Lay of the Land
“For Africa to me... is more than a glamorous fact. It is a historical truth. No man can know where he is going unless he knows exactly where he has been and exactly how he arrived at his present place.”~Maya Angelou
As the tip of the African continent, South Africa acts also as a metaphorical catchall, with myriad cultures and climates. Predominantly located on a plateau (the highveld), the land includes dramatic cliffs falling into the sea as well as verdant interiors, home to myriad wildlife.
The majority of South African safaris take place in the east of the country, specifically in Kruger National Park, in the Limpopo and Mpumalanga provinces. The 7,500-square-mile savanna abuts Zimbabwe (to the north) and Mozambique (to the east), bordered by the Limpopo and Crocodile Rivers. It is here that visitors can spot the Big Five, especially during the dry winter season, when temperatures are much lower than the summer season’s 100-plus degrees Fahrenheit. The land provides plenty of grasses, ideal for grazing animals. Within the national park lie some exquisite private reserves, including Sabi Sand, Manyeleti and Timbavati.
Northwest of Johannesburg and bordering Botswana is Madikwe, the fifth-largest game reserve in South Africa and a malaria-free zone. It is a Big Five Park that is a popular combination with Sabi Sands, as the topography is strikingly different. Madikwe has semi-arid plains with red soil and flat expanses of dry bush ringed by a mountain range.
Unlike the Sabi Sands, there are no private concessions here. Each lodge only owns the property it is built on and the entire park is open to the 30-some lodges in Madikwe. Game drives usually stick to the main road, as conservation efforts only allow limited off-roading. While the animals here are as impressive as what you’d find in the Sabi Sands, the game-viewing experience is often from afar.
Book with Indagare
The safari lodges reviewed in this report are not bookable online nor are they the only ones that we know and recommend. To create a safari itinerary—whether a simple one-lodge or multi-stop trip—Indagare members can contact our Bookings Team. We can talk you through your options, as well as customize such special experiences as hot air ballooning across Kruger, romantic candlelit dinners in the bush and tented safari camps. Our team’s knowledge of the country is extensive, and we have years of experience crafting unforgettable trips to the region.
Need to Know: Entry Requirements
Entry requirements to South Africa have changed and now require birth certificates for all minors. They must be the originals and state the names of both parents.
The typical day on safari includes a wake up time of around 5 or 6am for a morning game drive, which lasts a few hours. Guests then return to the hotel for a late breakfast, lounge time and lunch and then an evening game drive at around 4pm. This schedule is determined by when animals are the most active (dawn and dusk).