My introduction to some of the best South African safari destinations around came during childhood. Some of my fondest memories are of visiting the Pondoland Wild Coast to fish, and man, what fish we caught!
At other times we would head for the bushveld and camp at places with wild and exciting names such as as Hluhluwe or Mfolozi. Here I was introduced to lions, rhino's and other African wildlife such as giraffes and kudu.
At night we would sit around the campfire and tell stories. I can remember the shivers down my back the first time I heard a lion roar in the darkness of the night. We would shine torches to catch the gleaming eyes of the hyena chuckling just beyond the flickering light of the fire. Boy, was I hooked!
In later years as I extensively traveled South Africa, I have visited many off the beaten track destinations. So how do I choose my best South African safari? Difficult, very difficult.
Buffalo, late afternoon in the Kruger National Park...
South Africa is such a diverse country and offers something of everything for everyone. Thousands of miles of coastline, all the way down the Atlantic west coast from the Namibian border in the North around Cape Town in the South and then up the eastern coast along the Indian ocean seaboard all the way to Mozambique.
In between we have deserts, semi-deserts, savannah, bushveld, highveld, lowveld, mountain ranges, tropical forests, rivers and wetlands, so where do we begin?
I think to safari in South Africa you have to have some idea of what you can experience and where you can go. It will also help to know where your interests lie.
It will also depend whether you want to go on an organized tour or a self drive African safari. Personally, I prefer the self drive option as it allows you more freedom of choice and movement. Also, South Africa offers good infrastructure, resources and accommodation that makes it is easy for first timers to cut their teeth on an African safari.
Boabab tree - Mapungubwe National park...
So, Depending on how adventurous a spirit you are or how attached to your creature comforts you are, to enjoy the best South African safari possible you will have to make some choices which I hope these pages will help you in deciding.
Accommodation ranges from basic camping all the way through self catering chalets to 5 star lodges and hotels. You can travel by sedan or 4X4 depending on how far of the beaten track you want to go...(My favorite...)
I believe that a South African safari offers a great introduction to the rest of Africa. So before you tackle Cape to Cairo you can get a feeling for the continent by traveling South Africa which offers first world luxuries but also wilderness as only Africa can provide.So what would be the best South African safari?
I enjoy them all but a good place to start would probably be the Kruger National park which you can visit traveling in a sedan. It offers accommodation from basic camping through to luxury chalets as well as wilderness camps. Big five, Africa wild as you as expect it. This is really a one of the best South African safari destination which I love to return to year after year.
View over Marakele National park
Not only is it the biggest of the South African Game Reserves, it also gives you that authentic being in Africa on safari feeling.This is definitely one of my best South African safari destinations. Try it, you will love it....
Looking for a destination a bit wilder and rougher? Consider Mapungubwe or Marakele, both great destinations if you want to go on African Bushveld Safaris. Just remember, to really enjoy and explore both these South African safari destinations, a 4X4 vehicle is recommended, especially in the rainy season as it really becomes muddy and slippery. The roads, particularly in Marakele are very rocky and high ground clearance is a necessity.
Further to the south, traveling off the beaten track in the the Eastern Cape Province and the Karoo, you also will find two excellent wilderness destinations which are relatively unknown.
Crossing one of many drifts - Baviaanskloof...
Baviaanskloof and Gamkaskloof, also known as "The Hell", are way off the beaten track and certainly worth a visit.Both these place are on my best South African safari list. As you can completely lose yourself here and as they are not easily accessible, make the most of your visit by allowing enough time to explore. Word of warning though, be careful if you do not have a head for heights!
The Swartberg Pass on route to Gamkaskloof is a trip in it's own right and is highly recommended. I have crossed it a number of times but each time is like it is the first time. It is simply magnificent!
The Swartberg pass in the Karoo...
While you are in the area, I can certainly recommend that you visit Addo National Elephant Park. This well run park is the home to a huge elephant breeding herd.Once again going of the beaten track, why not travel along the Suurberg (Zuurberg) Pass either to or from Addo National Park? This to me is part of the joy of a Self drive safari. You get to travel the routes that the touring companies do not frequent.
The Garden Route follows the coastline south into the Western Cape and this section of coastline has a magic spell of its own and also deserves a place on my best South African safari list.
Further inland in South Africa, moving towards the Highveld, you will find the Drakensberg mountain range, forming the border between Kwazulu Natal along the coast and the mountain kingdom of Lesotho and the Orange Free State province.
On the the way to Cathedral Peak, Drakensberg mountains...
The Drakensberg offers some excellent hiking and mountaineering for those more inclined to go on an African walking safari.
Anything from day hikes to 5 days or longer are possible as numerous routes criss cross the mountains.
However, please do not go hiking alone, it is dangerous. Also if you do not know the area, take a guide along.
They have a wealth of information on the area and will ensure that you have a memorable and safe trip.
Beautiful rock formations in Golden Gate...
Leaving the Drakensberg behind, try this alternative route the Highveld, Gauteng and beyond. Travel through the Golden Gate National park in the Red Mountains via the scenic town of Clarence.
You simply have to stop here and visit the numerous artists galleries, curio shops, coffee shops and restaurants. As many people including international celebrities have found out - the Eastern Free State has magic of its own!
A best South African safari list would be incomplete without the Karoo, the Kalahari, the Namaqualand, the Richtersveld and the West Coast along the Atlantic ocean. Mainly desert and semi desert these areas spring to life after rain and is covered in a sea of flowers. The Namaqualand region and the West Coast is world renowned for it's floral extravaganza. Certainly a must visit in early spring!
The Protea is one of many beautiful wild flowers found in South Africa