South Africa is one of the most popular safari destinations on the continent. Offering some of the best game viewing in the world, including of course the ‘Big Five’ (lions, leopards, rhinoceros, elephants and buffalos), the country is also a good-value, all-year destination. Across the north of the country are nature and game reserves as well as the famous Kruger National Park, one of Africa’s largest animal reserves.
Motswari Game Reserve
Found in the huge Timbavati Nature Reserve, open to the Kruger National Park, the Motswari Private Game Reserve is a family-owned lodge with a friendly atmosphere; highly experienced guides; and comfortable, distinctive accommodation.
The reserve is open to the roaming wildlife of the 20,000 square kilometres of the Greater Kruger National Park, so there’s plenty of potential wildlife to see on the game drives. Also, don’t miss the chance to take a walking safari with Godfrey, the assistant manager – it is such a memorable experience.
The lodge accommodates 30 guests, so things feel personal. Suites are in chic individual, thatched rondavel cottages. Expect king size four poster beds, original art from the Geiger family, air-conditioning, luxury bathrooms with large soaking tubs, and plenty of South African style.
The Geiger family are award-winning animal conservationists, so a stay at Motswari offers some hope for the immense challenges faced by African wildlife.
The reserve also has its own private airstrip for that Out of Africa style arrival.
Nkomazi Game Reserve
About 3 hours’ drive east from Johannesburg or Pretoria, the Nkomazi Game Reserve is found on South Africa’s striking ‘Genesis Route’, one of the places where life on earth began. The reserve offers a great introduction to African game viewing within the convenience of a smaller, gated reserve. Viewing of iconic African wildlife is pretty much assured on the twice daily game drives, since the reserve has well over 4,000 head of game within its 30,000 hectares.
Accommodation is in 9 private tented suites, furnished with modern luxuries, yet with the charm and romantic style of a classic safari adventure. As well as the comfortable guest suites, with vintage styling, and the well-equipped bathrooms, expect a plunge pool and roll-top bathtub on the deck, so you can take a soak whilst elephants pass by!
After a day’s game viewing or activities like mountain biking or fishing, experience an authentic braai BBQ meal around an open fire, in the camp’s atmospheric boma enclosure; or go star-gazing in the camp’s rustic, open air amphitheatre.
The Blue Train
One of the most iconic luxury trains in Africa, the Blue Train covers the 1,600 kilometres between Cape Town in the south and Pretoria in the north of SA within 27 hours. So it’s easy to combine the sophistication of Cape Town with a safari experience. 2016 will see the Blue Train re-launch its services from Pretoria to Hoedspruit, enabling guests to enjoy the decadent glamour and gourmet dining of vintage style private rail travel all the way to the edge of the Greater Kruger National Park.
Each private luxury cabin with ensuite shower or bathroom has a Butler on call for service like a morning hot chocolate in bed, as you watch the African scenery roll past.
Also known as Eastgate Airport, this former military base serves the wildlife areas of north-eastern South Africa. Small regional aircraft connect with international routes. It’s kid of how flying must have been in the ’50s!
You don’t need to dress like Indiana Jones or a colonial-era ‘White Hunter’ to look the part whilst on safari. However it’s certainly more elegant, and advisable, to wear neutral earth-tones – breathable, quick-drying garments that are easy to layer so you can keep warm or cool down as the temperatures change during the day. The Bush is dusty, so you won’t want to wear white – and like bright colours it is not advised. A cap is useful and if you go in winter, a warm hat is essential. Pack your comfy walking shoes too as typically you will be invited to leave the 4×4 to get closer to wildlife (and step out for a G&T sundowner!).
In addition to bringing a sense of adventure, pack binoculars if you don’t want to share; a compact camera with zoom lens (unless you’re a serious photographer); a small torch; moist hand wipes; household medicines; and your favourite chocolate or treats.
South African safari areas, being in the southern hemisphere, have a warm, wet, summer season from May – October, when the Bush looks its most verdant, but there’s more chance of rain, humidity, and bugs. Also it’s easier for game to hide behind leafy vegetation. The winter season is dry and also bug-free, providing clear days and easier wildlife viewing. However, early morning and late evening game drives can be chilly.
The main wildlife areas of SA are considered low risk areas for malaria. Normal precautions against mosquitos are usually sufficient. Check with your GP or National Health Service for specific advice.