Ever thought about going on a South African safari? Here are some personal recommendations from guest writer, tour guide and safari expert, Ian Adam. A South African native and ex high school principal, Ian is the founder of C-Scape Tours. In this role he is committed to sharing the many wonders that his country has to offer.
In my mind you can’t visit South Africa without also experiencing our ‘unspoilt’ wilderness. This can be done a number of ways. And because South Africa’s infrastructure remains the best on the continent, the wildlife (or game as it often referred to) can be viewed from either a 1st world perspective, out of luxurious lodges with the inevitable ‘out of Africa’ theme, or by means of roughing it with very few amenities.
Either way most people who visit the country want to view as much game as possible. However, while the variety of animal and bird life is incredible, it is important to remember that wild animals do not perform on command. As such you should be prepared to enjoy situations as they unfold, rather than ‘expect’ to be shown the BIG 5 (lion, elephant, buffalo, leopard and rhinoceros). By having this attitude you will get the most from your experience. Plus it will make a sighting of your favourite animal the ‘cherry on top’.
Parks to Visit
Kruger National Park
This park is, by far, the best known wildlife reserve in Southern Africa. It is the largest of all the parks and it can be visited by anyone. All of the camps within the Kruger are very well appointed, even though the type of accommodation varies enormously. Cost typically dictates the type of lodging that you choose – from camping, to a self-contained chalet with all meals provided.
For the most part, self-drive visits are the most popular way to see the park. However there are also a number of operators that can package accommodation with a guided safari tour. If you go this route, make sure you have done some homework before committing to a particular company because they do vary considerably.
The Kruger also provides open vehicle game drives from most camps. The advantage to this is that the guide can easily identify fauna & flora for you. However, for some (particularly photographers), the disadvantage is that you are in a group – so you can’t spend the time you might like at certain animal sightings.
Other options near to Kruger:
Adjacent to Kruger are a number of 3 – 5 star private game lodges. Smaller lodges tend to be more intimate and can vary from Tangala, a 3 star lodge with good cuisine, comfortable accommodation and excellent game viewing in the Timbavati Reserve, to Kings Camp, with luxurious 5 – 6 star pampered treatment in the same reserve. Lodges in the Sabi Sand reserve, which is further south, have the advantage of adjoining Kruger. 5 star lodges such as Londolozi, Sabi Sabi are larger and can accommodate more guests.
Clients can be met at airports in Nelspruit or Hoedspruit, however self-drives are most common. On arrival, you are treated to luxury accommodation, as well as a knowledgeable guide and tracker that can take you on game drives each day. This allows you the freedom to go off road so that you can follow the tracks of a lion pride into the bush.
Hluhluwe Umfolozi Park
The oldest park in South Africa is the Hluhluwe Umfolozi in KwaZulu-Natal, which is 200 kilometres north of Durban. It is easily accessible and offers camps similar to the ones available in Kruger. However, while this older park is better known for its scenic beauty and efforts to save the rhino from extinction, it is also home to the BIG 5, as well as cheetahs, wild dogs and prolific birdlife. What it doesn’t have are large herds of game.
Ndumo, Mkuze & Ithala
Also located in the Ezemvelo portfolio are Ndumo and Mkuze in Northern Zululand, and Ithala on the northern KZ-N escarpment. Again self-drive is the way to go for these parks, although there are safari companies that can provide accommodation and guide driven safari vehicles. The park also has open game drive vehicles.
Bush walks are also popular and these can be arranged at the camps.
Pilanesberg National Park
Adjacent to Sun City and only a 2 hour drive from Johannesburg, Pilanesberg National Park may be relatively small, but it has a fantastic variety of wildlife. It is also relatively easy to see one of the BIG 5, which can make wildlife viewing incredibly rewarding. On site there are private lodges as well as two camps, which range from 5-star luxury accommodation to basic camping.
In Northern Kwa Zulu-Natal, game viewing is also excellent and private lodges are in abundance. Phinda Game Reserve near Hluhluwe is, perhaps, the best known and can cater to a variety of budgets. Smaller and more intimate reserves include Mkuze Falls Game reserve and Amakhosi, both of which are excellent and offer fantastic accommodation and cuisine options.
Tips for a Great Safari
- Visit South Africa in July to September because game viewing is typically better in the drier months. There are also fewer annoying insects and malaria is virtually nonexistent.
- If you want to view wildlife at your leisure, think about hiring your own guide/tracker
- Remember to pack your camera, video recorders and chargers, as well as light clothing that covers your arms and legs, mosquito repellent, and warmer wind proof clothing for evening and early morning game drives.
- Always be observant and listen to the instructions of your guide(s)
- If you are self-driving, make sure you are:
- Comfortable in map reading
- Happy to drive on the left hand side of the road
- Prepared to have an additional driver
- A calm & tolerant driver
- Have more time at your disposal
To learn more about Ian, be sure to check out C-Scape Tours. And feel free to contact Ian directly for advice regarding reservations and itineraries for your South African adventure.
Featured Image: Jeep in South Africa Mountains (Shutterstock.com)