Safari spots to go wild for in Mzansi

A herd of elephants at a South African national park. Picture: Unsplash

A herd of elephants at a South African national park. Picture: Unsplash

Published Jun 6, 2024


During the dry season, which is from May to October, wildlife come out in search of water sources, providing the perfect opportunity for game viewing.

While it’s peak travel season for safaris, there are affordable places where you can enjoy the country’s wildlife.

Almost every province has safari spots waiting to be explored. KwaZulu-Natal, the Eastern Cape, Mpumalanga, Limpopo and the Western Cape are rich in biodiversity, the perfect habitats for flora and fauna.

As such, here is our recommendations on where to stay to get a front-row seat to the wildlife this season:

Tembe Elephant Park, Northern KZN

Tembe Elephant Park is home to the oldest species of elephant. Picture: Unsplash

A hidden gem waiting to be explored, Tembe Elephant Park in northern KwaZulu-Natal is a reserve between Zululand and Mozambique and home to Africa’s largest elephants as well as the smallest antelope, the suni.

The park also has the Big Five – lion, leopard, black and white rhino and buffalo – and more than 340 bird species and a myriad other animals and plants.

The park opens at 6am and closes at 6pm. The entrance fee starts from as little as R30 a vehicle, however, only a limited number of public cars are allowed and only 4x4 vehicles because of the sandy roads.

Consider a stay at Royal Thonga Safari Lodge in the park from R2 800 a night for two.

Amakhala Game Reserve, Eastern Cape

A bird sits on a buffalo, the deadliest animal on the Big Five list. Picture: Unsplash

Just over an hour’s drive from the beautiful beaches of the Sunshine Coast and Port Elizabeth, Amakhala Game Reserve lies in the game reserve region of Paterson.

The 7 280-hectare wildlife park is home to lions, elephants, rhinos, buffalo, cheetahs, giraffes, zebra, wildebeest, monkeys, tortoises and plenty of antelope species.

There is also the possibility of sighting elusive and shy animals like hyenas or bat-eared foxes.

The reserve hosts five of South Africa's seven biomes, from bushveld to savannah. Day safaris are available at the game reserve, starting from R1 700 a person.

If you’re staying at one of the lodges at the game reserve, safari drives are included in your stay.

You can stay at Quatermain’s 1920’s Safari Camp, Woodbury Tented Camp or Leeuwenbosch Country House, starting from R3 510 a night.

Inverdoorn Game Reserve, Western Cape

A lioness and her cubs at Kruger National Park. Picture: Unsplash

Inverdoorn Game Reserve is a Big Five game reserve and is a two-and-a-half-hour drive from Cape Town.

The reserve is a wild escape into the arid plains of the vast, desert-like Karoo region and home to lions, elephants, giraffes, zebras, hippos and wildebeest. It also hosts a cheetah rescue and rehabilitation centre.

The conservation-focused establishment offers an opportunity to disconnect in the wilderness while searching for some of South Africa’s most exciting creatures.

Consider a stay at the reserve’s tented camps and relax in a pool with views over the veld and golden mountains on the horizon, starting from R5 400 a night for two.

Marloth Park, Mpumalanga

A leopard, the most elusive animal on the Big Five list. Picture: Unsplash

Marloth Park is the definition of the South African bushveld. The town is on the border of the world-renowned Kruger National Park.

The town and its people are committed to the fauna and flora that makes this part of Mpumalanga so special. Animals can be seen grazing, wandering the veld or drinking from the mighty Crocodile River just metres away from the homes of Marloth Park.

Almost half the town’s land area is parkland that caters to the plants and animals of the southern part of Kruger. Visitors to Marloth Park can look forward to seeing four of the Big Five – lion, leopard, buffalo and rhino.

Elephants are seen only within Kruger itself, though, and can often be spotted quenching their thirst on the banks of the Crocodile River.

Consider a stay at Grace of Africa, Couples’ Five-Star Nature Lodge, starting from R3 988 a night for two.

Marakele National Park, Limpopo

The rhino is a protected species on the Big Five list due to poaching. Picture; Unsplash

Marakele National Park is part of the Waterberg Biosphere in Limpopo. The park is home to the Big Five as well as 16 species of antelopes and more than 250 species of birds, including the largest colony of Cape griffon vultures in the world.

The Matlabas River runs through the park and the park is accessible to all passenger vehicles, with the camp and tent sites on good roads.

About 80km of roads within the park are accessible to all vehicles, with the remaining requiring a four-wheel drive vehicle. There is a 4x4 eco trail, along with morning and sunset game drives.

There is also a tarred mountain pass that leads up to the top of the Waterberg massif. The park contains bird hides, picnic sites and multiple viewing points at the Bollonoto, Bontle and Tlopi dams.

Consider a stay at Waterberg Game Par starting from R1 394 a night for two.