So you want to go on safari?
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Finding amazing wildlife in South Africa is the easy part. Now it’s time to choose between extras like a Championship golf course, a spectacular self-drive along the coast, something catered for kids or for something extra adventurous. Read on to find the best safari experience for you.
For something close to Johannesburg: Pilanesberg Game Reserve
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If you’re short on time but want to have a safari experience while you’re in Johannesburg, Pilanesberg Game Reserve is the best option within driving distance (about two hours) of the city. The reserve sprawls across 580 square kilometres and is home to more than 7000 animals including the big five: lions, leopards, rhinos, elephants and buffalos. The site is also home to the Pilanesberg Alkaline Ring Complex – a massive, ancient volcano that is thought to have last erupted between 1200 to 1300 million years ago.
For something close to Cape Town: Sanbona Wildlife Reserve
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Sanbona, located around 270 kilometres or a three-hour drive from Cape Town, is the best safari experience you’ll find in this region. In addition to big five game, the park is known for bird-watching (more than 200 species), beautiful flora and rock art by the San tribes that roamed here up to 3500 years ago and were still living the nomadic lifestyle just 100 years ago. Keep an eye out for the rare white lions – Sanbona runs a rehabilitation program to help increase their population and reintroduce more into the wild.
For a self-driving safari: the Garden Route
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Buckle up for one of the most beautiful coastal drives in the world: the Garden Route, which follows the N2 Highway for the 800-kilometre stretch between Cape Town and Port Elizabeth on South Africa’s South Coast, packs in wildlife, beaches, mountains, lakes and all the glistening Indian Ocean photo-ops you’ll ever need. The main attraction along the route is the forest region of Knysna: go for a walk on the Elephant Trails in the Knysna forest section of the Garden Route National Park or head into the town of Knysna to join a whale or dolphin-watching tour.
For something really adventurous: African Horseback Safaris
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To do the safari experience that gets our top adrenaline points you’ll need to head to the Okavango Delta in neighbouring Botswana. Mount up and ride on horseback through rivers and alongside wild animals with African Horseback Safaris. This epic photo pretty much sums it up. Image Credit: Roger and Pat de la Harpe Photography
For something really romantic: Londolozi Game Reserve, Sabi Sands
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Picture this: you’re sitting in a deep, warm, luxurious bath. In open air. By a river. In the middle of a wild-game reserve. For the ultimate romantic safari experience treat yourselves to a stay in one of the secluded Private Granite Suites at Londolozi, located in Sabi Sands – a massive private reserve that sits right next to Kruger National Park. Relais & Châteaux Image Credit © Elsa Young
For families: Addo Elephant Park
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Located about 45 minutes drive from Port Elizabeth, Addo is full of large elephant herds and you’re all but guaranteed to see them on a game drive. The park’s organised drives are available for children six years and older. Families with younger children can take the self-drive option. The park claims to be the only “big seven” conservation area in the world: in addition to the big five, the waters off the Aloga Bay coast are home to southern great right whales and great white sharks.
For golfers: Legends Golf and Safari Resort
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Golfers can tick two boxes at once: the Legend Golf and Safari Course is home to 55 mammal species (including the big five) and an 18-hole Championship course designed by the likes of golfing greats such as Sergio García, Gary Player and Padraig Harrington. If all that isn’t enough excitement, there’s the “Extreme 19th” hole: it’s set on top of a mountain 400 metres above the green and the longest par three hole in the world. Oh, and you’ll need to hop in a helicopter to get to the tee. Legends is located at the Entabeni Safari Conservancy 270 kilometres or a three-and-a-half-hour drive north of Johannesburg.
For foodies: Wild Life Wine Safaris
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Just outside of Cape Town, the Cape Winelands region is characterised by verdant mountains and charming towns that are home to world-class restaurants and vineyards. Wild Life Wine Safaris creates tailored tours that will have you tasting wine at the best cellar doors in Stellenbosch one day and spotting lions on the plains of Kruger National Park the next.
For budding photographers: Pangolin Photo Safaris
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Pangolin specialises in tours and safaris across Africa that double as intense photography courses. The options are diverse – you can book an Adobe Lightroom & Creative Photography course at the Pumba Private Game Reserve outside Port Elizabeth in South Africa or base yourself high in the mountains of the Democratic Republic of Congo on a Great Apes and Volcanoes wildlife course.
For something different: Boulders Penguin Colony
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For one of South Africa’s most unique (and cute!) wildlife experiences head to Simon’s Town, a 50-minute drive south of Cape Town. There, you’ll see a colony of 2000 adorable penguins waddling around on beaches among massive boulders. Not exactly a safari, but definitely a must-do when you’re in the area. Do. Not. Forget. Your. Camera.