Winter is the best time to visit game reserves in South Africa. There is less water because most of the country is a summer rainfall area, and this makes for great game viewing opportunities.
Dried-up dams and waterholes are typical during the winter months in those regions. There is also less foliage in the bush, so visitors will have a much greater chance of spotting animals walking in search of water.
This year, the mid-year school holiday falls during the first three weeks of July, so that offers a perfect opportunity for a family break in the wild. And there are many choices.
Addo Elephant Park, a gem near Port Elizabeth, is not as well-known as it deserves to be. Combining a trip through the Eastern Cape or the Garden Route with two or three days at Addo makes for a real treat. You should consider staying over inside the Park, although accommodation options are limited.
Because of Addo’s relatively small size, visitors are guaranteed to spot a variety of animals. As its name suggests, elephants abound. It’s not uncommon to find yourself encircled by large herds at water holes – intimidating at first but it then becomes quite fascinating to see close-up how these giants of the bush move and care for one another.
Further north, in KwaZulu-Natal, you’ll find one of Africa’s oldest game parks, the Hluhluwe-Imfolozi Game Reserve. Known for its rhino conservation work and amazing array of bird life, the reserve is also home to an enormous variety of other animals, including many members of the cat family.
The location is the magnificent Elephant Coast, where the true wild nature of Africa is showcased. A stayover at the Protea Hotel Hluhluwe & Safaris, nestled between the Hlulhluwe Game Reserve and the Greater St. Lucia Wetland Park, is perfect for travellers keen to experience both destinations.
In addition to game sighting opportunities, this park offers boat rides on the Hluhluwe Dam, as well as drives in very scenic countryside.
In the northern part of the country, two game reserves well worth visiting are the Pilanesburg Reserve and the ever-popular Kruger Park.
Pilanesburg, in the North-West Province, is a short distance from Sun City. Many people choose to combine a stay there with a day or two in the Game Reserve, and there are plenty of accommodation options both inside and outside the Reserve. This is a much drier region than Hluhluwe so the natural vegetation is quite different. Importantly, it is malaria-free – a big plus.
The best of all our public game reserves is the vast Kruger National Park. Animals in the north of the Park differ from those in the south, so select the area you wish to visit with care. There are also several private reserves bordering the Park such as the Sabi Sand Game Reserve.
Various accommodation options are available. One of the best, when travelling as a family, is the Protea Hotel by Marriott Kruger Gate, which also offers a self-catering chalet. Located just outside the Park near the Paul Kruger Gate, guests are close enough to see animals from the viewing deck and can hear their calls at night. The hotel offers game drives, too.
With so much of the environment under threat today, it’s a privilege to still be able to view wild animals in their natural surroundings. By combining this with hassle-free accommodation that offers world-class service, you’ll retain the memories forever.