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Wildlife safaris in South Africa
Wildlife safaris in South Africa
Wildlife safaris in South Africa
Wildlife safaris in South Africa
Wildlife safaris in South Africa
Wildlife safaris in South Africa
Wildlife safaris in South Africa
Wildlife safaris in South Africa

South Africa wildlife safaris

South Africa's best wildlife safaris

Expert Africa covers only the western side of South Africa, including the Cape and Kgalagadi. Within this, a few wildlife safari areas compete with the wilder parks further north in Africa. However, much of the Cape is malaria-free, and so it includes some of the best safaris in South Africa which are suitable for families with young children.

The question “What is the best wildlife safari in South Africa?" is hard to answer; the range of possibilities is extraordinary. From tracking cheetah on foot, to whale watching, to excellent birding, there is an outstanding variety of ways to explore wildlife in South Africa.

The best wildlife safaris on dry land


For 'classic' wildlife safaris with great game viewing and a real sense of wilderness head to the vast 38,000km² of red Kalahari dunes in the Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park. It is the best wildlife safari park in Africa for meerkats, and also notably good for cheetah. Wildlife safari experiences in the Kgalagadi are best for experienced Africa travellers as part of a self-drive safari; we don't think this park works well for brief visits.

Whilst elephants are usually absent from the Kgalagadi, they're common in the more accessible Addo Elephant Park - and the scattering of good, malaria-free private game reserves in the Eastern Cape. These include the well-known Shamwari, lesser-known spots like Kariega, and the excellent Kwandwe. These reserves appeal most to young families, as this area is not regarded as malarial. Samara Game Reserve is similar, and here the studying of endangered species is a real objective.

The best marine wildlife-watching


For whale-watching, Hermanus is undoubtedly the best destination in Africa. Come from August to November, when southern right whales migrate here to mate, calve and rear their young - and can often be seen from boats or cliff-top walks.

Ecca Lodge

From the family-friendly Ecca Lodge you can go on 4WD wildlife safaris and guided walks in the Kwandwe Game Reserve. You have a good chance of seeing rhino, as well as lion and cheetah. Even small children can participate in spoor tracking or drives to see hazard-free wildlife.


Garden Lodge

Though not the most obvious place for a wildlife safari in South Africa, in season Grootbos is a superb base for observing southern right whales from the shore as well as from boats. You may also spot dolphins, great white sharks, Cape fur seals and African penguins.


Twee Rivieren

The Kgalagadi gets relatively few visitors, making it perfect for those who want to avoid the masses. Springbok, gemsbok, blue wildebeest, eland and red hartebeest can be found here, whilst meerkats, giraffe, leopards, and black-maned lions are also regularly seen.


Ocean Eleven

Hermanus is one of the best places in the world to watch whales, either from the shore or by boat. The southern right whale can usually be seen between June and November. Humpback whales, African penguins, dolphins, great white sharks and Cape fur seals can also be viewed here.


The Marine

Perched on the cliff top overlooking Walker Bay in Hermanus, where southern right whales come to breed between July and October, The Marine is the perfect base for whale watching in South Africa.


Okonjima Plains Camp

Visitors at Okonjima usually have the chance to view big cats at much closer quarters than is possible in most national parks. Most of the animals on the reserve are habituated to humans, so are fairly relaxed around people and vehicles.

Okaukuejo Camp

Okaukuejo Camp's large permanent waterhole attracts vast numbers of animals coming to quench their thirst. Black rhinos, zebra, lion and herds of elephant are frequent visitors in the evenings, and guests have stunning opportunities to observe them at close range.


Twee Rivieren

The Kgalagadi gets relatively few visitors, making it perfect for those who want to avoid the masses. Springbok, gemsbok, blue wildebeest, eland and red hartebeest can be found here, whilst meerkats, giraffe, leopards, and black-maned lions are also regularly seen.


Kwara Camp

If you’re looking for a wildlife safari in Botswana that focuses on predators, look no further. Kwara’s game and environments are varied, with plenty of tsessebe, impala, zebra, red lechwe, reedbuck, kudu, giraffe, buffalo and elephant – as well as the big cats and wild dogs.

Wildlife safaris elsewhere in Africa

Our top ideas and inspiration for Wildlife safaris in other countries.


Wildlife safaris in Botswana

Botswana

Botswana's wildlife safaris are perhaps the best in Africa: the vast reserves are usually un-fenced, ...

Wildlife safaris in Kenya

Kenya

Kenya is the country where the word 'Safari' (Swahili for 'journey') actually comes from. Close ...

Wildlife safaris in Malawi

Malawi

Don't expect spectacular game on a wildlife safari in Malawi, instead come for a relaxed safari ...

Wildlife safaris in Mozambique

Mozambique

Mozambique is best known for its wonderful beaches and marine life, not its 4WD safaris. There ...

Wildlife safaris in Namibia

Namibia

Wildlife safaris in Namibia can be outstanding. The country has Africa's highest cheetah population, ...

Wildlife safaris in Rwanda

Rwanda

Having walked since dawn, you're tired but your senses are alive. You hear them grunt before you ...

Wildlife safaris in Tanzania

Tanzania

Tanzania offers a winning combination: some of Africa's best wildlife safaris plus stunning tropical ...

Wildlife safaris in Zambia

Zambia

Top-class walking safaris, the outstanding quality of guiding, and many highly individual lodges ...

Wildlife safaris in Zimbabwe

Zimbabwe

If watching wildlife from a 4WD is not close enough for you, then go on a wildlife safari in Zimbabwe! ...

Where to see wildlife species in Africa

Maximise the chances of seeing your favourite African animals based on traveller sightings reports from the field.


Buffalo

Buffalo

Syncerus caffer

One of the ‘Big Five’, buffalo earned a fearsome reputation in hunters’ tales. By contrast, big herds of these sociable bovids are placid, but mount formidable defences against predators.

83% SUCCESS

1,112 sightings from 1,335 observations

Where to see buffalo in Africa

Cheetah

Cheetah

Acinonyx jubatus

The cheetah is the fastest land animal and the only cat that hunts by pure speed. Found largely in open grasslands, its slim, elegant form is today an increasingly rare sight.

29% SUCCESS

418 sightings from 1,453 observations

Where to see cheetah in Africa

Elephant

Elephant

Loxodonta africana

By far the biggest of the so-called Big Five – indeed, the largest land animal on the planet – the elephant shapes the very landscape it inhabits and is a defining presence on any safari.

91% SUCCESS

1,590 sightings from 1,750 observations

Where to see elephant in Africa

Oryx

Oryx

Oryx sp.

Oryx are impressive antelopes, with a powerful physique and elegant markings set off by rapier-like horns. They cut a distinctive dash in some of Africa’s harshest landscapes.

70% SUCCESS

644 sightings from 924 observations

Where to see oryx in Africa

Giraffe

Giraffe

Giraffa camelopardalis

The world’s tallest land mammal, giraffes are herbivores which have evolved many unique adaptations. Their iconic outlines tower above the bush in many of Africa’s wildlife areas.

83% SUCCESS

1,523 sightings from 1,833 observations

Where to see giraffe in Africa

Hippo

Hippo

Hippopotamus amphibius

The territorial calls of the hippo create a signature soundtrack to Africa’s rivers & wetlands. Despite an endearing smile, this aquatic herbivore has a notoriously aggressive disposition.

89% SUCCESS

1,168 sightings from 1,310 observations

Where to see hippo in Africa

Spotted Hyena

Spotted Hyena

Crocuta crocuta

The spotted hyena may be thought of as ‘ugly’ and ‘cowardly’. In fact, this versatile and intelligent carnivore is one of Africa’s most fascinating and warrants attention on any safari.

50% SUCCESS

903 sightings from 1,799 observations

Where to see spotted hyena in Africa

Brown Hyena

Brown Hyena

Parahyaena brunnea

This largely solitary scavenger is one of the more elusive and little-known of Africa’s carnivores. Shaggier than its spotted cousin, it occurs only in the arid southwest of the continent.

16% SUCCESS

112 sightings from 711 observations

Where to see brown hyena in Africa

Leopard

Leopard

Panthera pardus

The most numerous of Africa’s big cats, leopard occur across many habitats, from wild tracts to populated areas. Their grace and their elusive nature make them a unique safari drawcard.

45% SUCCESS

840 sightings from 1,873 observations

Where to see leopard in Africa

Lion

Lion

Panthera leo

Lions are at the top of the food chain and also most safari wish-lists, but with their numbers falling fast, any encounter with these majestic apex predators always feels like a privilege.

80% SUCCESS

1,314 sightings from 1,646 observations

Where to see lion in Africa

Black Rhino

Black Rhino

Diceros bicornis

The black rhino is the smaller and rarer of Africa’s two rhino species but has the more fearsome reputation. Shy and heavily persecuted, it tends to stick to cover.

29% SUCCESS

261 sightings from 899 observations

Where to see black rhino in Africa

White Rhino

White Rhino

Ceratotherium simum

The white rhino is the largest and most numerous of the world’s five rhinoceros species. They are larger, easier to see and generally more approachable than the black rhino.

43% SUCCESS

218 sightings from 508 observations

Where to see white rhino in Africa

Wild dog

Wild dog

Lycaon pictus

African wild dogs are among the continent’s most compelling animals. Much misunderstood, these rare, tie-dyed canids are amazingly efficient hunters with a fascinating social life.

31% SUCCESS

375 sightings from 1,214 observations

Where to see wild dog in Africa

Wildebeest

Wildebeest

Connochaetes sp.

Superficially bovine in appearance, wildebeests are known for their spectacular migrations sometimes in huge numbers. These resilient animals are some of Africa’s most successful herbivores.

63% SUCCESS

1,058 sightings from 1,668 observations

Where to see wildebeest in Africa

Pangolin

Pangolin

Smutsia sp.

Pangolins appear to be more pine cone than animal in their unique armoury of scales. These nocturnal, ant-eating oddities are not only highly elusive but also increasingly rare.

2% SUCCESS

27 sightings from 1,487 observations

Where to see pangolin in Africa

Aardvark

Aardvark

Orycteropus afer

The aardvark is one of Africa’s most bizarre and enigmatic animals. A shy, nocturnal termite-eater, signs of its presence may be scattered about the bush whilst sightings remain elusive.

3% SUCCESS

43 sightings from 1,572 observations

Where to see aardvark in Africa

Eland

Eland

Taurotragus oryx

Africa’s largest antelope, eland are culturally important from prehistoric rock art to modern game farms. Though widespread, they are also shy so sightings are uncommon and often fleeting.

45% SUCCESS

613 sightings from 1,362 observations

Where to see eland in Africa

Meerkat

Meerkat

Suricata suricatta

These highly sociable little mammals have an endearing appearance and comical antics. Found in the drier areas of Southern Africa, close encounters are a sought-after experience.

20% SUCCESS

38 sightings from 189 observations

Where to see meerkat in Africa

Zebra

Zebra

Equus sp.

The zebra is a quintessential African animal: the horse in stripy pyjamas at the end of every child’s A–Z. There are three species, of which the plains zebra is much the most common.

84% SUCCESS

1,724 sightings from 2,057 observations

Where to see zebra in Africa

Roan antelope

Roan antelope

Hippotragus equinus

Africa’s second largest antelope and one of its most handsome, with a powerful build and distinctive markings, roan are wary of people, but renowned for their bravery against predators.

24% SUCCESS

228 sightings from 959 observations

Where to see roan antelope in Africa

Sable antelope

Sable antelope

Hippotragus niger

Perhaps Africa’s most beautiful antelope, sable are renowned for their combative nature, even holding off lions. Shy and restricted in range, sightings of sable are always special.

21% SUCCESS

198 sightings from 954 observations

Where to see sable antelope in Africa

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