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5 South African safaris for all tastes and budgets

Explore stunning wilderness and get up close with lions, elephants, rhinos, leopards and more.

Zebras in South African safari national park

Looking for a holiday that combines amazing scenery, exotic wildlife, and lots of adventure? A South African safari is perfect for you.

Like many of its neighbouring countries, South Africa is celebrated for its natural resources and big game reserves, with world famous Kruger National Park hosting the largest variety of wildlife in Africa.

For thrill seekers, there are plenty of bucket-list adventure activities, like kayaking with crocodiles, microflights over the coastline, diving with sharks and exploring the Cango Caves.

South Africa is also renowned for its large variety of safari options, with a wide range of locations all over the country providing itineraries that cater to all budgets and desires. From very basic self-drive tours staying in rustic cabins, to high end private tours and 5 star luxury accommodation, you’ll definitely find something to suit your needs.

With so many choices available it can be difficult to know where to start planning your South African safari. The main thing is to be aware of ethical and sustainability issues, and to choose travel experiences that avoid making a negative impact on this beautiful country. Research your tour providers and lodges, and make sure you’re supporting businesses that protect animals, the environment and the local community.

To help you get started, here our our picks of five safari holidays with different prices and offerings.

For the budget conscious

South Africa is famed for its up-market safari lodges. But for those with champagne taste on a beer budget, there are plenty of ways to experience the beauty and wonder of this country without refinancing your house.

One option is to self-plan your trip. You can rent a 2WD or 4WD car and organise your own access to national parks. Many of the parks have self-service cabins you can book, and there are usually cheaper accommodation options just outside the park, and you can simply re-enter the park each day.

For those with, here are some tips for planning a South African safari:

  • Travel in the off-season
  • Stay in smaller, owner-run camps
  • Choose lesser known game reserves
  • Rent your own car
  • Take your own food
  • Search for deals on tours and accommodation

There are also several companies that can help you plan tailor-made South African adventures. This can be a budget-friendly, stress free way to create your ideal safari holiday.

For the eco-conscious

For an experience that really minimises your impact on the environment and promotes the welfare of animals, Natural Habitat Adventures offers custom and packaged eco-tours and holiday packages all over the world, including South Africa. They work in partnership with the World Wildlife Fund and are the world’s first 100% carbon-neutral travel company.

The Natural Habitat Adventures South African tours promise to show you uncrowded sectors of the country’s greatest wildlife parks, and views of an array of animals from ostriches to elephants.

For families

Taking the kids with you? There are many tours, camps and lodges that cater well to families on safari.

The Ant’s Nest, in the malaria-free Waterberg highlands, is a beautiful homestead that’s been run by the same family since the late 1800s. Situated on a private game reserve, this lovely old lodging with six guest rooms is ideal for a family safari. The atmosphere is relaxed and comfortable, and children will love the heated pool. Activities on offer include bush walks, horse riding and game drives for spotting white rhinos, leopards and sable antelopes.

For seeing the Big Five

‘Big Five’ is a term commonly used to talk about the five most difficult animals to spot in Africa: the African lion, African elephant, Cape buffalo, African leopard and rhinoceros. Many safaris are specifically planned around spotting the Big Five.

One of the best ways to find the Big Five is by staying at Royal Malewane, a luxury safari lodge in the private Thornybush reserve in Greater Kruger National Park. Along with premium accommodation for no more than 20 people at a time, a full service spa, and fine dining, the lodge also offers its guests classic safari experiences with some of the best guides in the region, promising to get you ‘thrillingly close’ to the Big Five.

For ultimate luxury

If money’s no object and privacy is key, Singita Lebombo Lodge is the place for you. Set in the Greater Lebombo Conservancy in the Kruger National Park, the lodge boasts a handful of suites and one private-use, fully staffed villa. High end amenities include a gym, wine library, espresso bar, help-yourself deli, and lap pool.

The lodge offers a range of activities, including guided walking safaris, as well as private day and night game drives promising to get you up close and personal with a variety of wildlife, including leopards, lions, white rhinos, buffalos, elephants, hippopotami, and cheetahs. Other activities include stargazing, mountain biking, and archery. All itineraries can be tailored to suit families, and there are babysitters on hand for parents wanting kid-free time.

Safaris are fun and full of adventure, and absolutely anything can happen while you’re roaming around the African wilderness. Make sure you protect yourself from expensive accidents with travel insurance.

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