South Africa game reserves & national parks

When travelling to South Africa you will almost certainly visit one of South Africa's excellent game reserves or national parks. South Africa is known for its very accessible wildlife areas and nature reserves. Much of the land mass is set aside for the purposes of nature conservation. If you plan visiting a game reserve while on a luxury South Africa holiday it is useful to know what can be expected. This page provides an overview of all major game reserves and national parks in South Africa and tells a little bit about our own safari experiences. For locations click the map on the right.

Private game reserves

Private game reserves around Kurger National Park in South Africa game reserves national parks south africa

South Africa's most famous and most important national park of course is the Kruger National Park in the northeast of the country. It covers a vast stretch of untouched nature in the Mpumalanga and Limpopo provinces and is bordered by Mozambique on the eastern side. In the national park there are about twenty restcamps in which the national parks board provides accommodation. There is also a significant number of private game reserves in and around Kruger. Partly, these reserves are located within the boundaries of Kruger National Park itself and are run through a concession scheme. Other private game reserves border the western side of the park (such as Sabi Sands, Manyeleti, Kapama and the Timbavati). Fences between Kruger and these private game reserves have been removed in the early 1990s. Together, the private game resereves and Kruger NP, for the "Greater Kruger National Park". Wildlife in the area is able to roam freely and are thus able to migrate from one area in the park to another. The quality of accommodation, wildlife and rangers determine the price of an overnight stay. The most luxurious accommodations set you back approximately £ 750 per person per day and are rather expensive. Of course, at South Africa Chic! we always look for the best possibilities to make your South Africa safari experience as memorable as possible. We offer several possibilities in our portfolio for visiting Kruger National Park, Sabi Sand Private Game Reserve or Manyeleti Game Reserve.

Sabi Sands Game Reserve
Sabi Sands Game Reserve is a long established name and probably the most famous of all private game reserves bordering Kruger National Park. Sabi Sands shares a 31 mile border on the western side of Kruger NP. Sabi Sands has a very healthy wildlife population in incredible numbers. The main explanation for this is the fact that the area was farmland in the old days. For this reason many waterholes were dug in the 19th century, many of which still provide a steady source of water. Due to this steady water supply many wildlife species are attracted to the area. Water supply within the Kruger National Park is a lot more seasonal and therefore volatile. This results in large groups of animals residing in the Sabi Sands year round, in turn attracting many of the large predators that make an African safari so exciting. Sabi Sands probably is the best place in the world to see big cats, and the elusive leopard in particular. Read more about staying in Sabi Sands.

Manyeleti Game Reserve
Also the Manyeleti Game Reserve shares a border with Kruger National Park and is located just north of Sabi Sands Game Reserve. Manyeleti has the same advantages when it comes to seeing (big) game. The are no fences between Manyeleti and Kurger so wildlife is free to come and go as it pleases. The chances of seeing large predators are slightly reduces compared to Sabi Sands as there is less water in the reserve. However, Manyeleti enjoys a massive advantage compared to staying in Sabi Sands: it is much quieter in terms of visitos numbers. Sabi Sands is the well established name, attracting a large amount of visitors. Manyeleti is much lesser known, and also has a very limited number of private game lodges. Tourism in general is less well developed in Manyeleti, and the reason can be found in the dark history of the country. In the apartheid years Manyeleti was the game reserve where non-whites were welcome. The Kruger National Park was inaccessible for them at that time. In all those years the government only invested very little money in the area's development: ironically Manyeleti now is picking the fruits when you are looking for the ultimate bush experience. Read more about staying in Manyeleti Game Reserve..

Makalali Conservancy
Makalali Conservancy is situated west of Kruger National Park and a much younger private game reserve in this part of South Africa. It does not have a shared border with Kruger NP and is a completely fenced in reserve. It was founded early 1990 and used to be a farming area in the decades preceding that. In the years after its establishment wildlife has been brought in and the vegetation had a chance to recover. The results are simply splendid: Makalali is one of the finest private game reserves that we came across in Africa. Almost all species of big game are te be found here, with the exception of the African buffalo. We were particularly impressed by the spectacular accommodation in the reserve. Along with the great people that run this place makes that Malalali offers a real 'safari for the soul'. Read more about staying in Makalali Conservancy.

Table Mountain National Park

Western Cape (in and around Cape Town)
cape of good hope table mountain national park south africa

Are you staying in Cape Town for one or more days during your luxury South Africa holiday? You then will pretty much always enjoy the amazing view of Table Mountain right on your doorstep. The famous flat topped mountain is part of Table Mountain National Park which extends all the way south to the Cape of Good Hope. The mountain itself being situated in the middle of the city means that it is a national park right in the middle of a bustling metropolis. There only a few other cities that can boast having a full fletched national park in the middle of town. Important sights that make up Table Mountain NP are Cape Point and the Cape of Good Hope in the south, the penguin colony in Boulder's Beach near Simon's Town, and of course the iconic mountain itself. Also parts of the surrounding oceans are protected (meaning that fishing is restricted). Visiting Table Mountain is an activity not be missed when staying in Cape Town. We recommend monitoring the weather closely when you want to go up, as the cable car will not be operated in bad weather conditions (strong winds or severe cloud cover). If at all possible, we recommend taking the cable car up around one and a half hours before closing time, you'll find it much quieter and a sensational sunset awaits you. You can visit Table Mountain National Park while making use of our luxury Cape Town module. For day trips to the Cape of Good Hope you can read more on our Cape Town day trips page.

Kruger National Park

kruger national park game reserve south africa

It is difficult to comprehend how big Kruger National Park actuaaly is. From north to south, it covers a distance of 225 miles. From east to west it measures 40 miles at its widest point. These are impressive figures indeed, and it is no coincidence that Kruger National Park is one of Africa's most popular and largest wildlife reserves. The diversity of various landscapes, vegetation and wildlife species is overwhelming (there are six different ecosystems in the park). Nature enthusiasts can easily spend weeks in Kruger without ever getting bored. The immense area was designated a protected area (then called the Sabie Game Reserve) in 1898 by then-president Paul Kruger. It was only in 1926 that the area was proclaimed as a national park and got the name of its founder. It was South Africa's first area with national park status. There is an incredible amount of wildlife to be seen in Kruger: there are roughly 2000 different plant species, 500 bird species and 147 mammal species. Of course the complete "Big 5" (leopard, rhino, elephant, buffalo and lion) occurs in the park. Kruger NP can easily be reached by rental car of by flight from Johannesburg to the airports of Kruger/Mpumalanga (near Nelspruit), Hoedspruit (Eastgate) or Phalaborwa (all serviced multiple times on a daily basis). With our various travel modules we offer multiple possibilities for staying in Kruger or in one of the adjacent private game reserves.

Hluhluwe-Imfolozi Game Reserve

Kwazulu-Natal hluhluwe imfolozi game reserve

The Hluhluwe and Imfolozi areas were proclaimed protected nature reserves in 1897, as such forming the oldest conservation areas in South Africa (not national park status however). The game reserve still consists of two parts: Hluhluwe and Umfolozi (or Imfolozi) connected by a corridor. It is one of South Africa's nicest parks, and therefore shouldn't be missed during a luxury South Africa holiday. Lions, elephants, giraffes and rhinos are just some of the animals that can be seen here. The area is quite mountainous and has rather dense vegetation, it is therefor best to visit the park in our summer (when the vegetation is less dense). Visiting the park is very well possible when travelling with your own rental car as it has an excellent roads network. If you are staying in St. Lucia it is also possible to book an organised game drive in an open safari vehicle. Also multi-day trekkings are organised in the game reserve for those who are really adventurous. Visiting Hluhuluwe-Umfolozi can best be done when making use of our "Mountains and wetlands: Swaziland to St. Lucia" travel module.

Tsitsikamma National Park

Western Cape
tsitsikamma national park game reserve south africa

Tsitsikamma is a unique 'coastal' national park covering about 65 miles of rugged coastline between Plettenberg Bay and Humansdorp. The park includes a narrow, five kilometres wide strip between the Indian Ocean and the Tsitsikamma mountains. There are many ravines and rivers throughout out the park. Particularly beautifil is te vegetation in the evergreen forest, where man 'yellow wood', 'stink wood' and proteas (South Africa's national flower) can be seen. Tsitsikamma means 'place of much water' for a good reasons: it is truly spectacular seeing the sea crashing onto the coastal rocks in the park. One of the most popular spots in Tsitsikamma is the Storms River area. This is the starting point for a number of beautiful walking trails directly along the coast. You can choose from a hike to a waterfall, but also a more streneuous trail taking you into the mountains or where you first pass an impressive suspension bridge. Read more about opportunities staying close to Tsitsikamma National Park.

Addo Elephant National Park

Eastern Cape addo elephant national park

The 164,000 hectares Addo Elpehant National Park is located in the Zuurberg mountains, about 45 miles north of Port Elizabeth in the Eastern Cape. Addo, as the name already suggests, is famous for its elephants of which once only eleven were left. Today, the population has recovered to a healthy number of about 450 individuals, so you really should see some of these impressive animals when visiting the park. The scenery is very attractive, usually very green and with many special flowers and plants to be seen. If you have some time to spend during your luxury South Africa holiday, it is definitely worthwhile visiting the park. Plans exist to expand Adoo to a total of 360,000 hectares. Besides elephant, zebra and hartebeest, also whales and great white sharks will be living in Addo Elephant National Park as it will stretch all the way towards the Indian Ocean. Read more about Addo Elephant National Park.

Greater St. Lucia Wetlands Park (iSimangaliso Wetland Park)

cape vidal st lucia south africa

The Greater St Lucia Wetlands Park is a huge nature reserve designated by UNESCO as a World Heritage Site. The park is divided into smaller parks and nature reserves. Crocodiles, hippos, birds, and unfortunately, mosquitoes are the animals most likely to be seen when visiting the park. One of the highlights is a boat trip on lake St. Lucia, try avoiding big tour groups when you do so. Canoeing on the lake is too dangerous because of the many hippos in the lake, so making a tour on a flatboat really is the only option. From the village of St. Lucia, where many travellerd choose to stay for a couple of days, you can also book organised day trips to endless beaches of Cape Vidal or go on safari in Hluhluwe-Imfolozi Game Reserve. Want to stay in St. Lucia? Read more on our "Mountain and wetlands: Swaziland to St. Lucia" page.

South Africa Travel Guide

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Going on safari in South Africa

The infrastructure in and around South Africa's game reserves is very well-organised. Excellent roads taking you to the parks, but also extended road neworks in the game reserves, make that self-driving while on safari in South Africa really is a breeze. Unlike countries such as Kenya and Tanzania is not at all necessary to rent an expensive 4x4 vehicle and guide. This is one of the major advantages of travelling to South Africa: it can be done on a complete individual basis. South Africa's long history in relation to nature conservation and tourism makes that there are many different types of accommodations and facilities to be found throughot the country. There really is something for everyone when on a luxury South Africa holiday.

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Did you know?

Kruger National Park in South Africa almost measures 12,000 square miles? That is bigger than the land area of Wales.

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