you take on foot, to not only advise you about how to observe the animals in safety, but to also make sure you don’t get lost!
Have you visited one of South Africa’s game reserves in search of the big five? Did you find them all – let us know your tips for the ultimate South African safari.