Wildlife safaris in South Africa

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.

Our top tips: the 18 best wildlife safaris in South Africa