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Few destinations rival South Africa when it comes to offering a wide range of attractions combined with easy and convenient regional travel. Home to the Big 5 and breath-taking natural beauty, a South Africa safari experience is ideal for families, honeymooners and adventure seekers of all ages. Game reserves are teeming with lion, elephant, buffalo, rhino, rare cheetah, and all the plains game favourites like zebra, giraffe and gazelle. For the ultimate Big 5 safari in South Africa, nothing beats the Kruger National Park – widely considered the best place in Africa to see leopard, the most elusive of all big cats. Accommodation options range from 5-star to star-lit, and include family lodges, honeymoon hideaways, and grand tented camps.

And even the best safari in South Africa is incomplete without tacking on a few days in lovely Cape Town. You might not see the Big 5 or rolling savannas, but the Mother City has plenty to offer – like seeing African penguins having a swim in the ocean at Boulders Beach, or scenic hikes to the top of one of the most popular ranges in the world – Table Mountain.

If you're considering a trip and wondering what to expect on safari in South Africa, you've come to the right place. We've been curating South Africa safari itineraries since 1998 and have compiled everything you need to know to plan a South Africa safari in this handy guide...

Location & Landscape

Location & Landscape

South Africa is the southernmost country on the African continent, with a long coastline of about 1,500 miles (2,500 kilometres) that stretches along two oceans: the South Atlantic and Indian Oceans. It’s the 25th-largest country in the world – almost double the size of Texas and five times bigger than the United Kingdom.

Quick Safari Facts:

  • Summer: November to March
  • Winter: June to August
  • Rainy season in Cape Town: May to September
  • Rainy season in Kruger: November to April
  • High season in Kruger: July to October
  • Whale season: August to September

The interior of South Africa consists of a vast plateau that is surrounded by the Great Escarpment, with its eastern part being the Drakensberg or ‘Mountains of Dragons’. The southern part of the plateau is known as the Great Karoo, a semi-desert region mostly consisting of sparsely populated scrubland that eventually fades into the even drier and more arid Kalahari Desert in the very north-west of South Africa. The plateau’s eastern and highest part is known as the Highveld, which slopes downward to the north to become the Lowveld, in which the Kruger National Park is located.

The country’s western coastline stretches southward from Namibia to the Cape Peninsula, where the cold Atlantic meets the warm Indian Ocean past Cape Point. It then runs east through a lush, forested region known as the famous Garden Route, before stretching north to form the country’s subtropical Indian Ocean coastline that meets up with Mozambique.

A tailored vacation experience

Go2Africa’s package… incorporated all of the best things to do in South Africa, from great hotel stays (Table Bay Hotel at the V&A Waterfront, Simbavati Hilltop Lodge) to top attractions and experiences (great white sharks, safari, and Winelands tour). Mariam was always available for questions and suggestions…the transfer staff was extremely punctual and very polite… we were able to see the Big 5 and more, while the resort accommodations were amazing…It was one of our best vacations ever.

- Jose Alegria


South Africa Safari Budget Guidelines

See the Big 5 (elephants, rhino, leopard, buffalo and lion) in the Kruger

It’s a little tricky to give exact costs for a South Africa safari experience. There are many budget-influencing factors like how luxurious you’d like your stay to be, whether you fly or drive between destinations, whether or not you go private and exclusive, the time of year you travel, and which extra activities you want to add to your itinerary (like spa treatments and cultural visits).

We can, however, provide approximate costs for you to know what to expect on safari in South Africa. The following estimates are in US dollars and based on a price-per-person-per-night in high and low seasons, including accommodation and transfers:

4-Star Comfort 4-Star Luxury 5-Star Luxury
Low High Low High Low High
$500 $550 $600 $650 – $900 $1,100 $1,200 – $1,850

Please remember that the above costs are guidelines only. At Go2Africa, we tailor-make safaris that match your budget and personal travel wishes. We do not offer one-size-fits-all packages and prefer to create bespoke journeys that make sense for your individual needs – thus no two South Africa safaris will ever be the same.

Where to Go

South Africa’s Best Safari Destinations

With so much on offer, where should you go to have the best South Africa safari experience? The Kruger is a must-see on any safari and if you’re travelling with young children, we recommend one of South Africa’s famous malaria-free private reserves.

Another must-see with something wonderful for every age and appetite is Cape Town: home to an internationally acclaimed wine country and gourmet dining, award-winning beaches, the iconic Table Mountain, open-air markets, mountain trails for hikers and cyclists, vibrant theatre and nightlife, and a range of ultra-luxe villas, hotels, boutiques, galleries and spas.

Here is a guide to some of our favourite South Africa safari destinations:

The Greater Kruger: A Big 5 Capital

Keep an eye out for leopards in the Kruger | Lion Sands Ivory Lodge

The granddaddy of South Africa’s reserves, the century-old Kruger is synonymous with safari. We recommend a stay at one of the Kruger’s private reserves that adjoin the national park, or one of the exclusive-use concessions located within it – these promise crowd-free environments where the game viewing ranks among the best in Africa. Indeed, such is the density of game in the Sabi Sands, Timbavati and Thornybush private reserves that it’s not unusual to see the Big 5 in a single day, with leopard sightings so good you’ll feel like you’re in a National Geographic documentary! Night drives, guided walks and off-road game driving add to the adventure, while open-top tree houses, world-class spas, fine dining and private villas combine to deliver a superior South Africa safari experience.

There are plenty of family-friendly lodges with babysitters and children’s activity clubs as well as camps that emphasise the romantic side of safari – sumptuous, tucked-away suites and candle-lit dinners for two. You can drive to the Kruger from Johannesburg or fly from almost anywhere in South Africa. We suggest flying – it is more relaxing and gives you more time on safari. Remember, the more time you can spend in the bush, the greater your chances of seeing a kill or a rare animal like a honey badger, cheetah or pangolin.

The ease of getting around South Africa and its neighbouring safari destinations makes it simple and easy to combine the Kruger’s big game viewing with the tropical paradise beaches of Mozambique’s Bazaruto or Quirimbas Archipelagos, or Africa’s gastronomy and design capital, Cape Town, or the continent’s self-proclaimed adventure capital, Victoria Falls.

Why We Love It:

  • Up-close, reliable Big 5 sightings all year round
  • Classic 4×4 safaris with tracker-and-guide teams
  • No crowds at sightings (private reserves only)
  • Some of the finest safari lodges in Africa
  • Ideal for first-time travellers
  • Easily combined with island holidays and top destinations like Cape Town and Victoria Falls

Best Time to Go:

The best time to visit the Kruger in terms of climate and game viewing is during the dry season (from about late May to October). The rainy summer season is a time of newborn antelope, lush green views and sensational bird watching. Bear in mind that Kruger falls into a malaria zone: the risk is very slight – even in summer – but it’s best to consult your medical practitioner before you travel.

High / Peak Season Low / Green Season
When About July to October About November to April
Weather Cooler sunny days with no rain, cold nights and mornings Hot with afternoon thundershowers
Game-viewing highlights Big 5 (elephant, buffalo, lion, leopard, rhino) Big 5, birds and babies
Rates High Low

Best Accommodation:

Kruger National Park, South Africa
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Singita Boulders Lodge

Activities Travellers Enjoyed
Biking Bird watching Day tours Game drives
Sabi Sands Game Reserve, South Africa
LionSandsIvoryLodge-Exterior-ArialView LionSandsIvoryLodge-SwimmingPool-Evening LionSandsIvoryLodge-Dining-DeckPatio LionSandsIvoryLodge-Exterior-BomaCampFire LionSandsIvoryLodge-Exterior-DeckPatio LionSandsIvoryLodge-TwinBedroom LionSandsIvoryLodge-UpperLevelBedroom-Lounge

Lion Sands Ivory Lodge

Activities Travellers Enjoyed
Bush dining Game drives Golf Guided walks
Kruger Private Concessions, South Africa
Kamara House is set in a game-rich reserve forming part of the Greater Kruger. Large indoor to outdoor living space. Large veranda with plenty of seating to enjoy the view from. Kamara lounge. Expansive veranda and pool deck. Special moments with your family. Cool off in the swimming pool.

Kamara House

Activities Travellers Enjoyed
Children's activities Dinner under the stars Nature walks Night drives

Madikwe & Pilanesberg: Malaria-Free, Family-Friendly Safaris

Elephant approaching the pathway to Jaci’s Safari Lodge

Malaria-free, home to the Big 5 and located close to Sun City (Africa’s biggest and boldest holiday resort), what’s not to like about these two premier game reserves?

Pilanesberg National Park is a beautifully scenic reserve cradled in an extinct volcanic crater and is the closest to Sun City – in fact, it’s right next door. For those who want to mix waterslides and championship golf courses with game viewing by 4×4 or hot-air balloon, this is the ideal South Africa safari destination. Just over a two-hour drive from Johannesburg and offering great game viewing year-round, Pilanesberg is a perfect introductory safari – families with young children will love it.

Why We Love It:

  • Less than three hour’s drive from Johannesburg
  • A stone’s throw from the famous Sun City
  • Excellent sightings of elephant, lion, rhino, cheetah and brown hyena
  • Hot-air balloon safaris over beautiful wilderness

Best Accommodation:

Pilanesberg, South Africa
Black-Rhino-Game-Lodge_exterior Black-Rhino-Game-Lodge_suite-bedroom Black-Rhino-Game-Lodge_suite Black-Rhino-Game-Lodge_boma Black-Rhino-Game-Lodge_Restuarant Black-Rhino-Game-Lodge_pool Black-Rhino-Game-Lodge_lounge-area

Black Rhino Game Lodge

Activities Travellers Enjoyed
Bird watching Game drives Guided walks
Pilanesberg, South Africa
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Bakubung Bush Lodge

Activities Travellers Enjoyed
Bird watching Game drives Guided walks Hot air ballooning
Pilanesberg, South Africa
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Lush Private Lodge

Activities Travellers Enjoyed
Game drives Sundowners

Madikwe Game Reserve offers a more exclusive safari experience. Set on red sands at the edge of the Kalahari, this private reserve is home to a beguiling mix of desert and savannah species, and its accommodation varies from camps specialising in families to those offering the ultimate in romantic luxury. Under a 2-hour drive from Sun City, Madikwe offers an extra edge to your South Africa safari: you’ll join night drives and sit down to lavish lantern-lit suppers away from camp.

Why We Love It:

  • Home to rare wild dog
  • Private reserve – off-roading and night game drives are permitted
  • Track unusual species like brown hyena and pangolin
  • Diverse landscape: from dense acacia thicket and classic bushveld to the Kalahari Desert’s transition zone

Best Time to Go:

Anytime between early May and the end of October: there is barely any rain and game viewing is good, as animals concentrate near water. Mid-winter (June to August) is dry and cold; the November to April summer is hot with regular afternoon thunderstorms.

High / Peak Season Low / Green Season
When About July to October About November to June
Weather Cool with no rain Hot with afternoon thundershowers
Game-viewing highlights Madikwe and Pilanesburg: Big 5

Madikwe: eland, oryx, pangolin, brown hyena, wild dog

Birds and babies
Rates High Low

Best Accommodation:

Madikwe, South Africa
Mateya_Safari_Lodge_exterior Mateya_Safari_Lodge_suite-bedroom Mateya_Safari_Lodge_Boma Mateya_Safari_Lodge_outside-dining Mateya_Safari_Lodge_spa Mateya_Safari_Lodge_lounge-bar Mateya_Safari_Lodge_Library

Mateya Safari Lodge

Activities Travellers Enjoyed
Animal tracking experience Bird watching Game drives Guided walking safaris
Madikwe, South Africa
Take a dip in the swimming pool. Views from the Clubhouse Family Suite. The lounge area. Emperor Suite. A special guest appearing before lunch. excellent service from staff at Royal Madikwe. The Honeymoon Suite.

Royal Madikwe

Activities Travellers Enjoyed
Animal tracking experience Bush dining Game drives Guided walks
Madikwe, South Africa
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Morukuru Farm House

Activities Travellers Enjoyed
4x4 Drives Animal tracking experience Bird watching Bush dining

Eastern Cape: The Family-Friendly Choice

Stay in luxury lodges in the Eastern Cape | Eagles Crag Lodge

South Africa’s Eastern Cape is home to beautiful malaria-free game reserves set along rivers and the Great Escarpment, sitting under dazzling night skies and filled with the call of lions.

These are multi-faceted reserves, places where Big 5 game viewing vies for your attention with river cruises and cultural tours. Families can enjoy the option of private villa accommodation, and since many lodges offer family-oriented safari programmes, parents get to enjoy a massage at the spa while their children have a hands-on cooking lesson or learn how to track animals.

Add an Eastern Cape safari onto a Cape Town and Garden Route tour: the can-do nature of this popular holiday region means a self-drive safari is ideal – pick up your car in Cape Town and return it in Port Elizabeth before being collected for your safari. You can take in the Whale Coast and Cape Winelands on the way, leaving you plenty of time to discover why the Garden Route is so named, before settling back for a few days of classic Big 5 game viewing. One of the best South Africa safari itinerary ideas for independent travellers!

Why We Love It:

  • Malaria-free game reserves
  • Combines well with the beautiful Garden Route
  • See the Big 7 (elephant, buffalo, rhino, lion, leopard, southern right whale and great white shark) at Addo Elephant National Park
  • Crowd-free game viewing
  • Unique landscapes and ecosystems

Best Time to Go:

The Eastern Cape’s temperate climate enables a South Africa safari at any time of year, but if you want a Garden Route beach holiday too, then choose the warm and largely dry summer months from November to April.

Best Accommodation:

Eastern Cape, South Africa
Dine with a view of Kwandwe Private Game Reserve in South Africa. Lodge lounge interior of Kwandwe Great Fish River Lodge in South Africa. Suite interior of Kwandwe Great Fish River Lodge Kwandwe Private Game Reserve in South Africa. View from your suite at Kwandwe Great Fish River Lodge Kwandwe Private Game Reserve in South Africa. Private plunge pool at Kwandwe Great Fish River Lodge. Ensuite bathroom at Kwandwe Great Fish River Lodge Kwandwe Private Game Reserve in South Africa. Outdoor shower at Kwandwe Great Fish River Lodge Kwandwe Private Game Reserve in South Africa.

Kwandwe Great Fish River Lodge

Activities Travellers Enjoyed
Animal tracking experience Cultural visits Guided walking safaris Guided walks
Eastern Cape, South Africa
Ellies around the lodge. Put your feet up and relax in the African wilderness. Take a refreshing dip. The elegant lounge of Kwandwe Ecca Lodge. A warm welcome. Revel in beautiful views. The perfect family safari destination.

Kwandwe Ecca Lodge

Activities Travellers Enjoyed
Animal tracking experience Canoeing Cultural visits Fishing
Eastern Cape, South Africa
Suite at Eagles crag. Suite exterior at Eagles Crag. The bar at Eagles crag. Dining room. Shamwari Game Reserve Game drives. Thrilling gaming opportunities. Incredible wildlife opportunities.

Eagles Crag Lodge

Activities Travellers Enjoyed
Bird watching Game drives Night drives

KwaZulu-Natal: Bush & Beach Perfection

Enjoy family safaris | Phinda Vlei Lodge

Northern KwaZulu-Natal is one of South Africa’s most underrated wildlife destinations. The region is home to a collection of game reserves known for excellent Big 5 sightings, especially rhino and big cats. Throw in superb bird watching and gorgeous scenery – from woodlands and wetlands to palm savannahs, lush coastal forests and long golden beaches – and you have a South Africa safari destination that offers more than just game drives in the bush.

Furthermore, KwaZulu-Natal’s game reserves lie close to the iSimangaliso Wetland Park, which means you can easily culminate a Big 5 safari at a retreat on a footprint-free beach and one of the best scuba-diving spots in South Africa.

Why We Love It:

  • Excellent rhino and big cat sightings
  • Sensational birdwatching
  • Combines easily with a beach holiday
  • Best scuba diving location in South Africa

Best Time to Go:

Thanks to KwaZulu-Natal’s subtropical climate, it’s a fantastic destination to visit all year round – but keep in mind that the summer months (between December and March) can get hot and humid. Game viewing is generally at its best between May and October when there’s little rain and animals concentrate around water sources.

Best Accommodation:

KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa
Aerial view of the lodge main area and firepit. Experience the lodge's renowned bush banquets. Children are welcome at Phina Forest Lodge and can enjoy the immersive WILDchild children's safari programme. An optional addition to your safari - take part in various conservation programmes on the reserve. Indulge in a rejuvenating spa treatment or massage at the lodge spa. At an additional cost, book one of the reserve's specialised photographic vehicles. The lodge lounge and viewing deck.

Phinda Forest Lodge

Activities Travellers Enjoyed
Animal tracking experience Beach activities Bird watching Canoeing
KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa
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Phinda Vlei Lodge

Activities Travellers Enjoyed
Animal tracking experience Beach activities Bird watching Canoeing
KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa
Mantis-Biyela-Lodge Mantis-Biyela-Lodge_1 Mantis-Biyela-Lodge_2 Mantis-Biyela-Lodge_3 Mantis-Biyela-Lodge_4 Mantis-Biyela-Lodge_5 Mantis-Biyela-Lodge_6

Biyela Lodge

Activities Travellers Enjoyed
Guided walks Private game-drives Private guide

Whale Coast: A Whale-Watching Capital

Spot the migrating whales from the shore or a boat

From about June to October every year, hundreds of southern right whales start migrating from the icy Antarctic Ocean to South Africa’s mild coastal waters to calve and mate. The quaint town of Hermanus on the country’s Whale Coast has become the mecca for whale watching and is considered the best place on Earth for land-based whale watching. When the migrating whales arrive in the town’s Walker Bay from about August, these majestic marine mammals can easily be spotted from the shore – sometimes as near as 20 metres (65 feet) away.

Why We Love It:

  • Less than two hours from Cape Town
  • Best whale-watching destination in the world
  • Sensational Hermanus wine route
  • Combines wonderfully with the Garden Route

Best Time to Go:

As with all things Mother Nature, the whale migration is seasonal and hard to predict accurately. The whales generally arrive along the Whale Coast from about August onwards. August and September are usually the most popular months with the best sightings. TIP: charter a private boat if you want to get away from the crowds.

Best Accommodation:

Whale Coast, South Africa
Edited-Lekkerwater-Beach-Lodge-Arial-seascapes Edited-Lekkerwater-Beach-Lodge-Bedroom-at-night Edited-Lekkerwater-Beach-Lodge-Bedroom-views- Lekkerwater Beach-Lodge-Dinner-and-sundowners-on-the-beach Edited-Lekkerwater-Beach-Lodge-Lunch-in-the-main-area Edited-Lekkerwater-Beach-Lodge-Main-area-and-views-to-the-beach Edited-Lekkerwater-Beach-Lodge-Main-area-views-of-the-ocean

Lekkerwater Beach Lodge

Activities Travellers Enjoyed
Bird watching Day tours Sundowners Whale watching
Whale Coast, South Africa
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Grootbos Garden Lodge

Activities Travellers Enjoyed
Beach activities Bird watching Day tours Guided walks
Whale Coast, South Africa
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Morukuru Ocean House

Activities Travellers Enjoyed
Biking Day tours Picnics Snorkelling
Positive Impact

Positive Impact in South Africa

Contribute to rhino conservation at Marataba | Marataba Mountain Lodge

Any safari in South Africa is most likely to be an unforgettable experience. But the best safari in South Africa is one that provides these wonderful memories while leaving the wilderness better than you found it. If this is something you would be interested in, South Africa offers many vacations that perfectly blend an urban escape in Cape Town and luxury safari in the bush with conservation initiatives. From visiting community clinics and local pre-schools to tracking and collecting data on rhinos, here are our favourite trips with a purpose in South Africa:

Getting Around

Getting Around South Africa

Penguins going for a dip in the ocean in Cape Town

Thanks to the country’s extensive range of accommodations and a sophisticated infrastructure network, getting around in South Africa is effortless. Well-maintained roads and highways make it a great destination for a self-drive vacation, especially through the Cape Winelands and along the beautiful Garden Route.

Daily commercial flights link all South Africa’s major cities, and chartered airplanes can get you to any safari lodge that has its own private airstrip – which makes it really easy to combine a visit to Cape Town with a Kruger safari. Johannesburg’s OR Tambo International Airport is a significant travel hub, and the gateway to the rest of Africa and the Indian Ocean’s idyllic islands.

They Love Their Jobs!

Monique addressed all our needs, requests and then some for our first trip to South Africa. They listened to what we wanted and made amazing suggestions giving us what we wanted and adding in things that we couldn’t have dreamed of. Their expertise was stellar. Lion Sands River Lodge and Lion Sands Narina Lodge were absolute heaven… Our stay was beyond our wildest dream come true.

- Kelly Chiesa

Combines Well With

South Africa Combines Well With…

Rhino spotted on a game drive in Madikwe | Morukuru Farm House

Your South Africa safari can easily be combined with:

Destination Highlights
Botswana Okavango Delta, Chobe and Kalahari
Victoria Falls A visit during high-water season (about March to July)
Namibia Etosha, Sossusvlei and Skeleton Coast
Kenya and Tanzania The Great Wildebeest Migration
Mozambique, Mauritius and the Seychelles Family-friendly beach resorts and private tropical island retreats
Zimbabwe Hwange and Mana Pools National Parks
Zambia Walking safaris in South Luangwa
Best Suited For

South Africa is Best Suited For…

No South Africa trip is complete without a visit to Cape Town

If you’re a first-time visitor to Africa, there is no better destination than South Africa. It’s easy to get around thanks to its reliable infrastructure network, the country is completely geared up for tourism, and favourable exchange rates offer unbeatable value for money on affordable South African safaris. We’ve been tailor-making South Africa safari itineraries for thousands of honeymooners, families with children, and solo travellers since 1998. No matter what’s on your vacation wish list, a South Africa safari experience will tick all the right boxes.

Best For… Recommendations Highlights
First-time safari-goers
  • Kruger
  • Cape Town
  • Superb Big 5 sightings
  • Cape Winelands and gorgeous beaches
Photographers and birdwatchers
  • Low / Green Season (November to April)
  • Best light of the year
  • Colourful migratory birds
  • Calving season: plenty of predator action
  • Exclusive safari lodges in private reserves
  • Tropical islands
  • Private candle-lit dinners in romantic settings
  • Travelling with children, teenagers and grandparents
  • Malaria-free game reserves in Madikwe and the Eastern Cape
  • Family-friendly safari lodges
  • Kids’ clubs with age-appropriate safari activities
  • Child-minding services
Solo travellers
  • Private or tailor-made tours
  • Self-drive holiday
  • Adventurous experience
  • Cape Town
  • Cape Winelands
  • Exquisite cuisine at award-winning restaurants
Health & Safety

Health & Safety

Sleep under the stars in Lion Sands’ tree houses

South Africa is a safe destination to visit and we’ve been tailor-making safaris for our clients in this country since 1998. Here are our top tips when it comes to health and safety:

  • Consult your local travel clinic or GP about necessary vaccinations and malaria prophylactics well before your vacation.
  • Stay hydrated, wear sunscreen and a good hat. The African sun can be unforgiving.
  • Your guides know best. Always heed their warnings and instructions, they are there to keep you safe in the wild.

The coronavirus pandemic created a lot of concern and uncertainty particularly when it comes to travel; health and safety are on the top of every traveller’s mind. Safari is not only one of the best ways you can travel because of the direct impact your trip has on protecting wildlife, conserving habitats, employing people in rural communities, and educating children across Africa, but it has also been one of the safest. Find out why and get more tips on how to travel safely in Africa.

Itinerary Ideas

South Africa Safari Itinerary Ideas

Ready to Start Planning Your South Africa Safari Experience?

Chat with one of our experts about South Africa safari itinerary ideas that match your personal travel wishes and budget:

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