Top 5 Amazing Wildlife Experiences in South Africa

South Africa is beguiling. From the arid Kalahari desert, the soft beaches skirted by the Atlantic and Indian Oceans, flat mountain tops, craggy bushlands, to wildlife parks home to the famed African Big Five, the sheer diversity of this country is astounding. Intensified further with a heart-wrenching history, those who visit South Africa find it an evocative experience. Among the most endearing is the experience of combing a national park with a khaki-wearing ranger in an open 4X4, and spotting big game in their natural habitat.

The South African wildlife experience is divided into several national parks and game reserves, all of which guarantee you a sighting of the Big Five (leopard, lion, rhino, buffalo, and elephant) among a host of rare and exotic avian species. Besides, you can plan your stay among them in a rustic jungle lodge overlooking a watering hole.

We list the top 5 game reserves and national parks in South Africa that offer an avant-garde wildlife experience.

South Africa’s largest game reserve is even larger than Israel, stretching into 2 million hectares of land. Doubtless, it is the country’s flagship national park where discerning wildlife enthusiasts self-drive into and set out on week-long game safaris into the heart of the game reserve. Abound with the Big and the Little Five (buffalo weaver, elephant shrew, leopard tortoise, ant lion and rhino beetle), aside from a wealth of bird species such as ground hornbill, Kori bustard, lappet-faced vulture, martial eagle and pel’s fishing owl, together known as the avian Big Six.

What to do in Kruger: Game drives, bush walks, an elephant-back safari, foot safaris, wilderness trails are the popular ways to see the park.

Where to stay in Kruger: On the western edge of Kruger lie some sleek luxurious private reserves such as Sabi Sands and Timbavati. Buhala Game Lodge on the banks of the Crocodile River is also among the popular luxurious private concessions. Jock Safari Lodge on the southern edge along the old wagon route and Pestana Kruger Lodge on the Nkomazi tourist route are the other choices.

About an hour’s drive from Port Elizabeth, this is South Africa’s third-largest national reserve, a part of the Sunday’s River Valley in the Eastern Cape. Also, Addo is home to the largest population of African Elephant, about 550-odd, dubbed one of the most endangered species. Addo is also the only South African park where you can spot the African Big Seven – lion, leopard, elephant, rhino, buffalo, the great white shark and the southern right whale. The Bird Island and St. Croix Island are hubs to spot gannets and penguins, in fact, St. Croix is home to the world’s largest colony of African penguins. Head to the main rest camp that looks out on a watering hole and has an underground viewing section from where you can watch herds of elephants bathing and feeding their young ones.

What to do in Addo Elephant National Park: Horse trails led by experienced guides are a popular way to explore the park aside from guided game drives at sunrise and sunset. You can even go on a hiking expedition from Eden to Addo – believed to be the longest and the most arduous hiking trail in South Africa, takes about 18 days to complete the loop.

Where to stay in Addo Elephant National Park: You can make a choice from the four accommodation options – Camp Matyholweni rest camp, Narina bush camp, Addo main rest camp, Spekboom tented camp. Camps are a great way to hear the call of lions and hyenas at night from close range.