The Complete Guide: Where to Go on Safari in South Africa

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So you’ve decided and the flights are all but booked – you’re going on your first South African Safari adventure.

Now, where to go? What to do? What shall I see?

If there’s one thing I know for sure (after booking my first trip to South Africa last year), the internet is sorely lacking help in the form of “Where to Go on Safari in South Africa”. So, you’ve arrived at the right place. Here’s everything I know from my last 4 visits to South Africa (yes, it’s that amazing that you most certainly will be coming back!!!).

Where to Go on Safari in South Africa

First thing’s first: book that flight to Johannesburg, South Africa.

Now, time for the fun stuff: deciding where to go on Safari in South Africa. For your benefit, lets go in order of popularity:

Face off Kruger National Park

Kruger National Park

Why Here:
One of the largest game reserves in Africa, Most popular in South Africa, Fantastic Night Game Drives, Spotting the Big 5 likely
What You’ll See:
Chances of seeing the Big 5 are highly likely as areΒ the chances of witnessing a kill (animals on animals), and many nocturnal animals on the evening drives
There are three airports serving Kruger National Park, as well as private air strips for many of the lodges. Typically visitors fly from Johannesburg, though there are limited flights from other cities such as Durban and Cape Town. Many visitors choose to make the long drive, with a 420km distance between Johannesburg and the Southern entrance of Kruger.

Pilanesberg National Park

Why Here:
Proximity to Johannesburg, Next door to Sun City
What You’ll See:
Chances of seeing the Big 5 are likely, a special program for white rhino conservation at the nearby Sun City makes it possible to walk with rhinos.
Located 164 km away from Johannesburg, Pilanesberg is a mere 2-3 hour drive away.

Addo Elephant National Park

Why Here:
What You’ll See:
Meerkats being meerkats (aka hilariousness – see this video)
Addo Elephant National Park is nearest to Port Elizabeth, which is a great chance to experience the coast of South Africa. Via land, take the N2 highway towards Grahamstown and follow signage.

Hluhluwe-iMfolozi Game Reserve

Why Here:
Near enough to a guarantee to see the white rhino as this reserve is a sanctuary for the animals and repopulating them in South Africa
What You’ll See:
White rhino, giraffe, wildebeests, zebras, impala, lions, leopards, elephants, buffalos (everything in the Kruger), plus a higher chance of spotting one of the three resident packs of wild dogs
Located 280 kilometres North of Durban in central Zululand, KwaZulu-Natal province. This is the oldest proclaimed nature reserve in Africa!

Sharks at KwaZulu Natal

Why Here:
Great marine wildlife – particularly sharks
What You’ll See:
Sharks (no kidding)
Base yourself in Durban, South Africa’s coastal city, to experience the marine life in the Kwazulu-Natal province.

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    February 28, 2016 at 2:17 am

    We recently went to South Africa from the USA and stayed in Capetown before going to Londolozi in Kruger. Amazing. Life changing mystical, gorgeous.

    February 27, 2016 at 12:58 am

    Good choice but my best experience in SA was the first : Madikwe Game Reserve πŸ™‚

    January 7, 2016 at 6:17 am

    What’s the best way to gain access to these parks? Do you need to visit with a tour group or can you just show up and drive through on your own (like in a national park in Europe or the US)?

    south african hunting safaris
    December 26, 2015 at 7:19 pm

    Hey! Thanks for this lots of information. I must say you have done a great a job., there are some of my friends who are looking for this kind of overloaded information. I will defiantly gonna share this stuff with them. Thank you so much for your efforts, appreciate it.

    The Gilded Lifestyle
    May 14, 2015 at 11:30 pm

    Also, with regards to the Kruger park, If you are driving from Johannesburg, the drive is amazing. You get to see the Sappi paper plantations, Sabie coffee plantations and you can stop of at other sights such as Gods’ Window, Bourkes Luck Potholes, Blyde River Canyon, e.t.c. The area is mountainous and really beautiful. So if you do have the time, I highly recommend driving down and entering the Kruger Park at the Paul Kruger gate which is epic. There are several gates to the park but this one is definitely the best to enter from.

    The Gilded Lifestyle
    May 14, 2015 at 10:53 pm

    I’m from South Africa and the Kruger National Park is amazing. Totally worth a visit. I would personally advise spending the majority of time in Cape Town as opposed to Johannesburg. Cape Town is a lot more relaxing compared to Johannesburg…

    Grace Blake
    May 10, 2015 at 9:35 am

    I loved Kruger! Can’t wait to get to Pilanesberg one day. You should definitely head to Botswana next time you’re in Africa Brooke. The wildlife there is incredible πŸ™‚

    May 9, 2015 at 1:36 am

    I’m going to SA in November and just booked marked this for future reference. Thanks so much for sharing!

    May 8, 2015 at 12:04 am

    Definitely on my list of places to go. Man 4 times you’ve been already.

    Amy Calitz
    May 7, 2015 at 9:05 pm

    If you’re coming to South Africa for game, I would highly recommend taking a trip up to Botswana, Chobe National Park is wonderful for seeing game. As well as parts of Namibia and Zimbabwe.

    Lauren van Zyl
    May 7, 2015 at 5:33 pm

    You must come and see the whales during whale season in the Cape. The penguins in Cape Town are also a must see. If you want an up close adventure with lions or cheetahs then the De Wildt Cheetah Farm near Pretoria or the Lion and Rhino park near Johannesburg are a must see.

    May 7, 2015 at 4:51 pm

    I’m dying to go to all of them! I can’t believe you’ve already been to South Africa FOUR TIMES in the past year! That’s amazing!

    May 7, 2015 at 8:07 am

    A safari is high on my list, but I had no idea where to start! Great list! I’ve had Johannesburg and Cape Town (penguins!) on my list way too long. Time to cross them off!

    May 7, 2015 at 7:22 am

    Obviously I know the animals kill animals but I think it might be a bit jarring for me to see that up close. I’d like to see as many animals as possible though if I went. Seeing a white rhino too would be cool too but I’ll pass on the sharks.


    Saakshi Kumar
    May 7, 2015 at 7:17 am

    Thanks for the details. Big help! πŸ™‚
    And it’s amazing how the place has been calling you back since the first time. Hoping I’ll be meandering in South Africa soon. πŸ™‚

    May 7, 2015 at 7:14 am

    It sound like 24 hours open wild life channel ! I cant wait to visit South Africa πŸ™‚