Get to Know Wildlife on a South Africa Safari

Outdoors & Animals

Game View of Elephant, Sabi Sands, South Africa

When considering a South Africa vacation, a visit to this beautiful scenic country gives you many travel ideas. One definite option should be a South Africa safari to become acquainted with the amazing wildlife that exists here. South Africa has an abundance of game reserves and Goway offers quite a varied choice.

Kruger National Park, one of the largest and best known African safari game reserves in the world, contains 147 different species of animals. It encompasses nearly two million hectares and fourteen different ecosystems. The game reserve naturally includes the Big Five (elephant, lion, leopard, rhinoceros, and Cape buffalo). It also contains over 500 species of birds. Just to give you an idea of the scope of the park, there are approximately 150,000 impala, 17,000 zebra, 11,000 elephants, 5,000 white rhino, 1500 lions, and 1000 leopards. No wonder Kruger is a natural choice for game viewing. Within Kruger Park is the more public eastern section which offers, for the most part, basic accommodation. Then there are the Sabi Sands, Klaserie, Timbavati, and Kapama private game reserves. Your accommodation choices here are more upscale lodges or luxury tented camps of which some are ultra luxurious, and others quite affordable. In a private game reserve, safari vehicles are allowed to go off the road into the bush, whereas in the public section, they must stick to the roads within the park.

Leopard Cub Resting in Sabi Sands Nature Reserve, Kruger National Park, South Africa
A nearby leopard cub resting in Sabi Sands Nature Reserve
Lion Sands Ivory Lodge, Kruger National Park, South Africa
Lion Sands Ivory Lodge

The St. Lucia Wetlands, also known as Isimangaliso Wetland Park, is one of South Africa’s most beautiful wetland and coastal sites, offering coral reefs, long, sandy beaches, dunes, lakes with hippos and crocodiles, and swamps with birdlife. It is geographically diverse with inspiring scenic vistas along its 220 kilometre/130 mile coastline. The park contains 3 major lake systems, 8 interlinking ecosystems, and most of South Africa’s remaining swamp forests. It is Africa’s largest estuary system with over 500 bird species. Animals to be viewed on this South Africa safari include elephant, African leopard, black and southern white rhino, buffalo, and in the ocean, whales, dolphins, and marine turtles. The park is also home to 1200 Nile crocodiles and 800 hippopotamus.

Hippo Feeding out of Water, St Lucia Wetlands, Isimangaliso, South Africa
Hippo feeding from water, St Lucia Wetlands

The Hluhluwe-Imfolozi Game Reserve in the KwaZulu-Natal province is one of the best places in the country in which to see the endangered rhino. The reserve has both black and white rhino as well as members of the Big Five. It is the oldest game reserve on the African continent and one of South Africa’s largest. The reserve also has elephant, cheetah, hippo, hyena, jackal, giraffe, and wild dog.

The Madikwe Game Reserve is very unique. Situated on the edge of the Kalahari Desert in North West South Africa, not far from the border with Botswana, this reserve did not exist prior to 1991. It was decided for economic reasons to convert low-yield cattle farmland to a high-yield conservation area. Herds of breeding animals were relocated here and now consist of all the major game animals one would wish to see on a South Africa safari. There are in total around 10,000 animals and 60 different species. In addition, there are 350 species of bird life. The reserve is now the 5th largest game park in South Africa.

Close Up of Africa Painted Wild Dog, Madikwe Gamer Reserve, South Africa
Close up of Africa painted wild dog in Madikwe Game Reserve

If you happen to be in Sun City, you also have the opportunity to experience wildlife viewing at the nearby Pilanesberg Game Reserve, which borders Sun City with its rugged landscapes and well-watered valleys. Since 1979, thanks to something called Operation Genesis, the largest game translocation ever undertaken at the time, made available everything from A to Z (aardvark to zebra). The park boasts healthy populations of lion, leopard, black and white rhino, elephant, and buffalo. A wide variety of rare and common species exist such as the nocturnal brown hyena, fleet-footed cheetahs, as well as giraffe, zebra, hippo, and crocodile.

If you are in the vicinity of Port Elizabeth, there is a choice for a South Africa safari at one of the nearby game reserves. These include the Addo Elephant National Park, with the world’s densest collection of elephants. It is the third largest game reserve in South Africa with its 600 elephants, 400 Cape buffalo, plus the Big Five. There is also the Pumba Private Game Reserve, home to the Big Five as well as rare white lion, hippo, hyena, cheetah, giraffes, various antelope, and more than 300 bird species, and the Kragga Kamma Game Park, home to vast herds of white rhino, buffalo, cheetah, giraffe, and zebra.

White Lion at Pumba Private Game Reserve, South Africa
White lion at Pumba Private Game Reserve

The Phinda Private Game Reserve in northern KwaZulu-Natal has some of the most popular wild animals including the lion and elephant.

The Tswalu Kalahari Reserve is a privately owned game reserve in the Northern Cape and is South Africa’s largest private game reserve in area, covering over 100,000 hectares. It offers the opportunity to see four of the Big Five (no lions).

Tswalu Kalahari Game Reserve - Exterior, South Africa
Game drive at Tswalu Kalahari Game Reserve

So, on your visit to South Africa, do include a South Africa safari, taking in at least one of the excellent game reserves available.