There are several Big 5 safari destinations to choose from in the Eastern Cape but the most famous is Addo Elephant National Park, situated about a 45-minute drive from Port Elizabeth and now, thanks to the incorporation of a marine reserve, home to an extraordinary bio-diversity.
For exclusive game viewing away from the crowds, we recommend staying in one of Addo's private concessions or at one of the private reserves listed below. These destinations are where to go in the Eastern Cape for stress-free family safaris or indulgent honeymoons as each reserve has a range of tailored accommodation and activities to suit all visitors.
Situated at the eastern end of the Garden Route, Kwandwe Private Game Reserve is home to the Big 5 (including both black and white rhino) as well as other classic African mammals such as cheetah, hyena and giraffe plus rarely-seen species such as aardvark, porcupine and aardwolf.
You'll explore the grassy uplands and dense forest thickets of malaria-free Kwandwe on day and night game drives and can enjoy guided nature walks along the bird-filled banks of the Great Fish River but there's more to the reserve than just wildlife: Kwandwe Private Game Reserve lies at the heart of Settler Country, a region that echoes with colonial history not to mention ancient rock art and a fascinating indigenous culture.
View all Kwandwe safari lodges.
Shamwari has all the ingredients necessary for the perfect safari: the Big 5; all manner of other big game such as hippo, giraffe, cheetah and zebra; great guides and game rangers; and a generous range of accommodation, all contained within 25 000 hectares of exclusive wilderness.
One of South Africa's eco-tourism and conservation success stories, Shamwari has invested in local education and research and has fostered environmental awareness among local communities, thus providing a model for other Eastern Cape reserves to follow.
What’s more, Shamwari Private Game Reserve offers a range of activities specifically designed for children which, added to its accessibility from Port Elizabeth or the Garden Route as well as its malaria-free status, make it a popular safari choice for families.
View all Shamwari safari lodges.
Amakhala was created in 1999 as a joint conservation initiative between the owners of six lodges to allow for the reintroduction of wild animals to a region in which they once roamed freely. Today Amakhala's animal population includes the Big 5 as well as cheetah, giraffe, zebra, and wildebeest, all of which can be viewed on guided day and night game drives.
Moreover, the Bushman's River cuts through the reserve and offers water-based game-viewing and excellent bird watching. And with its convenient location less than an hour’s drive from Port Elizabeth airport, malaria-free Amakhala is an ideal add-on to a Garden Route holiday.
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Pumba supports a rich biodiversity including the Big 5 and other familiar African animals such as giraffe, hippo, cheetah, spotted hyena and the rare wild dog. The most notable residents of Pumba Private Game Reserve are however their famous 'white lions', top of the must-see list.
Malaria-free and combining effortlessly with a Garden Route, Cape Town or KwaZulu Natal holiday, Pumba Private Game Reserve is very accessible and offers a range of activities including day and night game drives, guided nature walks, hiking and fishing. The bird watching is excellent and the night sky phenomenal - little wonder that stargazing sessions often provide the perfect end to a day at Pumba.
View all Pumba safari lodges.
The secluded Sibuya Game Reserve is located on the banks of the Kariega River, less than a 2-hour drive from Port Elizabeth but there's a surprise: Sibuya is accessed by boat. The adventure starts when guests are collected at the river's mouth in the nearby town of Kenton-on-Sea and are transported upstream to the reserve.
The floodplains and thick coastal forest at malaria-free Sibuya are home to a wide variety of wildlife including the Big 5 as well as nearly 400 bird species; the game viewing in this reserve, set against magnificent ocean and forest vistas, is truly unique. And its coastal location also makes Sibula where to go in the Eastern Cape for daily game drives combined with swimming, beach walks, canoeing and deep-sea fishing.
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Although small in comparison with other South African reserves, Lalibela is the only private reserve in the Eastern Cape without a public road running through its property. The reserve encompasses no fewer than five eco-systems, resulting in wide diversity of flora, and its undulating grasslands and dense forests are consequently home to a rich variety of animals, including the Big 5, which roam freely throughout the reserve.
In addition, it's only an hour’s drive from Port Elizabeth and is easily accessed from the N2, the region's major highway, making it a convenient, malaria-free safari add-on to a Garden Route holiday.
View all Lalibela safari lodges.
With its accessible location, magnificent scenery and Big 5 game viewing, Kariega Game Reserve is the perfect safari add-on to a trip along South Africa’s world-famous Garden Route or even as a fly-in destination from Cape Town.
What’s more, this family-owned private reserve lies in one the country’s richest bio-diverse regions and the presence of the Kariega and Bushman’s Rivers means you can complement your daily morning and afternoon game drives with a sunset boat cruise or a peaceful kayak paddle.
View all Kariega safari lodges.
The Great Karoo, a huge expanse of semi-arid wilderness and marginal farmland, is the largest ecosystem in South Africa and spans both the Eastern and Western Cape. Yet despite its forbidding appearance, the Great Karoo is home to an abundance of birdlife as well as a variety of animals that include several regional specialities such as the rare mountain zebra and large numbers of springbok, the latter serving as a reminder of the massive herds that once traversed the Karoo during their annual migration.
You could spend weeks exploring the secrets of the Great Karoo but if it’s a safari you’re looking for, head for the Karoo's eastern region where there are several game-rich Big 5 wildlife reserves in scenic, malaria-free settings.
View all Great Karoo safari lodges.
At a Glance
South Africa's safari secret, the little-visited Eastern Cape delivers malaria-free Big 5 safaris that combine easily with a Garden Route holiday.