When it comes to a South African safari, the park choices are endless.
Of course, there is always the iconic Kruger National Park. Yet even within this vast wilderness are several private reserves where the concentration of wildlife and quality of experience far surpass anything found in the larger, more public parks.
From the Botswana border to the Eastern Cape, here are Ker & Downey’s top five spots for an unforgettable and unparalleled safari experience.
The Sabi Sand Game Reserve is just one of the Kruger Area’s many private reserves. Its isolated location allows wildlife lovers to experience the region’s renowned wildlife in their own quiet way.
While the Big 5 are certainly on display, this region is particularly excellent for big cat viewing. Leopards are in abundance (a rarity), as are cheetah, wild dog, hippo, and more than 400 species of bird. The lack of other vehicles also ensures a more intimate and educational game viewing experience.
While here, don’t miss out on an incredible tree house sleep out near the Sabie River.
Thornybush is yet another private game reserve that shares a fenceless border with Kruger. Just like Sabi Sand, the Big 5 roam freely, and the lion and leopard sightings are numerous.
Its diverse ecosystem, plethora of wildlife, and 32,000 acres of privacy are further complemented by its luxury villa accommodations and award-winning spa offerings.
Yet the cornerstone of Thornybush is the people. The guides here are passionate about the land and generous in their knowledge. Their expertise and second-to-none guiding skills are what round out a perfect South African safari experience.
Madikwe is a dream destination. Located in a malaria-free region near Botswana, this private reserve is a tucked away treasure. While it shares many similarities with Sabi Sand in wildlife and accommodation offerings, Madikwe boasts some key differences.
The first and most prevalent is the presence of both black and white rhino – a true rarity. Madikwe also plays host to numerous wild dogs in addition to the coveted Big 5.
Its variety of game coupled with its exclusive access and countless stars make it a favorite.
The country’s largest privately owned game reserve, Tswalu Kalahari represents desert luxury at its best. Stretching more than 27,000 acres, its location in the Northern Cape makes it both lesser known and lesser visited, despite its plethora of predators and plains game.
Its wildlife is rare and riveting. Yes, the Big 5 are all here, but so are such residents as the black and white rhino, Kalahari lion, cheetah, zebra, aardvark, honey badger, lynx, and the ever-elusive pangolin.
The cornerstone of any visit to the Kalahari, however, is time spent with the local meerkat colony. These delightful creatures welcome visitors as they hunt for their daily dose of grubs, spiders, and frogs.
Kariega Game Reserve
Nestled away in the Eastern Cape is the untouched wilderness of the Kariega Game Reserve. This remote 25,000-acre parcel of land is home to a special family owned and operated South African safari experience.
Its unique location on the Garden Route make it an ideal pairing with Cape Town, while its two large rivers promise plenty of boat rides in search of hippos.
Visitors will undoubtedly remember the beautiful tent-style suites and the elegant sundowners here. Yet it is the reserve’s work in rescuing and rehabilitating the local rhino that has the most everlasting impact on visitors.
Which reserve would you like to incorporate into your next South African safari? Contact a Ker & Downey designer today to begin planning your dream trip. For even more travel inspiration, follow us on Instagram and Facebook.