Does the thought of malaria put you off planning a South Africa safari? If so, let me start by reassuring you that even in reserves like the Kruger Park, malaria is easily preventable if you take the right precautions – particularly in the dry season when the risk is low begin with.
That said there are situations where any risk is to be avoided, for example if you’re pregnant or travelling with young children, or perhaps you simply don’t want the hassle of taking prophylactics (anti-malaria pills). Either way South Africa has a selection of malaria-free reserves each offering phenomenal game viewing and luxurious accommodation.
So take risk out of your plans and enjoy a classic big game safari at one of these fine reserves.
Eastern Cape Private Reserves
Look forward to fantastic big game sightings at Shamwari Reserve.
South Africa's Eastern Cape Province is fast becoming one of the country’s top safari destinations. The attraction of an Eastern Cape safari is not only the private Big 5 game reserves and luxurious lodges, but also the fact that you're an easy drive from the beaches and holiday towns of the world-famous Garden Route. Imagine waking up overlooking the ocean and later that same day experiencing your fist big cat sighting on an afternoon game drive!
Spend a few night at one of the award-winning lodges at Shamwari, a game-packed reserve that leads the way in conservation; opt for beautiful Kareiga Reserve which has four luxurious lodges ranging from family-friendly to honeymoon-perfect; or enjoy an exclusive safari at the Relais & Chateaux Kwandwe Private Reserve, a vast wilderness on the banks of the Great Fish River.
Shamwari Bayethe's luxurious tented suites sit on the bank of a meandering river.
Best For: an unforgettable beach and big game safari holiday. Start with a few days in Cape Town before meandering up the Garden Route - roads are in good condition and easy to navigate – then rounding off your trip with a malaria-free Eastern Cape safari.
Our Favourite Place to Stay: Sleep under canvas in one of the luxurious tented suites at Shamwari Bayethe Lodge or pick peaceful Kwandwe Great Fish River Lodge, a top choice for romantics.
Madikwe Game Reserve
Madikwe is known for good big game sightings including the endangered wild dog.
Madikwe Game Reserve lies a three-and-a-half-hour drive or short flight from Johannesburg. Once dotted with cattle and maize farms, the land on which Madikwe now stands was transformed into a reserve following the biggest game relocation programme ever staged - Operation Phoenix - which took place over six years and involved moving more than 8,000 animals.
A conservation success story, Madikwe is well known for its Big 5 sightings, and is one of the best places in Africa to see the highly endangered African wild dog. There’s a good range of accommodation here too, so whether you’re looking for an exclusive retreat or family escape we can recommend a lodge perfectly suited to your safari needs.
The view from the dining deck at Madikwe Hills Private Game Lodge.
Best For: classic game viewing with a good chance of seeing the Big 5, cheetah and wild dog.
Our Favourite Places to Stay: Madikwe Hills Private Game Lodge is set high on rocky outcrop with fantastic views out over the reserve, for absolute privacy opt for the five-suite Molori Safari Lodge or if you’re travelling with your family we’d highly recommend Jaci’s Safari Lodge.
Kalahari lions are known for their large size and beautiful manes.
South Africa’s largest private game reserve, Tswalu is set on the red sands of the Kalahari Desert. If you've always imagined the Kalahari to be a sparse and desolate place, think again. Not only are the grasslands here home to a third of South Africa’s black rhino population but they also deliver excellent sightings of cheetah as well as the Kalahari lions, famed for their size and beautiful manes.
Along with classic big game viewing, a real highlight of a safari at Tswalu is a chance to see the smaller and more unusual desert creatures such as pangolin, bat-eared foxes and colonies of comical meerkats which have grown to trust people and allow you to get up really close.
A family of meerkats seen on a safari in Tswalu Game Reserve.
Best For: a unique desert safari with wildlife sightings ranging from Kalahari lions and black rhino to meerkats.
Our Favrourite Places to Stay: choose between the main lodge Tswalu Motse and the smaller Tswalu Tarkuni, the Oppenheimer family’s own personal home.
Going on a game drive in South Africa's beautiful Waterberg Region.
The high lying Waterberg Region sits at the transition zone between South Africa’s dry west and wetter east, and is mixture of vast savannah plains, dramatic mountains, deep gorges and dense woodlands. This truly beautiful area has a scattering of national parks and private reserves, and the diverse topography supports a wide variety of big game.
Game drives in the Waterberg give you a good chance of seeing elephant, giraffe, rhino and lion, as well as unusual creatures such as bat-eared fox – there are leopards too, but they tend to stick to the mountains and are seldom seen. Along with morning and afternoon drives, many of the reserves offer guided walks and horse riding safaris too.
The tented suites at Marataba Lodge, set against the backdrop of the Waterberg Mountains.
Best For: crowd-free game viewing in peaceful surroundings against the magnificent backdrop of the Waterberg Mountains.
Our Favourite Place to Stay: Marataba Safari Lodge sits in a private concession of the Marakele National Park, and has just 15 tented suites each opening onto a private deck with phenomenal mountain views.