The South African landscape is as breathtaking as it is diverse. It is a daunting task to determine which province to travel to during your next breakaway. Even more challenging is making the decision of which game reserve you should visit, as there are plenty of incredible options to choose from.
It was tough but we managed to choose the best South African game reserves. Some are national parks, while others are private reserves, so no matter which you prefer, there should be a suitable option on our list for you.
Western Cape – Grootbos Private Nature Reserve
This private nature reserve is a botanical wonderland and offers guests 3 500 hectares of fynbos and milkwood tree-covered landscape to explore. Situated where the Atlantic and Indian Oceans meet, one of the Grootbos Private Nature Reserve’s distinguishing features is that guests get to go on a Marine Big Five (African penguins, bottlenose dolphins, Cape fur seals, great white sharks, and southern right whales) game viewing excursion.
Other activities to enjoy on the reserve include bird watching, botanical drives, guided hikes, horse riding, and quad biking.
This diverse private nature reserve is also a phenomenal award winner, winning Tatler’s Best Family Hotel in the world and Andrew Harper’s Hideaway of the Year.
North West – Pilanesberg National Park
The North West Province is home to Pilanesberg National Park. It is the country’s fourth-largest reserve and covers approximately 55 000 hectares. The reserve is situated on the eroded remains of what was once a volcanic crater and can be found in the transition zone between the Lowveld and the Kalahari. Due to this, Pilanesberg National Park is an exceptionally ecologically rich destination. The Big Five (lion, leopard, rhino, elephant, African buffalo) can be spotted around the park.
Pilansberg offers a variety of accommodation options, so no matter what your travel party’s needs, there’s a suitable option for you.
Northern Cape – Tswalu Kalahari Reserve
Tswalu Kalahari Reserve is known for being our country’s largest private game reserve and covers an astounding 111 000 hectares. The region it inhabits is well known for its simple, rugged beauty. Guest numbers are strictly limited, to ensure the area remains as undisturbed as possible. The reserve itself is a conservation project that is committed to preserving and understanding species in the Kalahari ecosystem.
You’re likely to come across quite a few unique wildlife species that call this arid region home. Views of the night sky are especially breathtaking at Tswalu, as the reserve is situated kilometres away from sources of light pollution.
Guests can opt to stay at either Tarkuni or The Motse during their stay.
Mpumalanga – Sabi Sands Game Reserve
An excellent destination for those looking for a more exclusive experience than that offered by the Kruger National Park. Sabi Sands Game Reserve spans 65 000 hectares and shares one of its borders with the aforementioned national park.
Game viewing safaris at this private reserve aren’t restricted to main roads, which allows guests up close and personal encounters with nature. Keep an eye out for some of the most iconic wildlife in the country, including hippos, hyenas, impalas, leopards, and warthogs.
The reserve features several accommodation options and there’s something to suit every budget and need.
For more information about this incredible game reserve, have a look at this Youtube video below:
Limpopo – Kruger National Park
Technically, this massive national park, which covers almost 2 million hectares of land, is situated in both the Limpopo and Mpumalanga Provinces of South Africa but it deserved a spot on our list. The Kruger National Park is the country’s most famous safari destination.
Because it spans such a large area, it’s only natural that it features some incredibly diverse terrains. You’ll be seeing rivers and mountains, as well as tropical forests and savannas. In terms of animal sightings, guests can look forward to encountering the Big Five, alongside other beloved South African wildlife like meerkats and wildebeests. The Kruger National Park is famous for spotting our famed Baobab and Marula trees.
Guests get to choose from a variety of accommodation types as well as a plethora of activities.
KwaZulu-Natal – &Beyond Phinda Private Game Reserve
What sets &Beyond Phinda Private Game Reserve apart from many other reserves is that it has a green and lush appearance year-round, thanks to the region’s coastal rainfall pattern. The reserve covers 28 555 hectares of protected wildlife land and is widely known for close-up sightings of the elusive black rhino and cheetah.
Guests get to enjoy open 4×4 safari game drives and a range of optional activities on the beach and in the bush during their stay. There are six different lodgings on the reserve for guests to choose from.
Gauteng – Dinokeng Game Reserve
Dinokeng Game Reserve is conveniently located only an hour from OR Tambo International Airport and half an hour from Pretoria. It’s a malaria-free private reserve and spans 18 500 hectares of restored former farming land. Some of the reserve’s most popular sightings include free-roaming lions and elephants. Other wildlife to look forward to seeing include buffaloes, giraffes, and white rhinos.
There are many game lodges available on the reserve, ranging from self-catering to fully catered.
Free State – Golden Gate Highlands National Park
The Golden Gate Highlands National Park lies amongst the rolling foothills of the north-eastern Free State’s Maluti Mountains. It occupies 11 600 hectares and is home to a wide range of animals, which include black wildebeests, elands, springboks, and rare bearded vultures.
Guests of the park get to enjoy guided excursions, game viewing expeditions in their vehicles, and short nature trails, amongst other activities. There is also an opportunity to explore the Basotho Cultural Village whilst you are here. There are various accommodation options and types guests can choose from for their stay.
Eastern Cape – Shamwari Private Game Reserve.
Shamwari Private Game Reserve is a gem amongst game reserves in the Eastern Cape, both private and national. The private reserve covers 25 000 hectares and includes five of South Africa’s seven biomes within its borders. This means guests have the opportunity to witness incredible biodiversity, all without having to leave a single destination.
It’s safe to treat yourself and your family to a safari retreat at Shamwari, as the reserve is situated in a malaria-free zone. You’re also spoiled for choice, not just with your choice of incredible lodges, but also with a multitude of activities.
Not only does Shamwari form a natural extension of the acclaimed Garden Route but it also enjoys one of the greatest wildlife concentrations in both the Eastern and Southern Cape. The wildlife population includes all members of the Big Five, as well as numerous other South African creatures, such as black rhinos, bushbucks, giraffes, kudus, and monkeys. Species unique to the area include the Addo flightless dung beetle and the Albany adder. At Shamwari, we celebrate and appreciate all creatures, great and small.
Avid birders will be excited to hear that Shamwari is home to over 275 distinct bird species, which range from great birds of prey to little feathered friends. African paradise flycatchers, Knysna turacos, martial eagles, secretary birds, and red-billed ox-peckers (which Shamwari reintroduced to the area) are some of the birds that call the reserve home.
Shamwari also offers a revitalizing spa experience to its guests that includes massages and facials.
For your stay, you’ll get to choose from some of the best lodges in the Eastern Cape, if not the country. Shamwari offers several accommodation options, which include seven luxury lodges and an Explorer Camp.
Each of the accommodation options has its own distinct essence and energy about it, so there’s a perfect option for every travel party. Choose between staying at:
- Sindile Safari Lodge
- Sarili Private Lodge
- Riverdene Safari Family Lodge
- Long Lee Manor Lodge
- Explorer Camp
- Eagles Crag Safari Lodge
- Bayethe Safari Lodge
PROXIMITY TO PORT ELIZABETH
Shamwari is conveniently located only around an hour’s drive from Port Elizabeth. Guests can arrange for road transfers to and from the Port Elizabeth International Airport before arrival, making getting to the reserve even more of a breeze.
Please get in touch with the Shamwari Reservations Department if you’re planning on driving to the reserve yourself and require any directions.
Make Your Reservation At Shamwari Today
If you’d like to get a taste of what it would be like to visit Shamwari, you can watch our short wildlife documentary. This video covers what a day on Shamwari Private Game Reserve is like!