Safaris in South Africa Ranked Among the World’s Best

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( — July 5, 2019) — Recent investigations into the world of social media opinion have revealed that the Kruger National Park is right up there with Victoria Falls and the Serengeti in terms of popularity.

These three destinations have been exposed as the most photographed and shared safari destinations on Earth according to information published by safari operator, True Luxury Travel.

This won’t come as a surprise to those who’ve already enjoyed any number of safaris in South Africa, but for those who aren’t in the know, here’s why these safaris are so well-loved by travellers around the world.

What’s So Special about Safaris in South Africa?

South Africa isn’t known as the Rainbow Nation for nothing. You’ll find a diversity of cultures, activities and, most importantly in this context, wildlife experiences to enjoy in this amazing country.

The Wildlife of South Africa

Africa is best-known for its Big Five safari experiences. The chance to see the lion, leopard, black rhino, Cape buffalo and elephant in the flesh is indeed an awe-inspiring experience. Yet, there’s so much more to safaris in South Africa than these big-ticket animals.
During your stay in the Kruger National Park, or any of the country’s national and private game parks, you’ll fall in love with many lesser-known creatures that also call South Africa home. Vervet monkeys will delight you with their shenanigans, graceful giraffes will win you over with their laid-back demeanor, and industrious dung beetles are a fascinating diversion.

All in all, there are 299 species of mammals in South Africa, over 900 birds to admire and thousands of plants and insects thrown into the fray.

South Africa is also home to a range of endemic species that you won’t find anywhere else. These are the Cape grysbok, 3 species of mole rat, and the spectacled African dormouse, to name a few. There are also over 13 000 types of vascular plants that occur nowhere else and several birds unique to this diverse country.

Each of these creatures has their own preferences when it comes to habitat, which means that as you travel through South Africa’s varied landscapes, you’ll find different species to tick off your list.

South Africa’s Varied Game Parks

The Kruger National Park is the country’s best-known safari destination, and it’s also the largest, occupying over 7 500 mi² of pristine wilderness areas. It’s not your only option when it comes to South African safaris either. There are hundreds of other choices scattered over the millions of square miles of protected land- and seascapes spread across the country and across international boundaries.  

Thanks to the Peace Parks Initiative, you’ll find 5 wildlife reserves that extend across the borders of South Africa, making these safaris an international adventure.
These are: 

  • |Ai-|Ais/Richtersveld Transfrontier Park
  • Lubombo Transfrontier Conservation Area
  • Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park
  • Maloti-Drakensberg Transfrontier Conservation Area
  • Songimvelo-Malolotja Transfrontier Conservation Area

Remember your passport if you plan to explore any of these vast tracts of land, there are border control posts in place as you cross over.

Getting There is Part of the Fun 

It’s not only the animals, plants and birds that make journeys to South Africa so enjoyable. The people are naturally friendly and hospitable, regardless of their ethnic or cultural background.

South Africa is a vast country and getting around quickly is best achieved by airplane. Most of the major international airlines, including South African Airways (SAA) travel to South Africa’s main airports located at Durban, Cape Town and Johannesburg.  

You’ll have no trouble booking Kulula, Mango Airlines, British Airways and SAA flights online for onward travel to your safari destination. Charter flights also operate between all of South Africa’s airports to private air strips in most major reserves, including one at Skukuza, the main camp in the Kruger National Park.

Unless you’re flying directly into Skukuza, you’re probably in for a few hours’ drive from your Kruger National Park point of entry and your first overnight destination. Speed limits in the park are strictly controlled and limited to 60km per hour on tarred roads and 40km per hour on the dirt. You could also come across thrilling animal sightings that cause traffic jams, or encounter large animals that always have right of way and all day to take advantage of it.

It’s a good idea to travel prepared, which brings us to one of the staple ingredients for a successful safari in South Africa – ‘padkos’ (road food). No self-respecting self-drive journey is complete without a good supply of biltong, dried wors, and other snacks to fuel your explorations.  Water is an essential item to ward off the summer heat, and early morning travels demand coffee and rusks for the trip.

Despite the convenience of flitting from destination to destination during your stay in South Africa, a hire car is one of the best ways to make the most of your trip. Public transport is non-existent outside of the major centers and having your own vehicle gives you the freedom to explore at will. Driving gives you an opportunity to admire the countryside that flights just can’t offer, especially in scenic tourist areas like Mpumalanga, the Western Cape and Drakensberg.

For first time travelers to South Africa, guided tours are another good option. You’ll learn a great deal from your guide as you travel across vast stretches of land, stopping off at destinations that you may never have discovered on your own.

Awesome Accommodation Options

When you visit South Africa’s safari destinations, you’ll have no shortage of choices when it comes to finding accommodation that suits your style.

Premier Lodges

You’ll find super-swish lodges located in private game reserves as well as within the Kruger National Park. Here you’ll be treated to four meals daily, plush accommodation, game drives and walks and even spa treatments at some establishments. Mealtimes are often an al fresco affair and evenings bring opportunities for fireside feasts and tall tales until the wee hours.

Self-catering Accommodation

This kind of PBYO accommodation usually takes the form of brick and mortar chalets, huts and villas. You also have the option to book permanent tented accommodation according to various levels of luxury. In the Kruger National Park, these dwellings are often located with wonderful views over rivers and other water sources so that you can enjoy game viewing from the comfort of your room, for as long as the sun shines.

Items like kitchen appliances, cutlery, crockery, cookware and bedding are provided. All you need to bring along are your clothes, personal toiletries and food. The main camps in Kruger, have a selection of restaurants and a shop for essential items if you’d rather eat out.

No safari is complete without a braai (barbeque) in the evening, and you’ll find that most forms of accommodation have an outside cooking area for this purpose.  If you’ve never braai-ed before, you’ll soon feel the urge once you smell that unmistakable aroma of your fellow guests lighting their evening cooking fires. It’s a smell that you will forever associate with the rapidly approaching sunset and twilight sounds of the South African bush.

Private Bush Camps

Another self-catering option in the Kruger National Park includes exclusive use bush camps. These smaller offerings sleep up to 16 people with communal dining areas, private viewing decks and private chalet bedrooms. They do not have the shops, restaurants and swimming pools that are found in the major camps. 

At these private camps, you’ll have the grand experience of your own private butler to set the table for you, light your fire and wash the dishes. It’s a wonderful way to step back to the times of the colonial safari parties of yore.

Daily Safari Drill

Whether you’re staying at a luxury lodge, taking a guided tour or going it alone, the rhythms of a day on safari are basically the same.

Your day begins before the sun starts its trajectory across the sky with a hot beverage, usually accompanied by some form of rusk. The next order of business is heading out on a game drive to catch the night creatures on their way to bed. Early morning is the best time to come across nocturnal species like leopard, lion, honey badgers and other animals that hunt in the dark hours.

After driving for a few hours, a full English breakfast is always the next order of the day, often at a scenic picnic spot overlooking the riverside. Unless you have somewhere to go, the next step is to return to the comfort of your accommodation to wait out the hottest part of the day in comfort.

You can go swimming, explore camp, shop for curios or embrace your circadian rhythms with an afternoon nap before heading out for drinks and cocktails at sunset and another exhilarating game drive. 

Evenings are usually filled with fireside dining, stargazing, and an early night in anticipation of the next day’s action.

Many lodges and camps give guests the opportunity to embark on extra guided night drives to learn more about the local nightlife and a chance to see nocturnal predators in action.

There is so much more to safaris in South Africa than going in search of the Big Five. A safari is an all-encompassing experience that creeps into your soul and creates an overwhelming sense of well-being no matter how, when, and where you go about it.