Top 10 South African safari destinations

A leopard on the prowl with impala watching in the distance at Kruger National Park. Picture: Unsplash.

A leopard on the prowl with impala watching in the distance at Kruger National Park. Picture: Unsplash.

Published Aug 11, 2023


For those looking for a local adventure, the good news is that you don’t have to search too far. South Africa has a range of safari destinations suitable for every pocket.

With an abundance in African bush destinations to pick from, you don’t have to step out too far from your backyard to see the legendary Big 5 or experience mother nature at her best.

Whether it be a family holiday, romantic getaway, honeymoon or a thrilling adventure, here are the best local safari destinations.

Kruger National Park – Mpumalanga and Limpopo

Kruger National Park, in north-eastern South Africa, is one of Africa’s largest game reserves. Its high density of wild animals includes the Big 5: lions, leopards, rhinos, elephants and buffaloes.

Hundreds of other mammals make their home here, as do diverse bird species such as vultures, eagles and storks. Mountains, bush plains and tropical forests are all part of the landscape.

Greater Kruger – Mpumalanga and Limpopo

According to, though the term Kruger National Park (KNP) and Greater Kruger are often interchangeably used, there are differences.

The Greater Kruger refers to 34 000 hectares of protected land to the west of KNP that provides a more substantial area of wildlife to roam freely.

This additional land is owned by both private and local community property owners and most is utilised for commercial purposes. There are no longer fences between these properties and KNP providing animals with an opportunity to roam thereby reducing pressure on vegetation.

A pride of lions resting in the shade. Picture: Unsplash

Marataba Safari Lodge – Limpopo

Marataba Safari is in the malaria-free Marakele National Park and set on the foothills of the Waterberg Mountains. It offers guided game drives, bush walks or river excursions and elegantly furnished canvas-and-stone tented rooms with free-standing stone baths as well as an indoor and outdoor showers.

Each room also has a deck with views over the plains and the river and the lodge has a private a airstrip, located about 25 minutes' drive away.

Pilanesberg National Park – North West

Pilanesberg National Park is located north of Rustenburg in the North West Province of South Africa.The park borders on the Sun City entertainment complex and is administered by the North West Parks and Tourism Board.

The area lies in the root zone of an extinct volcano, and is defined by alternating ridges and valleys forming concentric rings, a geological formation that rises abruptly in the form of hills 300–600 metres above the surrounding plains.

Mother rhino and baby rhino in the African bush. Picture: Unsplash

Madikwe Game Reserve – North West

Madikwe Game Reserve is a conservation area in South Africa’s North West Province, bordering Botswana. The reserve’s grassland, forest and rocky Tshwene Tshwene hills are home to a variety of wildlife such as elephants, lions, leopards and rhinos, plus endangered wild dogs.

Hundreds of bird species include ostrich, vultures and the large kori bustard call it home and animals often gather at the Madikwe Dam to drink at sunset.

Hluhluwe-iMfolozi Game Reserve – KwaZulu-Natal

Hluhluwe-Imfolozi Park, formerly Hluhluwe-Umfolozi Game Reserve, is the oldest proclaimed nature reserve in Africa.

It consists of 960 km² (96 000 ha) of hilly topography 280km north of Durban in central KwaZulu-Natal and is known for its rich wildlife and conservation efforts.

The park is operated by Ezemvelo KZN Wildlife and is the only state-run park in KwaZulu-Natal where each of the big five game animals can be found.

Get front row action and wildlife viewing experiences in South Africa’s many safari destinations. Picture: Unsplash

Manyoni Private Game Reserve – KwaZulu Natal

Manyoni Private Game Reserve lies in the heart of Zululand, an area that is world renowned for its spectacular game viewing, rich cultural traditions, and conservation history.

Initially formed as part of the WWF black rhino range expansion project, Manyoni has become one of the premier big five safari destinations in Kwa-Zulu Natal with a strong focus on endangered species conservation.

Conveniently located only 3 hours drive from Durban and 6 hours from Johannesburg, Manyoni is home to a range of luxury safari lodges, and boasts 23,000 hectares of magnificent Zululand scenery.

Addo Elephant National Park – Eastern Cape

Addo Elephant National Park is a diverse wildlife conservation park situated close to Gqeberha in South Africa and is one of the country's 20 national parks. It currently ranks third in size after Kruger National Park and the Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park.

The original section of the park was founded in 1931, in part due to the efforts of Sydney Skaife, in order to provide a sanctuary for the eleven remaining elephants in the area.

The park has proved to be very successful and currently houses more than 600 elephants and a large number of other mammals.

The elegant giraffe crossing the plains at a South African animal reserve. Picture: Unsplash

Lalibela Game Reserve – Eastern Cape

Lalibela Game Reserve is a malaria-free Eastern Cape game reserve in South Africa with exceptional wildlife habitats creating unforgettable Big Five safari experiences for visitors.

There are no public roads through Lalibela Game Reserve and Big 5 wildlife (Lion, Rhino, Elephant, Buffalo, Leopard), roam freely throughout. This Eastern Cape game reserve is easy to reach and perfect for South African safari holidays.

Lalibela Game Reserve is only and hour's drive from the “Friendly City”, Port Elizabeth, which is also the gateway to the Garden Route.

Shamwari Game Reserve – Eastern Cape

Shamwari Game Reserve is located 75 km outside Port Elizabeth (now Gqeberha), Eastern Cape, South Africa. It has been voted the World's Leading Safari and Game Reserve and Conservation Company for several consecutive years.

An essential focus is the management, development and rehabilitation of an ecosystem that has been returned to a more natural condition after many years of agricultural farming.

Shamwari is part of the Indalo Protected Environment.

This list was sourced from