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Where to Go in South Africa

Africa's best tailor-made safaris

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Where to Go in South Africa

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By Andre Van Kets

Co-founder, Discover Africa

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15 Best Places to Visit in South Africa

South Africa is such a diverse destination that it literally checks all the boxes for all sorts of travellers—whether you want to explore unique landscapes, rich wildlife, or its vibrant heritage and cultures.

From the iconic Kruger National Park to the scenic Garden Route, let us guide you on the popular hotspot and the lesser-known, must-do experience to add to your itinerary to ensure a well-rounded journey to the Southern Tip of Africa.

1. Kruger National Park

Game Drive at Jabulani in the Greater Kruger, Image credit, Jabulani
Game Drive at Jabulani in the Greater Kruger, Image credit, Jabulani

Overview: Kruger National Park is South Africa’s flagship national park and one of Africa’s largest game reserves. It is famous for its abundant Big Five sightings.

Set across 20,000 square kilometers, wildlife enthusiasts can enjoy thrilling game drives and guided walking safaris in this natural treasure trove. You are spoilt for choice regarding world-class luxurious lodges set in the exclusive, private concessions (Link to Top Five Private Game Reserves) surrounding Kruger – many of whom are our preferred partners.

Unique Facts: Kruger is home to over 500 bird species and 147 mammal species, including the rare African wild dog. The park also boasts archaeological sites like Masorini and Thulamela, offering a glimpse into ancient African civilizations.

2. Cape Town & Surrounds

Cape Town Beach | Photo credit: Bryan & Neil via Safari Bookings
Cape Town Beach | Photo credit: Bryan & Neil via Safari Bookings

Overview: Cape Town is listed among the best cities and metropolises in the world, including New York, London, Rio, and Paris. Its cosmopolitan mix of urban sophistication and natural beauty can satisfy the wanderlust of adventure seekers, history buffs, and food and wine connoisseurs alike.

With the stunning Table Mountain as its backdrop, highlight experiences include the beautiful beaches of the Atlantic Seaboard, a trip to the historic Robben Island, and exploring the lush Cape Winelands, combined with the tastes of the city’s celebrated culinary scene.

Unique Facts: Cape Town is home to the Cape Floral Kingdom, one of the world’s six floral kingdoms, boasting over 9,000 plant species and the endemic fynbos biome. Table Mountain is one of the New Seven Wonders of Nature.

3. Garden Route

Harkerville in the Garden Route, South Africa | Photo credit: SANParks
Harkerville in the Garden Route, South Africa | Photo credit: SANParks

Overview: The Garden Route is a picturesque stretch along South Africa’s south-eastern coast, renowned for its lush forests, stunning coastlines, and charming towns.

Key attractions include the dramatic cliffs and suspension bridges of Tsitsikamma National Park, the tranquil lagoons of Knysna, and the golden beaches of Plettenberg Bay. The area is perfect for road trips and offers a variety of outdoor activities, such as hiking, whale watching, and bungee jumping.

Unique Facts: The Garden Route is home to the world’s highest bungee jump at Bloukrans Bridge (216 meters). Tsitsikamma National Park is part of the UNESCO-designated Garden Route Biosphere Reserve.

4. KwaZulu-Natal

Beautiful Coastline of Ballito, Kwazulu Natal | Photo credit: Dean Booysen via Canva
Beautiful Coastline of Ballito, Kwazulu Natal | Photo credit: Dean Booysen via Canva

Overview: KwaZulu-Natal is known for its stunning beaches, historic battlefields, and rich wildlife. Visitors can explore the rolling hills and game reserves of Hluhluwe-iMfolozi Park, the towering peaks of the Drakensberg Mountains, and the bustling Golden Mile stretch of beach in Durban. The province offers a unique blend of cultural experiences, including visits to traditional Zulu villages and historical sites from the Anglo-Zulu War.

Unique Facts: Hluhluwe-iMfolozi Park is the oldest proclaimed nature reserve in Africa, renowned for its rhino conservation efforts. The Drakensberg is home to ancient San rock art, some dating back thousands of years.

5. Eastern Cape

Cheetahs spotted on a safari | Photo credit: Lalibela Game Reserve
Cheetah spotted on a safari | Photo credit: Lalibela Game Reserve

Overview: The Eastern Cape is rich in natural beauty and cultural heritage, offering pristine beaches, Big Five game reserves, and the vibrant Xhosa culture. Key attractions include the Addo Elephant Park, known for its large elephant herds, the rugged Wild Coast, and the remote Baviaanskloof wilderness. You will find a perfect blend of beach and bush experiences, with plenty of opportunities for hiking, surfing, and wildlife safaris.

Unique Facts: Addo Elephant Park is home to one of the densest elephant populations in the world. The Wild Coast features the Hole in the Wall, a natural archway carved by the ocean.

6. Cape Winelands

Inside a vineyard in Cape Winelands | Photo credit: Scott Ramsay
Inside a vineyard in Cape Winelands | Photo credit: Scott Ramsay

Overview: Award-winning wines, gourmet cuisine, and stunning scenery all put the Cape Winelands in a league of its own.

Explore the charming towns of Stellenbosch, Franschhoek, and Paarl, where you can enjoy wine tours and tastings amidst picturesque vineyards and historic estates. These wineland towns are renowned for their excellent dining, boutique shopping, and beautiful countryside, perfect for leisurely drives or a fun day hopping on and off the wine tram.

Unique Facts: Franschhoek is known as the “Food and Wine Capital” of South Africa, with a history dating back to French Huguenot settlers in 1688. Stellenbosch is home to some of the oldest wine estates in the country.

7. Limpopo

Entabeni Game Reserve in Limpopo | Photo credit: SL_Photography via Canva
Entabeni Game Reserve in Limpopo | Photo credit: SL_Photography via Canva

Overview: Limpopo’s rich wildlife and unspoiled natural beauty are its biggest drawcards. The Waterberg Biosphere, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and Mapungubwe National Park offer fascinating archaeological sites and wildlife sightings.

It is well-suited to those wanting a more off-the-beaten-path safari experience, with opportunities for bird watching, hiking, and cultural tours.

Unique Facts: Mapungubwe was once the center of the Kingdom of Mapungubwe, a powerful trading civilization around the 11th century. The Waterberg region is home to the world’s largest colony of Cape Vultures.

8. Mpumalanga

Kruger Shalati Train on the Bridge | Photo credit: Francois van Zyl
Kruger Shalati Train on the Bridge | Photo credit: Francois van Zyl

Overview: Mpumalanga, known as “The Place Where the Sun Rises,” offers some of South Africa’s most dramatic scenery. Key attractions include the breathtaking Blyde River Canyon, the scenic Panorama Route, and the numerous waterfalls around Sabie. The region also borders the southern part of Kruger National Park, making it a great starting point for safari adventures.

Unique Facts: Blyde River Canyon is one of the largest canyons in the world, described as a ‘green canyon’ due to its lush subtropical foliage. The region is also home to the Three Rondavels, iconic geological formations resembling traditional African huts.

9. North West Province

Hartbeespoort Dam in the North West Province, South Africa | Photo credit: Clay10 via Canva
Hartbeespoort Dam in the North West Province, South Africa | Photo credit: Clay10 via Canva

Overview: The North West Province is home to the glamorous Sun City resort and the malaria-free Pilanesberg National Park. It offers a mix of entertainment and wildlife experiences and is suitable for family-friendly holidays and romantic couple adventures.

Unique Facts: Pilanesberg National Park is situated in the crater of a long-extinct volcano, one of only three alkaline volcanic craters in the world. Sun City features the Valley of Waves, a large water park with a wave pool and artificial beach.

10. Northern Cape

Quiver Tree in the Northern Cape, South Africa | Photo credit: Anina Lonte via Canva
Quiver Tree in the Northern Cape, South Africa | Photo credit: Anina Lonte via Canva

Overview: The Northern Cape is South Africa’s largest province, bordering Namibia and Botswana. You will experience vast open spaces, unique flora, and dramatic landscapes here. Notable highlights include the Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park with its stunning red dunes and black-maned lions, the spectacular spring flowers of Namaqualand, and the rugged desert Richtersveld terrain. This genuinely remote and wild safari experience is perfect for adventurous travelers.

Unique Facts: The Northern Cape is home to the largest population of Sociable Weavers, known for their massive communal nests. The Richtersveld is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, recognized for its biodiversity and unique cultural heritage of the Nama people.

South Africa is a prime choice for your safari adventure, whether you’re seeking a luxury escape, an affordable family-friendly adventure or a romantic honeymoon spoil.

Discover Africa’s travel experts are able to personalize this wide selection to perfectly suit your preferred travel style and ensure every detail of your itinerary is taken care of from the moment you arrive, until you are safely back home again.

Start planning your dream safari today and let us help you create memories that will last a lifetime. Contact Us to get started!

Top 5 Private Game Reserves

1. Sabi Sand Game Reserve

Lion spotted on a safari in Sabi Sands Game Reserve, South Africa | Photo credit: Inyati Game Lodge
Lion spotted on a safari in Sabi Sands Game Reserve, South Africa | Photo credit: Inyati Game Lodge

Overview: Adjacent to Kruger National Park, Sabi Sand Game Reserve is renowned for its luxurious lodges and exceptional Big Five sightings. As a private reserve it offers an exclusive and intimate safari experience, with opportunities for off-road driving and night safaris. Sabi Sand is particularly famous for its leopard sightings, offering you a chance to see these elusive cats up close.

Unique Facts: Sabi Sand Game Reserve pioneered the concept of private wildlife reserves in South Africa. It also boasts one of the highest densities of leopards in the world.

2. Madikwe Game Reserve

Elephants sighted on a game drive in Madikwe Game Reserve | Photo credit: Makanyane Safari Lodge
Elephants sighted on a game drive in Madikwe Game Reserve | Photo credit: Makanyane Safari Lodge

Overview: Madikwe Game Reserve is a malaria-free reserve offering rich wildlife experiences and luxurious lodges.

Located on the Botswana border, Madikwe is known for its thriving populations of wild dogs (an endangered species), sightings of elephants, and lions. A more exclusive safari experience with fewer visitors, this reserve is focused on conservation and community involvement.

Unique Facts: Madikwe is one of South Africa’s largest Big Give game reserves and was established in 1991 as part of a major conservation initiative. The reserve is known for its successful wild dog reintroduction program.

3. Phinda Private Game Reserve

Walking safari in Phinda Private Game Reserve | Photo credit: andBeyond Phinda Forest Lodge
Walking safari in Phinda Private Game Reserve | Photo credit: andBeyond Phinda Forest Lodge

Overview: Phinda Private Game Reserve has seven distinct ecosystems, supporting a rich ecosystem that includes the Big Five and cheetahs. The reserve offers luxurious lodges, excellent game viewing, and a strong focus on conservation and community development.

Unique Facts: Phinda is often referred to as “Seven Worlds of Wonder” due to its distinct habitats. The reserve is renowned for its black rhino conservation efforts.

4. Hluhluwe-iMfolozi Park

Impalas in the Hluhluwe-iMfolozi Park, South Africa | Photo credit: Louis Michel DESERT via Canva
Impalas in the Hluhluwe-iMfolozi Park, South Africa | Photo credit: Louis Michel DESERT via Canva

Overview: One of Africa’s oldest game reserves, Hluhluwe-iMfolozi Park is known for its successful conservation efforts and diverse wildlife. The park offers scenic landscapes ranging from rolling hills to riverine forests, with excellent opportunities to see rhinos, lions, and elephants. Visitors can enjoy guided walks, self-drive safaris, and boat trips on the nearby St Lucia estuary.

Unique Facts: Hluhluwe-iMfolozi Park played a crucial role in saving the white rhino from extinction. The park is also the only state-run park in KwaZulu-Natal where all the Big Five occur.

5. Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park

Craft village in Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park | Photo credits: !Xaus Lodge
Craft village in Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park, South Africa | Photo credits: !Xaus Lodge

Overview: Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park is a vast wilderness area straddling the border between South Africa and Botswana. Known for its stunning red dunes, black-maned lions, and impressive birdlife, the park offers a truly unique safari experience. Visitors can enjoy self-drive safaris, guided walks, and the remote and rugged beauty of this semi-desert environment.

Unique Facts: Kgalagadi is one of the few places where visitors can see the rare black-maned Kalahari lions. The park is also a birdwatcher’s paradise, with over 200 recorded bird species, including raptors like the Martial Eagle.

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