One of the main associations with entertainment on the African continent is visiting wild savannas and nature conservation territories to see animals in their native habitat. Special attention is usually paid to the Big Five of Africa, the five mammals that are considered the most interesting «trophies» for photos and hunting videos. This is the lion, elephant, rhinoceros, buffalo and the leopard. In this article, the editors of Beloc will share tips on where to go on a safari in South Africa, the cost and the best time of year to plan a trip.
There are about three hundred specially protected natural territories in the Republic of South Africa, many of them are available for visiting as part of an organised group. The majority of tourists travel to the cities and nature reserves of the country in the summer months (from December to February). If possible, you should plan a safari for another time, when there will be no seasonal price increases and crowds of people who want to get nice photos of fighting giraffes or a leopard sleeping on a roadside acacia tree. The optimal months for safari trips: in the Cape Town area – from October to November and from March to April, in the Johannesburg area – from May to October, in the Durban area – from May to September.
Now, let’s talk a little more about the most famous and remarkable places for a safari.
This is one hundred percent a must-visit when in South Africa, along with the Cape of Good Hope and Table Mountain. Kruger Park is a large-scale, very old, popular and abundant park in the country. Here you can see zebras at a watering hole near the Limpopo River, watch the African Big Five and drive Jeep vehicles through six landscape zones. On top of that, in Kruger Park, travellers often manage to meet packs of hyenas, rhinoceros birds, screamer eagles and many species of baobabs (tree).
This national park is located in the north-east of South Africa, so the most convenient way to get here is from Johannesburg or Pretoria. It would be best to plan your visit for the dry season without heavy rain (from April to September).
In South Africa’s largest national park, it is worth going on at least a three-day safari with two nights in wild conditions with minimum facilities in order to have enough time to see all the inhabitants of this area and consider its rich flora (the cost of such safari tour averages R10,000). But for the initial acquaintance and in order to save the budget, we recommend that you start with a one-day trip (the cost would starts from R1500-1900 and more per person in a group).
This national park is located in the north-east of the country, in close proximity to the cities of Johannesburg, Pretoria and very close to Rustenburg. Logistics wise, this park is more accessible than Kruger National Park. It is also suitable for visiting, for example, as part of a long transfer in Johannesburg on the way from Moscow to Cape Town. A twelve-hour tour directly from the airport can be booked at a price of R3000 per person.
Interestingly, the area of the park represents a ruined crater of an ancient volcano, so the landscapes and landforms here are not similar to a typical savanna in most of the South African reserves. More than seven thousand species of animals and birds live on the territory of Pilanesberg, some of which you will definitely see during the safari. And, of course, prepare your phones and cameras for capturing the Big Five! If time permits, you can take a break for a hot air balloon flight and enjoy the scenery from a bird’s-eye view.
Let’s move to the south of South Africa to Addo Park, which is located near the city of Port Elizabeth. Remarkably, it is famous for its elephant population, about six hundred individuals live on its territory. In addition to the elephant, you can also see all the members of the Big Five here, but, according to visitors, most people come across lions. The landscapes in this reserve are different from the northern part of the country, because the climate is more dry in some areas. It is a good opportunity to watch the landscapes of the sand dunes. Addo Elephant Park is most often visited for half a day, the cost of a safari starts from R2000 per person. Here is an idea for your visit: take a trip from Cape Town and ride along the picturesque Road of The Garden Route whilst visiting extra parks, places for hiking and other active leisure activities.
This park is known for being a private initiative to further protect the ecosystem of Kruger National Park. The territory of the park, bounded by the Sabi and Sand Rivers, is under protection and enhanced scientific supervision. The service and crowding in this safari park differ for the better from the conditions in the state national parks that are part of a single system. However, the prices for accommodation and tours on the territory are several times higher than the previously given ones. According to ratings, leopards are quite common in Sabi Sand, even though they are considered the rarest Big Five spotting because of their twilight lifestyle and hidden cunning habits.
Conclusions and hacks on your safari in South Africa
- Best going on a safari in the dry season: because of the lack of dense vegetation, it will be easier for animal sightings
- If possible, avoid going to national parks in the summer months if you do not want to share your movements in the park with a dozen more jeeps packed with tourists
- The largest and richest in natural diversity is the Kruger National Park
- Start with a small day trip to Pilanesberg Park, and then move on to full-fledged multi-day safari tours with overnight stays
- Clothes and hats should be neutral colours in order to avoid the attention of animals and also to prevent scaring them away
- When visiting parks in the winter months do not forget about warm clothes and comfy accessories
- A safari will definitely be remembered for a lifetime, make sure to plan a visit to a national or private park