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10 of the Best Safari Destinations in South Africa

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Adelle Bell

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Adelle Bell

Author: Adelle Bell - 15 May 2023

Last Update: 6 May 2024

South Africa’s best safari experiences stand unparalleled, offering thrilling encounters with the Big Five in the iconic Kruger National Park and the luxurious private reserves of Sabi Sands, blending adrenaline-packed adventures with serene, untamed wilderness, all set against the backdrop of breathtaking African sunsets

Best Safari Experiences in South Africa

For nearly a decade Discover Africa has built a legacy of crafting the best safari adventures across South Africa, seamlessly blending luxury with the wild essence of African nature. Our expertise and personalized itineraries connect travelers with the heart of Africa’s diverse landscapes and wildlife – and these top 10 parks form an integral part of that process.

Explore these iconic landscapes as you discover traditional cultures across this beautiful country. Join us on a safari journey through 10 of South Africa’s most incredible safari destinations. 

1. Kruger National Park

Kruger National Park is one of the largest game reserves in Africa. The park covers an area of nearly 19,485 km² and is home to over 500 bird species, 147 mammal species, and 114 reptile species.

Lion in the Kruger National Park.
Lion in the Kruger National Park, South Africa.

Famous for its diverse wildlife, you’ll easily be able to spot the Big Five (lion, leopard, rhino, elephant, and buffalo). Visitors can go on game drives, walking safaris, and birding walks. 

2. Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park

Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park is a hallowed ground for wild nature enthusiasts. Part of the Kalahari ecosystem, the park offers a unique glimpse into the undiluted expanse of the African savannah. The park features vast grassy plains, red sand dunes, and impenetrable thorny bushes.

Ostriches in Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park.
Ostriches in Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park.

Expect to see a range of wildlife, from majestic lions to elusive leopards, springbok, wildebeest, and even meerkats. Famous for its star gazing, the park offers one of the darkest skies in the world. 

3. Addo Elephant National Park

Located in the Eastern Cape, this destination is a captivating wildlife sanctuary that never disappoints. Established in 1931 with just eleven elephants, the park has grown to become a home to over 600 of these incredible creatures.

Herd of elephants in Addo Elephant National Park.
Herd of elephants in Addo Elephant National Park, South Africa.

From the park’s numerous game drives, you can catch incredible views of lions, buffalo, hyenas, zebras, and other wildlife species occupying the lush surroundings. And if you’re passionate about bird watching, you’ll be impressed with over 400 bird species that call this park home.

4. Pilanesberg Game Reserve

This stunning reserve is located in the North West Province and spans an impressive 55,000 hectares. The reserve is home to many different species of wildlife, including the famous Big Five.

Giraffe in Pilansberg National Park.
Giraffe in Pilansberg National Park, South Africa.

The park’s varied terrain includes mountains, bushveld, and even a volcanic crater, providing an ideal habitat for a diverse range of flora and fauna. Visitors can embark on a self-drive safari, guided tour, or even a hot air balloon ride to experience the breathtaking scenery and incredible wildlife that Pilanesberg National Park has to offer. 

5. Hluhluwe-Imfolozi Game Reserve

Spanning 96,000 hectares, this reserve is home to a wide range of wildlife, including the famous Big Five. Visitors can enjoy game drives, guided walks, and birding safaris, while taking in the breathtaking scenery of rolling hills, grasslands, and forests.

White rhinos crossing a road in Pilansberg National Park.
White rhinos crossing a road in Pilansberg National Park, South Africa.

This destination also plays an important role in conservation, particularly of the white rhinoceros population, and is a safari in SA to cross off your bucket list

6. Karoo National Park

This park spans over 750 square miles, and boasts a variety of flora and fauna, including rare and endangered species, Animals of note are the Cape mountain zebra and black rhinoceros.

Zebra in Karoo National Park.
Zebra in Karoo National Park, South Africa.

The park is also home to fascinating geological formations, including ancient fossils and towering cliffs that offer unparalleled views of the surrounding landscape. 

7. Marakele National Park

Nestled deep within the heart of the Waterberg Mountains, Marakele National Park is a natural wonder waiting to be explored. Featuring one of the largest colonies of Cape vultures in the world, this spectacular destination park is home to countless other species of wildlife, flora and fauna.

Klipspringer in Marakele National Park.
Klipspringer in Marakele National Park, South Africa.

From the graceful South African giraffe and the powerful black rhinoceros to the vibrant Cape sugarbird and the rare marbled leaf monkey, visitors are in for a treat. 

8. Madikwe Game Reserve

Located in the North West province of South Africa, this reserve boasts a sprawling 75,000 hectares of pristine, natural terrain. From the Big Five to over 350 bird species, Madikwe Game Reserve is home to a diverse range of animals.

Giraffe in Madikwe Game Reserve.
Giraffe in Madikwe Game Reserve, South Africa.

The reserve also offers numerous activities such as game drives and safari walks, where visitors can immerse themselves in the sounds and sights of nature. With luxurious lodges and breathtaking views, Madikwe Game Reserve promises a unique and unforgettable experience.  

9. Augrabies Falls National Park

Augrabies Falls National Park is a true wonder of nature. With its dramatic landscapes, rich biodiversity, and fascinating geological formations, this park attracts nature enthusiasts from all over the world.

Quiver tree in Augrabies National Park.
Quiver tree in Augrabies National Park, South Africa.

Explore the park’s diverse plant and animal life, trek through its rugged terrain, and experience the thrill of white water rafting. The park is a sanctuary for endangered species such as the black rhino and the sable antelope. 

10. Thornybush Private Reserve

Nestled in the heart of South Africa’s Limpopo province lies the Thornybush Private Reserve, a wildlife sanctuary spanning over 11,000 hectares of pristine savannah grasslands. Home to an abundance of wildlife including Africa’s iconic Big Five, the reserve offers visitors an unforgettable safari experience.

Cheetahs in Thornybush Private Reserve
Cheetahs in Thornybush Private Reserve, SOuth Africa.

With over 30 luxury lodges dotted throughout the reserve, guests can immerse themselves in the African bushveld and witness the natural behavior of magnificent creatures in their natural habitat.

Guided game drives and bush walks led by experienced rangers and trackers offer visitors an opportunity to learn about the flora and fauna of the region, making Thornybush a must-visit destination for any wildlife enthusiast. 

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