Just a short drive from the popular beaches and seaside towns of the Garden Route lies South Africa’s Eastern Cape Province, a place of traditional villages, abundant wildlife, big smiles and no crowds.

The Eastern Cape’s biggest draw is its reserves. As the newest addition to South Africa’s safari circuit, this once-overlooked province has now become a top big game destination in its own rights. Most of its reserves boast the Big 5 in easy-to-see habitats and offer a variety of safari activities ranging from game drives and river cruises to horseback and walking safaris.

Moreover, being a malaria-free region, the Eastern Cape is certainly one of the best places for a hassle-free family safari. Many of the lodges offer tailor-made activities for children that include guided nature walks and treasure hunts under professional supervision and there are plenty of educational experiences too.

But it’s not just families who fall in love with this part of South Africa: any visitor on an Eastern Cape safari is sure to enjoy expertly-led game drives in search of big game, the diverse and beautiful scenery, and the agreeable temperate climate. And as for accommodation, take your pick from traditional thatched lodges, romantic tented camps or stylish boutique hotels offering indulgent spa treatments, butler service and private plunge pools.

The Eastern Cape’s best known reserve is Addo Elephant National Park, most famous of course for its large elephant herds. But for good big cat sightings and luxurious accommodation, we’d recommend one of our hand-picked private reserves: Kwandwe has no fewer than four award-winning lodges; Shamwari - with its two big cat sanctuaries - is renowned for its conservation initiatives; while Pumba is home to rare white lions.

To organise a perfect Eastern Cape safari, simply chat to someone who’s been there: our Africa Safari Experts can give you personal recommendations and put together a holiday to suit your style and budget. And for a best-of-both-worlds safari and beach break, we'd suggest combining the reserves of the Eastern Cape with a self-drive journey along the Garden Route - starting or ending in South Africa’s favourite city, Cape Town - just ask us how.