The new year often brings with it a promise of new year’s resolutions, new adventures and new experiences. Sticking to them without proper planning may prove to be difficult, but with this list of incredible safari getaways to put on your bucket list you are sure to seek adventure.
Welgevonden Game Reserve
Situated in the Waterberg Region in Limpopo, the Welgevonden Game Reserve, whose name aptly translates as “well-found”, is a hub of conservation. The 37,000-hectare reserve is based what used to be farmland and boasts diverse geology and landscapes.
Ambitious and ongoing game relocation efforts have seen this reserve restored to something like its previous natural state, with more than 50 mammal species and 300 bird species calling Welgevonden home.
The Welgevonden game reserve is South Africa’s fewest locations that has a good white rhino population and herds of elephants; and has been successful in the reintroduction of the cheetahs.
The game’s secluded luxury lodges and camps, unlike their counterparts in better-known parks and reserves such as Kruger or Sabi Sands, are much more reasonably priced. They also have great specials for locals for the new year.
Madikwe Game Reserve
Found in North-West Province near the Botswana border, Madikwe Game Reserve, which is the country’s 5th largest game reserve has gained as one of the best Big 5 game reserves in South Africa. Like Welgevonden, Madikwe game reserve has consolidated and rehabilitated many abandoned farms and has become a home of the world’s animal translocation project.
The reserve is also well-known for its substantial elephant herds and excellent leopard sightings. However, its healthy population of endangered African wild dogs many, remain its primary drawcard, as one has a higher chance of sighting them here than anywhere else in South Africa.
Madikwe also boasts a wide array some of the finest luxury lodges in the country, as well as many family friendly options that won’t break the bank.
Mokala National Park
Found in the in the rugged hills of the Northern Cape, about 70kms away from the diamond city of Kimberley, Mokala is the newest national park.
Though it park does not accommodate the Big 5 areas, it’s home to a number of rare and endangered species such as the black rhino, roan antelope and mountain reedbuck. Including the Cape buffalo, eland, tsessebe and gemsbok.
Mokala offers a range of accommodation options, from luxury lodges to basic camping at a reasonable price.
Other than viewing game, Mokala also has a couple of excellent fly-fishing spots on the banks of the Riet River.
iSimangaliso Wetland Park
Not only is it Listed as South Africa’s First World Heritage Site in 1999, the iSimangaliso Wetland Park is a vast protected area found on the coastline of KwaZulu Natal with Lake St. Lucia as its centrepiece.
The Wetlands natural features are staggering as it includes 220kms of beautiful beaches, towering 25,000-year-old coastal dunes, the last of the country’s swamp forests, three major lake systems, Africa’s largest estuarine system and 526 bird species and different game.
Guided walks, whale watching, horse riding, kayaking and scuba diving can be enjoyed across the eight ecosystems of the park. Visitors also have the unique chance to witness the nesting rituals of loggerhead and leatherback turtles.
Pumba Private Game Reserve
One of the newer members to make the list of excellent malaria-free Big 5 reserves in South Africa is the Pumba Private Game reserve. Located in the Eastern Cape, it’s also one of the most exclusive, with just two luxury lodges available in the reserve.
The reserve is home to many endangered species, including the white lion, as well as its more common tawny relative. Other than the members of the Big 5, you’ll also find cheetah, hyena, hippo, giraffe, plenty of plains game and over 300 bird species in the reserve.
The reserve is easy to get to, just an hour’s drive from Port Elizabeth and about 20 minutes away from Grahamstown, so a visit is easily-combined with some time on Sunshine Coast or further inland towards the Amatole mountains.