south africa game reserves

South Africa is a wonderful destination for a Big Five safari as there are numerous game reserves offering amazing game viewing. The problem is often deciding where to go on safari as there are so many options. If you are travelling to South Africa and only spending a couple of days on safari I would highly recommend that you opt to stay at a private safari lodge in a private game reserve as this will maximize your chances of seeing a lot of animals. The reason that you will see more game in a lodge in a private game reserve is that there are more opportunities for off-road viewing which means that you get very close to the sightings.

A leopard at Sabi Sands (image courtesy of David Berkowitz)

My favourite game reserves in South Africa

My two favorite game reserves are the Sabi Sands and the Timbavati. Both these reserves border the Kruger Park and the game wander freely between the two. The Sabi Sands is especially famous for the number of large cats in the area, so if you want to see lots of lions and leopards, this is the place to visit.

best safari lodges in south africa
Singita Boulders Lodge, Sabi Sands

There are quite a few lodges in both the Timbavati and the Sabi Sands. The level of luxury and the prices vary substantially depending on what you are looking for. In the Sabi Sands you will find the ultra-luxurious safari lodges like Singita and Londolozi but there are also less pricy options such as Arathusa. The common factor between the lodges is that they all offer exceptional game drives. In the Timbavati you will find some less expensive options which still offer great safaris and very comfortable accommodation. My favorite two lodges in the Timbavati are Motswari and Kambaku.

Londolozi tree camp

If you are looking for a great safari in a malaria-free area, the best game reserve is Madikwe Game Reserve in north western South Africa bordering Botswana. Madikwe is as close as you will get in terms of a nature experience to the area around the Kruger Park. An additional advantage of the Madikwe Game Reserve is that it is only about a three hour drive from Johannesburg. The safari experience in Madikwe is very good and there are some very nice game lodges in the area, our favorites being Madikwe Hills and Impodimo. If you are hoping to see the elusive and highly endangered African Wild Dog then Madikwe is also the place to go.

Madikwe Hills

I hope that this post has helped to shed some light on where to go on safari in South Africa. No matter if you choose to visit the Sabi Sands, Timbavati or Madikwe game reserves, you are sure to have an amazing safari experience. You do need to be aware that these are the most popular private game reserves in South Africa so you often need to make a reservation at your chosen lodge well in advance.

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By guest writer: Jeffrey Cammack

Read more about safaris in South Africa on Velvet Escape

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