“I owe my being to the hills and the valleys, the mountains and the glades, the rivers, the deserts, the trees, the flowers, the seas and the ever-changing seasons that define the face of our native land”
– I am African, Thabo Mbeki
1. Jamila Game Lodge
In the northern part of the iconic Welgevonden Game Reserve, Jamila is surrounded by the Waterberg Mountains and limitless African bush. A nearby waterhole is the prime attraction, which regularly attracts the Big Five (African lion, African elephant, Cape buffalo, African leopard and rhinoceros). The luxury lodge has also received praise for its conservation efforts.
2. Samara Private Game Reserve
The 27,000ha reserve is in the Great Karoo of the Eastern Cape. The award-winning luxury safari lodge is home to cheetah, black and white rhino, giraffe, buffalo and herds of antelope and zebra. It is part of the leading conservation project in the area, with Samara focusing on South Africa’s aim to be the third-largest protected area in a global biodiversity hotspot. Activities include game drives, guided walks, wilderness picnics and stargazing.
SEE ALSO: 10 once-in-a-lifetime wildlife experiences
3. The Elephant Sanctuary
The elephants at the sanctuary in Hartbeespoort are all rescues from various situations, including zoos and hunting. The elephant-interaction programme allows guests to be introduced to African elephants, and you will get a chance to walk trunk in hand with the gentle giants. The sanctuary also offers accommodation on the premises, which is located an hour away from Johannesburg.
4. Bushmans Kloof Wilderness Reserve & Wellness Retreat
Huddled in the foothills of the scenic Cederberg Mountains, this ecological dream is home to ancient sandstone formations and more than 130 bush art paintings, some dating back more than 10,000 years. Bushmans Kloof in the Western Cape is a South African heritage site and boasts indigenous flora and fauna. Here, you’ll see the evasive aardwolf, wildcat, bat-eared fox, Cape fox and porcupine in their natural habitat.
5. Kruger National Park
The pinnacle of the African safari, Kruger National Park is one of the biggest on the continent, and the variety of wild animals is world-renowned. The park plays host to luxury lodges, as well as more affordable family accommodation. Either way, you’re bound to spot lions, elephants and rhinos. Diverse bird species such as vultures, eagles and storks are also common sightings. Whether you’re looking for a self-catering unit or luxury accommodation, Kruger’s closest gate to Johannesburg is a short four-hour drive.
6. Marataba Safari Lodge
Red mountain rocks dominate the scenic plains at Marataba Safari Lodge, three hours outside Johannesburg in the Limpopo province. Here, you’ll be treated to views of rhinos, elephants and the big cats. The area also has the largest colony of endangered Cape vultures in the world, with more than 800 breeding pairs settled here. Special conservation efforts by political leaders make Marataba a unique destination.
SEE ALSO: How to be a responsible wildlife tourist
7. Bakubung Bush Lodge
This popular lodge is situated in the North West Province. It is part of the greater Pilanesberg Reserve and hosts the Big Five. Visitors can request private game drives, enjoy the spa facilities and go on guided walking trails. A splendid bird community graces the area and there is a diverse ecosystem. Due to its close proximity to the city centre, it is very popular among visitors who haven’t planned a long stay in Johannesburg. It is also considered one of the more affordable safari options.
SEE ALSO: How to take great safari photos: 7 tips from wildlife photographer Steve Winter
8. Pafuri Walking Trail
This unique way to experience wonderful South African wildlife is a must for active explorers. Using a mobile camp, you’ll walk the floodplains of the Limpopo and Luvuvhu Rivers. A trained guide will give you a detailed history of the area. There are also exquisite birds and animals you are bound to encounter. Trail season is from April to October.
9. Lion and Safari Park
Spanning the Hartebeespoort, Magaliesburg and Cradle of Humankind areas, this 600ha wildlife reserve is easily accessible. Famous for its one-on-one encounters with wild animals, the park offers guests the chance to get close to the king of the jungle: the lion. It also boasts the wild dog, cheetah and a host of buck including gemsbok, springbok, blesbok, sable and nyala.
– TEXT BY JESSICA LEVITT
PHOTOS: MARATABA SAFARI LODGE, SAMARA PRIVATE GAME RESERVE FACEBOOK, BUSHMANS KLOOF WILDERNESS RESERVE & WELLNESS RETREAT FACEBOOK, WELGEVONDEN GAME RESERVE FACEBOOK, BAKUBUNG BUSH LODGE FACEBOOK, LION & SAFARI PARK FACEBOOK
This article was originally published by Singapore Press Holdings.