5 out-of-the-ordinary safari ideas to charm visitors

Visit Sutherland to capture the true beauty of the night sky. l PEXELS

Visit Sutherland to capture the true beauty of the night sky. l PEXELS

Published Feb 25, 2023


A safari doesn’t just have to be a drive through dry land while looking at at animals. If you look a little deeper, you will find some of the most unique and wonderful safaris to expand your experience of the southern slice of Africa.

Global search engine Cheapflights.co.za has investigated some of these unusual safari options. Here they are:

Stargazing safari

South Africa has some of the best star-viewing skies, especially away from the cities where the cosmos comes to life, like, for instance the Karoo.

Northern Cape, Sutherland

The town which isn’t heavily populated, is the perfect spot for a night under the stars. Sutherland has little to no air pollution, allowing you to see the stars as clear as day. Because it is also cold and located at a high altitude with low rainfall, you can visit any time of the year for good stargazing.

If you’d like to make you trip a little more interesting you can head to Quiver Tree Forest, situated between Nieuwoudtville and Loeriesfontein. The spider-like branches of the trees give a different dimension to your stargazing experience.

The night-time sky in the Karoo. l INSTAGRAM

Western Cape, South African Astronomical Observatory in Cape Town

SAAO, is home to the largest single optical telescope in the southern hemisphere. On the second and fourth Saturday of every month, at 8pm, there are open nights at the SAAO, where stargazers can see presentations of astronomy and physics, and if the skies are clear, view the stars through telescopes set up for the night.

So it’s a good idea to have your stargazing safari around those times. And while you’re on that side of the Cape, you can also drive on to the Cederberg Mountains, where the dramatic landscape of rock formations and scenic views make for a perfect stargazing night.

Best time to stargaze: All year, but July to August in the winter months allow for higher clarity of skies when not raining.

Glamping safari

Ndhula Luxury Tented Lodge has 26 luxury tents in a wildlife estate in White River; Mpumalanga. l INSTAGRAM

Experience South Africa’s bushveld; Glamping is the new camping, for those who like to add a little glamour to the camp life.

Its a mixture of nature and modern luxury, where you can enjoy being immersed in nature without having to sacrifice your creature comforts and luxuries in your accommodation.

Ndhula Luxury Tented Lodge, situated in Mpumalanga has a glamping option for you as well, where you can escape the bustling cities and spend quality time with your loved ones while embracing the beauty of the wild life and nature.

Kruger National Park

Ideal spot to do a self-drive glamping safari where you can enjoy the more rustic feel of camping in the heart of the bush, going on self-drive game drives, having evening braais beneath the stars. You can then retire to a luxury tent with a comfortable bed, and all the amenities and facilities you would expect from a well-appointed room.

Best time to glamp: May to September in the winter, where rainfall is low and animals congregate around waterholes.

Aardvark safari

Aardvarks are one of the strangest, most enigmatic animals in Africa. They are shy and nocturnal, so spotting an aardvark isn’t easy.

However, South Africa’s Karoo and southern Kalahari are some of the noted areas for spotting aardvarks. You’ll need to take a night drive to increase your chances of spotting these elusive creatures.

Plenty of other creatures are also to be seen on an Aardvark Safari. l INSTAGRAM

Having the sharp eyes of a seasoned guide is very useful when trying to spot an aardvark, as they know what footprints to look out for and what feeding areas to take you to to increase your chances of spotting this shy “earth pig”.

But if you’re on a self-drive aardvark safari, then look for evidence of their burrows and digging around termite mounds. Their distinctive three-toed tracks are good indicators that an aardvark is/has been in the area.

Best time for an aardvark safari: Winter months of June to August, which allow you to potentially see them in daylight hours from midday onwards as they come out to forage for food before the temperatures drop in the evenings.

Culinary safari

Who’s going to say no to a food and wine safari. A culinary safari in Cape Town could see guests travelling with local expert guides on a whirlwind experience of Cape Town’s highlights, from Boulders Beach to Table Mountain, with opportunities to try eclectic foods along the way and enjoy the top-class cuisine at the Cape Grace Hotel.

Travelling onwards to South Africa’s best winelands, Franschhoek; the wine heartland of the country, where they can experience local wines and wine estates, sample locally-crafted cheeses and brandy, and indulge in chocolate tastings.

In Franschhoek, you can enjoy the popular wine tram which will most certainly have you buzzing while enjoying a ride with other local and international visitors.

Wine Tram, Franschhoek. l INSTAGRAM

Moving from there to the Greater Kruger National Park. Experience incredible game viewing in open-topped vehicles complemented by night drives as you search for nocturnal species.

Then indulge in home-grown and produced culinary delights at a lodge, with local food and wine pairings bringing you the most exquisite tastes of South Africa.

Best time for a food and wine safari: This is an any-time type of safari, but if you’re doing tastings in the Cape Winelands, November to January are your best months.

Butterfly safari

If you’re a keen butterfly enthusiast, you can experience the soft and magical presence of South Africa’s incredible butterflies on a butterfly safari across the country.

Eastern Cape, Port St Johns

Want to take the family “butterflying”, then Port St Johns is an ideal place. It’s surrounded by forests, where you can see various butterflies, especially if you take a quiet walk through the forests.

Goegap Nature Reserve, Picture: INSTAGRAM

Goegap Nature Reserve is just outside Springbok and between September and November, you could see some very impressive butterfly species. The Western Cape is fairly low in butterfly habitation.

But if you visit the Knysna Forest, there are butterflies aplenty between December and February. As there are at the Brenton Blue Butterfly Reserve at Brenton-on-Sea along the Garden Route.

Best time for a butterfly safari: In Gauteng, the Walter Sisulu Botanical Gardens in Johannesburg, and the Pretoria National Botanical Gardens are great to visit between October and June to see butterflies.

Further east in KwaZulu-Natal, is probably where you’ll see the richest butterfly populations, especially in the iSimangaliso Wetland Park, where you’ll see masses of butterflies congregating around the dune soapberry bushes along the dune forest trails in May.