May 5

15 Best Safaris in South Africa


By Ian Rowett on
May 5, 2022

When looking for the best safaris in South Africa, how can you possibly choose? Our beloved country has a wealth of Big 5 game reserves and national parks. Dig just a little when planning your safari, and you might find yourself lost amidst a mind-boggling array of options. But as the World's Leading Safari Company – and leading the pack since 2004 – there's no one more equipped to share the 15 best safaris in South Africa for 2022 with you. Here we go!

South Africa is off the UK red list

Get up-close to spectacular wildlife on a safari in South African safari destinations like Sabi Sand

Best Safaris in South Africa for 2022

Let's get wild and delve deep into the world of safari! From classics like Kruger National Park to lesser-known treasures, here are our favourite destinations for safaris in South Africa. 

1. Kruger National Park: The Grand Old Bull

A list of the best safaris in South Africa without the Kruger National Park would leave a rather large elephant in the room unnoticed. And, of course, if it's elephants you want to see, then the grandfather of all national parks should be high on your agenda. 

In fact, and no surprise, all of Africa's famed wildlife thrives in this two-million-hectare game reserve. There's so much to see, from lions, African wild dogs, cheetahs, hyenas, giraffes, zebras, wildebeest antelope, and more. The birdlife is also positively Jurassic in abundance.


  • The largest national park in South Africa 
  • Big 5 safari destination that's easy to reach 
  • Various accommodation options for all kinds of travellers 
  • Vast, unspoilt territory with a high density of animals
The Signature Southern Africa safari reaches its zenith in the Kruger

Get lost in king-sized Kruger

2. Madikwe Game Reserve: Malaria-free Big 5 Safari

Madikwe Game Reserve offers 75,000 hectares of classic African scenery in South Africa's North West province. Think endless open and wooded grasslands dotted with rocky outcrops beneath a gigantic sky. Straddling the Kalahari and savannah woodland biomes, Madikwe supports an impressive variety of wildlife. And this includes the Big 5 and endangered African wild dog. 

An easy flight from Johannesburg, the reserve is only open to overnight visitors, so you won't be jostling with motorists at any of your incredible wildlife sightings.


  • Exclusive, malaria-free Big 5 safari destination 
  • One of the largest game reserves in South Africa 
  • Famous for its endangered African wild dogs
  • Conservation success story uplifting the environment and local communities 
Sundowners at Jamala Madikwe

Sip on sundowners in Madikwe, Image Credit: Jamala Madikwe

3. Londolozi Private Game Reserve: The Original Luxury Safari 

Londolozi Private Game Reserve is one of South Africa's original private game reserves and is located in the Sabi Sand, sharing an unfenced border with Kruger National Park. Combining ground-breaking conservation with Relais & Châteaux luxury, the game-viewing experience is immersive and deeply personalised. 

A predator's paradise, this gigantic private reserve is famous for its resident leopard population. And with luxury lodges, exclusive access, off-road safaris, night drives and walking safaris, Londolozi ranks among the very best safaris in South Africa.


  • One of South Africa's original private game reserves
  • Ultra-luxurious lodges for anyone from couples to families 
  • Well-known for its leopard dynasties 
  • Original pioneering conservation model 
Leopard walking in front of a game vehicle on safari at Londolozi

A leopard leading the way at Londolozi

4. Phinda Private Game Reserve: Remote, Diverse Safari Destination

Between sea and mountain in the heart of KwaZulu-Natal, Phinda is a vast private game reserve that's further away from popular tourist destinations. And with seven radically different habitats, Phinda is home to some of Africa's rarer wildlife species, including the black rhino, cheetah, pangolin, and several smaller creatures unique to this area. That's not to say the Big 5 aren't represented. Far from it. Elephant, lion, leopard, rhino, buffalo, as well as hyena, giraffe and more are all here to see on safari. 

Phinda promises one of the best safaris in South Africa, and you can combine it with a visit to the iSimangaliso Wetland Park and a beach holiday on the Indian Ocean coastline.


  • Exclusive private game reserve with only six lodges
  • Renowned for its cheetah populations and home to the Big 5
  • Seven distinct habitats with plenty of wildlife and birdlife
  • Sodwana Bay's reefs are nearby for a bush and beach holiday combo
Sundowners at Phinda

Enjoy sundowners as you learn about the bush, Image Credit: &Beyond Phinda

5. Timbavati Private Nature Reserve: Kruger Without The Crowds

Timbavati is a 53,000-hectare wilderness sharing an unfenced border with Kruger National Park's western boundary. Translation: the Kruger safari experience but without the crowds and restrictions. 

Inside the Kruger, your safari is limited to vehicles on paved roads. But in the Timbavati, your safari experience, while ecologically sensitive, is not so hindered. Here, your safari guides are allowed to take you through the African bush in open vehicles or on foot, day and night. And being in the middle of the game-rich east-west migration route, the wildlife includes the Big 5 and the rare white lion, endemic to this (relatively) tiny strip of wilderness.


  • Access to all the Kruger National Park animals but offering a more exclusive experience 
  • Home to the Magnificent Seven: lion, leopard, African wild dog, elephant, rhino, buffalo and cheetah
  • The unusual white lion is found here, as well as large herds of elephant and buffalo
  • Variety of mostly family-run safari lodge options
The Timbavati is the sanctuary of the white lion

The white lions of the Timbavati

6. Sabi Sand Game Reserve: Exclusivity in Unspoilt Wilderness

The Sabi Sand Private Game Reserve is one of the finest game viewing destinations in Africa and is best known for its high density of the elusive leopard. The reserve is a central figure in the Greater Kruger National Park area, with a fenceless border along the southwestern boundary. Furthermore, with various world-class luxury safari lodges, you don't have to rough it to experience the wilderness. 

Located between the Sabi and the Sand Rivers, the game viewing is always exceptional no matter where you decide to stay. And with safari stars like Singita, Londolozi and Silvan Safari to choose from, it's no wonder Sabi Sand is considered one of the best safaris in South Africa.


  • One of the most luxurious Big 5 private game reserves in the country
  • Very exclusive with high-end accommodation yet easy to reach, with some lodges having private landing strips
  • One of the best places in Africa to see the elusive leopard up-close
  • Off-road, night and walking safaris offered 
World Travel Awards 2021: Experiências de outro mundo esperam por você na África

Up-close sightings are a given in Kruger National Park's private game reserves like Silvan Safari

7. Kwandwe Private Game Reserve: Exclusive Malaria-free Safari

Away from the Greater Kruger National Park in the north, the Eastern Cape has its share of excellent Big 5 game reserves offering among the best safaris in South Africa. Of these, Kwandwe offers a stand-out conservation safari experience.

The Great Fish River forms the backbone of this undulating slice of South Africa. Black and white rhino, elephant, buffalo, lion, leopard and cheetah roam the grassy plains, and smaller rare species thrive in the euphorbia thickets, including servals, wild cats and blue cranes. Malaria-free and with just five safari lodges, Kwandwe is especially suited for both families and couples looking for an exclusive safari experience.


  • Big 5 malaria-free safari with award-winning lodges and villas
  • Home to several endangered species
  • Sustainable conservation and renowned for their expert safari guides 
  • Perfect reserve for families as the Blue Crane Conservation Club offers activities for children 
Safari sunset at Kwandwe

There is nothing quite like a sunset safari at Kwandwe

8. Thornybush Nature Reserve: Private Luxury Safari in the Kruger

Thornybush is one of the original nature reserves in the Greater Kruger National Park, its first lodge dating back to 1961. The 14,000-hectare reserve is known for its leopard sightings and resident populations of wildlife such as the elephant, lion, rhino, buffalo, hyena, giraffe, hippo and plenty of plains game.

And with just five intimate, luxurious safari lodges, you won't be sharing your wildlife sightings or classic African scenery with the crowds.


  • One of the original nature reserves in the Greater Kruger National Park 
  • Innovative conservation and community projects 
  • It has been a setting for many wildlife documentaries because it's so rich in Big 5 and other animals
  • Classic Kruger savannah woodland scenery
A lion in high grass at Thornybush

A laid-back lion, Image Credit: Michelle Welvering

9. Hluhluwe-Imfolozi Park: Birthplace of Rhino Conservation

Hluhluwe-Imfolozi Park is the oldest nature reserve in South Africa and is famous for its noble rhino conservation work. Today, it's a haven for black and white rhinos, Big 5, plains game, birdlife, riverine, and many more animals. 

The Umfolozi part of the park lies to the south and is typically open grassland rising up to the hillier section of the national park – the Hluhluwe.


  • Oldest nature reserve in South Africa 
  • Home to the biggest population of white rhinos in the world
  • Renowned for its conservation efforts 
  • Big 5, rare wildlife, birdlife and spectacular scenery
White rhinos in South Africa

Unicorns with curves, Image Credit: Rhino Ridge Safari Lodge

10. Sanbona Wildlife Reserve: Malaria-free Safari in Little Karoo

An easy drive from Cape Town, Sanbona Wildlife Reserve features unique Karoo scenery, open grasslands and spectacular mountain ranges. The enormous wildlife reserve has just four safari lodges catering for families, small groups, adventurous nature-lovers and romantic escapists. 

The open grasslands and rocky outcrops are home to wildlife such as the elephant, lion (including the unique white lion!), buffalo, rhino, leopard and cheetah. There is also plenty of typical Karoo species such as gemsbok springbok, hartebeest, eland, kudu and zebra. Biomes include acacia woodland, renosterveld, succulent Karoo and central mountain fynbos.


  • Closest malaria-free safari to Cape Town, only three hours away
  • Unique Karoo scenery, plants and animals
  • Conservation-based nature safaris
  • Different accommodation types serve various types of travellers, from couples to families
A white lion approaches at Sanbona

A male white lion in the wild, Image Credit: Tania de Kock

11. Singita: Exclusive, Ultra-luxurious Safaris 

The Singita brand is synonymous with the ultimate in luxury and exclusivity. In Sabi Sand, they have two safari lodges in the eastern Kruger National Park and three safari lodges on the western border. In short, east or west, Singita is one of the best safaris in South Africa.

The eastern lodges feature rugged, tree-shrouded hills famous for lions, elephants and general wildlife. On the other hand, the western lodges feature open plains and woodland thicket habitats rich in Big 5 wildlife.


  • Award-winning safari company with ultra-luxurious lodges and wellness offerings 
  • World-famous for their personalised, all-hands-on-deck hospitality
  • Dedicated to a core purpose of being an ecotourism and conservation brand
  • The brand is known for their highly curated wine selection
leopard on safari at Singita Kruger

Get to meet big cats up-close and personal, Image Credit: Singita

12. Klaserie Private Nature Reserve: Sustainable Kruger Safaris

Klaserie is an enormous private nature reserve on the central-western border of the Kruger National Park. It shares an unfenced border, and therefore, the wildlife and landscapes of Klaserie are similar to Kruger.

Conservation and community upliftment are the bedrock of Klaserie's operations, and a great variety of safari lodge options and activities contribute to its sustainable safaris.


  • One of the largest privately owned reserves in South Africa
  • Home to Big 5, endangered African wild dog, southern ground hornbill, and white-backed vulture
  • Focused on nature conservation and low-impact tourism.
  • Known for their excellent walking safaris 
Walking through Big Five wilderness - top 15 safaris in South Africa for 2022

Walking through Big Five wilderness, Photo Credit: Michelle Welvering

13. Thanda Safari, a Private Game Reserve: Zululand Magic 

With tree-covered hills, savannah floodplains and 14,000 hectares of exclusive-use wilderness, Thanda Safari, a Private Game Reserve offers one of the best safaris in South Africa.

Lion, leopard, rhino, elephant and buffalo thrive in these parts, as do over 400 bird species. Furthermore, the rich, colourful Zulu culture touches every aspect of your stay. They also offer walking safaris, an exciting way to experience the vibrant culture, landscapes and wildlife. With just three safari lodges in the entire reserve, you're guaranteed an intimate and personal Zululand wildlife experience.


  • Privately owned and operated luxury private game reserve
  • Committed to the local Zulu culture, people and conservation initiatives
  • Big 5, cheetah, hyena, and plenty of birds and plants
  • Walking safaris in spectacular scenery, rhino and cheetah tracking, and more
Rhino in the wild at Thanda

Watching rhino roam is a magical experience at Thanda, Image Credit: Katharina Riebesel

14. Gondwana Private Game Reserve: Malaria-free Big 5 Garden Route Safari

The Garden Route is famous for its beaches and forested mountain slopes. Throw in a Big 5 malaria-free private game reserve, and you've got the recipe for one of the best safaris in South Africa.

The Gondwana Private Game Reserve is an 11,000-hectare chunk of Cape Floral Kingdom with expansive plains supporting elephants, lions, rhinos, and leopards. It also includes Cape species like eland, sable, red hartebeest, Cape mountain zebra and Cape buffalo.


  • Malaria-free Big 5 safari on the Garden Route just four hours from Cape Town
  • Family-friendly with Junior Ranger Programme for little ones
  • Walking safaris, family safaris, tented bush spa and adventure activities
  • Gondwana Conservation Foundation protects South Africa's endangered and threatened wildlife and vegetation
See lions at Gondwana for one of the best safaris in South Africa

King of the bush, Image Credit: Tania de Kock

15. Pilanesberg National Park: Scenic, Malaria-free Game Reserve

Pilanesberg National Park is a scenic Big 5 safari destination in northern South Africa with an extinct volcano and a large lake at its centre. Combining Kalahari and classic African Lowveld habitats, the scenery, vegetation, and wildlife offer a varied and always scenic safari experience. 

There are plenty of lions, leopards, cheetahs, African wild dogs, black and white rhinos, buffalo and elephants to see here. Pilanesburg also features hippos, crocodiles, hyenas, rare antelopes, wildebeest, giraffe, zebra and many smaller creatures. Birding in the park is another drawcard, with over 350 migrant and resident species recorded.


  • Malaria-free, classic Big 5 safaris
  • Easily accessible from Johannesburg, only three hours away 
  • Over 350 bird species and more than 7,000 animals to marvel at
  • Concealed photographic hides to capture the best images of the wildlife
Pilansberg National Park

Pilansberg's wild offers some of the best safaris in South Africa

Ready for your South African Big 5 Safari?

So there you have it, our round-up of the 15 best safaris in South Africa for 2022. Contact your friendly Rhino Africa Travel Expert for the best, first-hand, tailormade safari advice on the planet.

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About the author 

Ian Rowett

Born in Zimbabwe and, having bluffed his way through a Journalism Degree at Rhodes, Ian turned his reluctantly nomadic life into a successful career as a travel writer. With stints in Harare, Joburg, Cape Town, Swakopmund, Port Shepstone and Greyton, he has travelled the length and breadth of southern Africa. Now living in Knysna, Ian combines his innate tendency to write for a living with a deep-rooted love of Africa’s wilderness and a keen interest in the hospitality trade.

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