Les plus beaux safaris: 5 must-see attractions
When it comes to safaris, South Africa does not compare to any other African country, including Kenya or Tanzania which rank amongst the top safari destinations in the world. Indeed, a South African safari offers unique opportunities to observe great wildlife throughout the year, including the famous "Big 5" (elephant, lion, leopard, rhinoceros and buffalo), in the heart of private game reserves and national parks. The country also offers other animal spectacles, such as whale-watching experiences in the Cape region during the breeding and birthing seasons in June and November. This can be viewed from land and at sea. The reserves offer quality accommodation and safari experiences alongside expert fauna and flora guides, who offer visitors anecdotes and secrets about the bush and its animals. Unlike national parks, access to these private reserves requires at least a one-night stay. A visit to South Africa means being able to choose from of a large variety of fascinating safaris: either in your own vehicle, aboard a 4X4 vehicle with a guide, on a boat to view hippopotamuses or whales more closely, or even on foot in some reserves.
The best safaris
In the KwaZulu-Natal province you’ll find Africa's oldest park, the Hluhluwe-iMfolozi National Park, home to the world's largest concentration of rhinos as well as other African wildlife including the Big 5. With its hills and savannah landscapes, the park itself is beautiful, especially when the vegetation is lush and green between November and May.
A 3-hour drive north-east of Johannesburg is South Africa's 4th largest game reserve – the Pilanesberg National Park. Admittedly, the park’s surface area (550 km2) has less grandeur than its neighbouring park, the Kruger. However, it offers the opportunity to meet the "Big 5" in a more tranquil setting! You can opt for a safari in your own car, a guided 4x4 safari from your lodge or even a park walk alongside a ranger.
Addo Elephant National Park
For an entrance fee (as in other national parks), you can enjoy a full one-day safari in the heart of the Addo Elephant National Park, home to more than 400 elephants. With over 12,000 hectares of bushland, the park is South Africa's 3rd largest. It is populated by other mammals such as black rhinos, antelopes, a multitude of birds and, for some years now, lions and hyenas.
Kruger National Park
Probably one of the most symbolic and well-known reserves in Africa, a day in the Kruger National Park promises to be the ultimate safari experience. The entrance to the park is a 5-hour drive from Johannesburg and an entrance fee is payable. After that you are free to follow the roads and tracks at your leisure and enjoy the spectacle of animals that cross your path. With nearly 150 species of mammals and 500 species of protected birds, there is no shortage of things to see including the famous "Big 5".
The Madikwe Game Reserve, located in the north-western part of the country along the Botswana border, is a bit more "off the beaten track" than other reserves and parks in the country. The reserve offers visitors great guided safari opportunities (which generally last a few hours) with the chance to observe the famous "Big 5" as well as endangered species such as "wild dogs".
Travel writer and photographer
Whether you’re travelling alone, as a couple, with family or friends, South Africa is an easy country to get around and perfect for realising your childhood dream of going on safari and coming face-to-face with animals synonymous with African safaris. It was in South Africa that I had the joy of experiencing beautiful safari moments, both alone and with my family; watching animals stalking and hunting their prey, seeing large herds of elephants passing by, and observing many other mammals and birds that I had only ever seen in books and reports. Getting up early and taking a safari at sunrise is also one of my best safari memories in South Africa because the light is amazing! In addition, an authentic safari experience really does involve spending at least one night in a lodge in the heart of the park or reserve itself, to perhaps hear lions roaring in the distance or the simple sounds of savannah life.