Powdery beaches lapped by two oceans, black-maned lions framed against Kalahari Dunes and much more. Safari in South Africa doesn’t need to burn a hole in your pocket. Since the last two decades, it has become a favoured destination choice for safaris. With a genuinely astounding diversity, it’s one of the best safari destinations. It offers the Big Five (lion, leopard, buffalo, rhino and elephant) in more easily accessible parks and reserves. Easy accessibility means you can drive right through the epic wilderness. To be specific, they are the parks of Kruger, Kgalagadi and other reserves. You can also join the khaki-clad rangers on guided drives and works. It would make for an exciting experience for a lifetime.
But, a safari in South Africa is not only about the big-game sightings. It’s a lot more than that. You would get to learn a lot about wildlife while staying there. Little things about wildlife, to be precise. It can be anything from a leopard tortoise ambling alongside the road, or an encounter with seals. These are what add to the fun element of your safari. Now, even though it might be the most adventurous trip on earth, first timers might find it difficult. How much ever you have read or heard about spine-chilling experiences.
Nothing prepares you for the first time when you are in just a distance of about 10 feet of a lion. Well, here we have you covered. Of course, we are not going to train your lion-facing skills. But, how to plan for a safe yet exciting safari in South Africa. The first safari of your life would always change you, making you more aware of your surroundings. In this blog, we would highlight the key points of what is required and how to make your vacation a success!
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Best time for Safari in South Africa
South Africa is a year-round destination and you can go just anytime. But, most preferred are the months of winter and spring. During the summer months, the Cape has hot, dry weather. These are the months from November to May. The northern regions can experience downpour during these months as well. Best time for safari in South Africa would be July to November when the weather is dry. These are the best months for whale watching and the cool air makes for superb conditions for viewing big game.
May to September – It is easy to spot wildlife around these months because of less vegetation. Also, you would be able to see animals gather around rivers and waterholes. The skies are clear and there is no sign of rain anywhere around. These months are considered as the low season as the parks don’t stay crowded. But, during the night and early morning, it might get cold with minus temperatures. If you are visiting around this time, carry woollens.
October to April – The scenery turns green and all looks fresh post the rainy season. A lot of migratory birds fly in at this time, hence, it’s the best season for bird watching. And, bird watching in South Africa parks is no ordinary business. You would find the most exotic birds and would get to learn a lot about them as well. Rains at this time are mostly short afternoon showers and seldom interfere with your trip. Wildlife viewing can be a bit difficult as the bushes grow to enormous lengths. And, in December, January and February, the weather turns hot and the parks get crowded.
By far, the months from May to November are considered the best season. You can visit all the parks and reserves around there and have an amazing time.
Wildlife Safari in South Africa
1. Kruger National Park
One of the world’s greatest wildlife watching destinations, it’s the best wildlife safari in South Africa. To the south of this park, you would get to see several beautiful granite kopjes (hills). The Lebombo Mountains rise from the savannah in the east. And, about 19,485 sq km is a stretch of tropical forests in the park. As stunning as it sounds, you need to be there in person to absorb the splendour of the place. Elephant, rhino, cheetah, buffalo, giraffe, hippo and so much more! Does it excite you enough to book your safari in South Africa right now? Then waste no time. Apart from the big game, supporting the cast are over 137 other mammals and over 500 varieties of bird. Kruger can be a bit overcrowded at times due to its popularity. You might have to stand in line to see those gigantic African lions. But, every penny and time is worth it.
- Timings: 6:00 am – :30 pm
- Safari cost: INR 4170.45 – INR 8340.90
- Take a look at their official site here
2. Marakele National Park
Compared to Kruger, safari costs are quite reasonable in the other parks. Marakele is another best wildlife safari in South Africa. It’s a delightful sanctuary which is home to an impressive variety of animals. Wild, exotic, migratory and so on. This park nestled in the heart of the Waterberg Mountains, is a must-visit for the ones who wish to see the Big Five. It’s like a perfect escape from the hustle and bustle of the city. Also, if you are visiting the beautiful cities of Johannesburg and Pretoria close by, Marakele is the place you can’t miss. Drive through the jungle by open safaris. Spot the Tuli elephants brought into the park in 1999. There’s so much to do and see in this park itself. The park has this fabulous wildlife with dramatic landscapes. Least-known and still underrated, the dramatic red cliffs and a handful of lakes have the power to beguile you.
- Timings: 6:00 am – 6:00 pm
- Safari cost: INR 278 – INR 354
3. Kafue National Park
One of the best destinations for hot air ballooning, Kafue is one of the best national parks in South Africa. Covered in colourful air balloons, the Busanga Plains of Zambia is a visual treat in itself. And, of course during the daytime! Kafue has turned into one of the hottest destinations, all thanks to the hot air balloon available here. The complete activity offers seclusion and mind-blowing scenic bird’s eye view of the place. The best hours to visit this park would be in the morning. Post a ride, a delicious champagne breakfast is served to the guests at the park’s vast grasslands. Known for it’s guided walk safaris, it does make for a great safari in South Africa.
- Timings: Open 24 hours.
- Safari cost: INR 13,2015 – INR 34,750 (There are more expensive options available as well)
4. Pilanesberg National Park
A wonderfully scenic place to see a stunning variety of wildlife, this park is a must-visit for all. It was in the late 1970s that it had been conceived as a back-to-nature weekend escape for city dwellers. The park remains a home for where lions, buffaloes and day-trippers still roam. Situated between the Kalahari and wet Lowveld vegetation, it makes for an amazing safari in South Africa. And it was in 1979 when the park had been transformed from a land of agriculture to a forest reserve. More than 6000 animals had been released into the wild. Today, all Big Five are here. Cheetahs, caracals, African Wild Dogs, jackals, hyenas, giraffes, hippos, zebras and a variety of antelope.
- Timings: 6:00 am – 6:30 pm
- Safari cost: INR 34,194.00 – INR 69,222.00
5. West Coast National Park
If you are looking for the most picturesque sightings along the way, then this is the perfect place. A 310 sq metre park, the focal point of this place is the Langebaan Lagoon. Clear blue waters make it an ideal water body for swimming and sailing. If you are a bird lover, this park is the best place to sight some of the most exotic birds in the world. Quite popular among bird enthusiasts, it’s also a good place for safari in South Africa. Curlew Sandpiper is seen in the greatest numbers. And, several wading birds flock here in the summer months. It’s also a popular place to witness spring wildflowers bursting into colour. And, that makes for an easy destination to watch the blooms than Namakwa. During August and September, when the flowers usually bloom, the park gets crowded. Also, you need to remember that the entry fee to the park escalates during these months.
- Timings: 7:00 am – 7:00 pm
- Safari cost: NA
6. Mapungubwe National Park
Rocky landscapes, which are stunningly stark against the cultural intrigue and wildlife is what attracts people to this park. Birdwatching here is an excellent activity. Exotic, migratory, and resident birds can be found throughout the sanctuary. A UNESCO World Heritage site, this park contains South Africa’s most significant Iron Age site. Wildlife here includes leopards, lions and elephants. Home to over 400 species in a small area, the park is a remarkable mix of woodland, grassland and water species. Some of the birds you can spot in this park include – Meve’s (Longtailed), Starling, Tropical Boubou, Pel’s Fishing Owl, Verreaux’s (Black) Eagle, Cuckoo birds, Southern Pied Babble and so on. Mapungubwe is also an amazing place for trekking enthusiasts. It’s also the last protected areas of the Limpopo riverine forests.
- Timings: 6:00 am – 6:30 pm
- Safari Cost: NA
7. Sanbona Wildlife Reserve
A walking safari in South Africa, it is listed among one of the best in the country. With the guidance of your experienced rangers by your side, discover the essence of this amazing park. The park conducts early morning walking trails apart from the usual evening and afternoon ones. Because of its private game reserve in the Western Cape, it’s one of the most favoured destinations for a safari in South Africa. Sanbona has also initiated a unique conservation programme to save and reintroduce White Lions in the park.
- Timings: 6:00 am – 7:00 pm
- Safari Cost: NA
Further Read: 10 Best International Trips under 30k from India
Setting out on a safari in South Africa takes you on a thrilling journey through the most mysterious jungles. Chase the Big Five in super fast jeeps or track wild animals through dense forests on foot. Nowhere in this world would you experience the pure joy of watching the wild in their natural habitat. Safari in South Africa gives you exactly that amazing opportunity.